Myron Santmyer started the family business in 1952 with one gas station and one employee (not including himself). He found an opportunity to expand the business modestly in the early 1960s when he bought a truck to distribute heating oil and other products. His son, Terry, bought the business in 1980 when it consisted of two trucks and three employees. The market has changed dramatically since then and the company is now in the hands of the third generation of Santmyers.
Today, the Santmyer Companies transport more product in a single day than it did in an entire year in the early 1980s. The Wooster, Ohio-based petroleum distribution and transportation company now operates out of 19 locations in six states from West Virginia to Indiana, and delivers several hundred tanker loads daily, with more than 200 employees and 100-plus trucks.
Delivering fuel and petroleum products is not an easy market segment. Competition for customers, technicians and drivers is fierce. Safety is always the number one focus. And technology continues to change.
“You have a lot more competition now,” says Terry Santmyer, chairman of the company. “You’ve got more rules and regulations now. It’s a lot more complex than it was just 15 years ago. Volume is bigger than it was back then, but it’s based off fewer customers.”
Growth came from taking business risks, according to Terry. “I took a contract that guaranteed I’d haul on weekends and holidays. That’s how I got my first big account.” That willingness to take on challenges has continued. “A lot of companies like us don’t get into all the things we do. They’re just oil companies or just trucking companies. We do it all. And we can do things most other companies can’t do.”
“A lot of companies like us don’t get into all the things we do. They’re just oil companies or just trucking companies. We do it all. And we can do things most other companies can’t do.” — Terry Santmyer, company chairman
The company recently restructured into three divisions, one for bulk fuel, lubricants, and propane distribution, one for transportation and one for its retail convenience stores and automated fueling stations. “The realignment of the company helps us to better serve our customers, advance the use of technology, and promote safety throughout the organization,” said Zach Santmyer, one of Terry’s sons and president & CEO of the company.
One of the ways Santmyer differentiates itself from competition is its willingness to meet each customer’s individual needs. The fleet’s operating area includes congested urban areas like Cleveland, rural destinations and everything in between.
The fleet goes to “a lot of delivery locations, like gas stations, trucking companies, quarries, and construction sites,” says Zach, “There’s a variety of different delivery locations and each of them have a different way in and out, different setup, different tank sizes. With what we do and what we haul, it’s hazardous — it’s gasoline and it’s diesel fuel. Mistakes and delivery errors are costly, not only money, but to people, the community and the environment.”
That requires a safe, maneuverable and reliable truck. Santmyer has relied on Mack® trucks since the early 2000s, and has turned to the Mack Anthem® within the last two years to get maximum fuel economy and driver satisfaction.
The Anthem has been “a great experience,” according to Nate Santmyer, Zach’s brother and the Commercial Fuels director for the fleet. “We have 15- and 20-year drivers with us, and they say it’s the best truck they’ve ever driven.”
One of the things they like is the performance and power of the Anthem day cabs. The trucks are set up with Mack MP®8 engines and mDRIVE™ transmissions. Nate likes the high torque the MP8 delivers.
Zach (left), Terry (middle) and Nate (right) Santmyer in front of some of their new Mack Anthem® models.
“Torque’s where it’s at,” he says. “I don’t think you need as much horsepower if you have the Mack torque.”
The company tracks fuel economy with Mack’s GuardDog® Connect and its fleet management system. “It’s been phenomenal with the Macks compared with our prior trucks,” says Nate. Santmyer has been averaging about 6.8 mpg with its Macks vs. 5.5 mpg compared to other makes in its fleet. The Anthems are outfitted with factory-installed liftable pusher axles to save weight and improve fuel economy.
“We hope with a few different changes we’ll be at 7.5 or 8 mpg,” says Nate. “That’s a big step, and all due to the mDRIVE transmission and the aerodynamics of the Mack Anthem.” Nate is also interested to see how Mack’s energy recovery technology in the MP8HE engine could boost fuel economy, and is looking into the feature with its dealer, Brechbuhler Truck Sales.
Energy recovery technology (ERT) is an advanced feature of the MP8HE engine that captures heat that would otherwise be lost, converts it to mechanical energy and delivers it back to the crankshaft in the form of torque. This process enables the engine to operate at 1,000–1,100 RPM, saving fuel without sacrificing performance. This downspeeding also reduces operating stress on the engine.
The importance of the data communicated by GuardDog Connect is recognized by management. “This information is much more valuable and detailed than what we get from our other trucks,” says Zach, who adds the information Santmyer receives via GuardDog Connect may enable them to offer more driver behavior incentives.
“There’s so much technology in our company now,” he says. The biggest challenge is taking all that data and merging it together to make sense of it. Dispatchers have computers and drivers have iPads that run the same platform. ELDs supply more data. And the shop has programs for scheduling maintenance and making sure they have parts. This gives managers greater operational control and facilitates planning.
Santmyer driver Robert Taylor delivering to a customer's underground storage tank.
mDRIVE is another plus for the fleet, especially the features designed for liquid bulk haulers, which assist in preventing the load from surging inside the tanker. mDRIVE also excels with PTO operations, which are critical for tank operations. The trucks rack up 100,000-125,000 miles per year, but also a lot of operating hours running PTOs.
Attracting and retaining drivers is a big issue for Santmyer, as it is for every other fleet. As a hazmat hauler, the challenge is magnified.
“Our insurance requires at least two years’ experience in Class A transportation,” says Zach. “And even with experienced drivers, it still takes 2-3 months to train them to the petroleum/hazardous aspect of the job.”
Top-quality equipment is important for getting and keeping drivers, and keeping them happy.
“Newer equipment, new trucks, new trailers, that really helps with driver morale,” says Nate. “The new Sears seat that’s featured in the Mack Anthem, it’s on the drivers’ want list, and to have that in a fleet truck is a plus. And just the layout and the way the dash looks—all the instruments and the gauges—it’s just very driver-friendly. They feel at home, if that’s the word you want to use for it. It’s their daily office.”
Safety is enhanced with disc brakes on all wheel ends and by spec’ing the Bendix Wingman Fusion driver assistance system.
The company believes that standardizing equipment contributes to safe operations, as well as efficiency.
“That’s why we stick with one brand of truck, because if one driver’s truck is getting a repair, the truck that we put them in as a replacement is almost identical—interior-wise, drivability, and automatic transmission,” Nate says. The same applies to the tankers, which are all set up the same way. So Santmyer Transportation has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings. As Terry Santmyer says, “It was all a big plan. Nothing written down, but you have a vision.”