FreightWaves Classics/Haul of Fame: Groendyke Transport turns 90!
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FreightWaves Classics missed a milestone last month: Groendyke Transport and its employees, friends and customers celebrated the company’s 90th anniversary on July 12! Best belated wishes and hope for many years of success to come!
According to the company’s website, Harold Groendyke “hauled his first load of kerosene from Borger, Texas, to Beaver, Oklahoma,” on July 12, 1932. On the 110-mile day trip, Groendyke drove a Two-axle Ford. truck “fitted with a 3,000 gallon tank mounted on a homemade chassis”. With this charge, Groendyke launched the tank truck industry in the Midwest. He also founded a company that has become a “leader in safety, service and overall performance in the tank truck industry”.
Groendyke moved its operations to Enid, Oklahoma, in 1935 in order to be closer to its sources of supply – Champlin Refinery and Eason Oil. In the late 1930s Groendyke began to expand, with operations in Ardmore and Ponca City, Oklahoma and Wichita Falls, Texas.
Expansion in the 1940s-1960s
Harold Groendyke and his company were founding members of the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) trade association in 1945.
During the 1950s, what were decades of growth for the company began in earnest. Like other trucking companies of this period, Groendyke Transport was regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission, or ICC. At that time, the ICC had to approve new routes for trucking companies and other business-related movements.
It was often easier for a trucking company to expand by buying other trucking companies than to wait for ICC approval for new routes. ICC oversight also led Groendyke to buy off intrastate authorities (over which the ICC had no jurisdiction). The company was able to expand its area of operation to Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Additionally, the company purchased the National Petroleum and Petroleum Products Authority in Texas, then built terminals in Dallas and Houston.
During the company’s first decades of operation, Harold Groendyke continued to focus on two key reasons for the company’s growth: its employees and its customers. “He fostered a culture of respect, integrity and community that lives on today.”
The company moved its offices in 1965. It maintains these offices on Enid’s Rock Island Boulevard. That same year, the company transported its first cross-border load to Mexico.
Continuous growth, success and recognition
Deregulation of trucking took place in 1980 with Congressional passage of the Motor Transport Act, which was later signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. The ICC no longer had jurisdiction over the trucking, railroad and other industries.
Although deregulation is the most famous, it was a difficult environment for many established trucking companies. However, Groendyke Transport resisted the transition and continued to grow. For example, the company made its first delivery to Canada in 1988.
Reasons for continued success included sincere care and concern for customers, the motoring public, and company employees. Groendyke has been an industry leader in many ways, including safety.
It is the only carrier to have won the NTTC North American Safety Champion Award eight times for the best safety record and program in the country. It first won in 1973 and won its second award in 1975. The company also won the award in 1990, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2016, and 2018. Additionally, it “has won numerous awards from safety awards from the American Trucking Associations, including Safety Manager of the Year and hundreds of state, insurance and industry awards for safety and service.
In June 2021 Commercial carrier log (CCJ) has recognized Groendyke Transport as a CCJ Innovator. The CCJ’s recognition was due to the company’s efforts to reduce rear-end collisions by using a pulsing amber brake light on its trailers.
Groendyke Transport tested its pulsed brake light for 30 months. The brake light has resulted in a 33.7% reduction in rear-end accidents. Additionally, the pulsating amber brake light effectively eliminated rear-end crashes at railroad crossings.
Based on evidence from its testing, the company filed a waiver request with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA) in April 2018 to continue testing its unique brake light. The FMCSA approved Groendyke’s request for a five-year exemption; which was followed by a successful NTTC application in October 2020 for a five-year exemption for all tank trailer operators.
At the time of the CCJ award, Groendyke President and CEO Greg Hodgen said, “What we originally planned to do, which is still our current goal, is to increase our [trucks’] visibility.”
In the fall of 2020 and 2021, Groendyke Transport has been appointed to Inbound logistics’ List of top 100 truckers. According to the magazine, the list “serves as a qualitative assessment of service providers we believe are best equipped to meet readers’ evolving freight transportation needs.”
In response to his nomination to the list by Inbound LogisticsHodgen said, “As one of the largest, most stable and safest tanker transporters in the country, we are proud to be named a Inbound Logistics Top 100 trucker. Our employees have shown resilience over the past year, meeting challenges head-on and exceeding expectations. It was a total team effort worthy of our 89-year reputation.
Recent key acquisitions
In 2019, Groendyke expanded to the Southeast by completing the acquisition of McKenzie Tank Lines (MTL), a family carrier based in Tallahassee, Florida. Like Groendyke, MTL was a tanker carrier specializing in the transport of petroleum products, chemicals and other hazardous materials in bulk.
The acquisition increased the number of Groendyke terminals to over 40. Additionally, the addition of MTL operations was expected to increase Groendyke’s annual revenue by over $40 million (as of 2019).
Commenting on the acquisition, Hodgen said, “Our long-standing goal has been to expand our operations in the Southeast. Our two companies have so much in common – from history to culture and values to a focus on safety – this deal made perfect sense. We are confident that their employees will fit seamlessly into our culture and the way we run our business. We are delighted to have them as employees of Groendyke Transport.
The acquisition of MTL was followed by the acquisition of all tank truck assets of Georgia Tank Lines (GTL). This acquisition was completed earlier this year and gave Groendyke access to the Greater Atlanta area market. GTL specializes in the transport of petroleum products.
When the acquisition was announced, Hodgen said: “We are delighted to bring this group of professional and safe drivers to Groendyke Transport. This acquisition expands our business into a new area, which aligns well with one of our core values: growth. Throughout its 25-year history, owner Deborah Latham and the Georgia Tank Lines management team pride themselves on safety and dedicated customer and employee service, which makes the acquisition of Georgia Tank Lines a ideal complement to Groendyke Transport and our long-term goals.
Today, 90 years after its founding, Groendyke Transport remains a privately owned family business. Harold C. Groendyke’s son, John D. Groendyke is the chairman of the company’s board of directors, and other family members make up most of the board.
Over the past 90 years, Groendyke Transport has become the fourth largest tank truck carrier in the United States. The company has 40 terminals in 15 states and transports more than 435,000 shipments of chemicals, acids, fuels, lubricants, flour and vegetable oils each year in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Although the company and the industry have changed significantly over the past 90 years, some traditions remain the same at Groendyke Transport. “Superior safety and service have been” of critical importance since 1932. Across North America, the company operates with “industry-recognized timeliness and unparalleled dedication to safe, responsive service.”
The company continues to build on the innovative achievements and caring for people of its founder, Harold Groendyke. It’s one of the reasons Groendyke regularly has a turnover rate that’s less than half that of the industry.
“Our goal is to remain a leader in safety, service and employee satisfaction in the tank truck industry,” Hodgen said.