Hanford contractors have a new local set of wheels at their disposal.
Hittman Transport Services, a national leader in the transport of radioactive and hazardous material shipments, has established its Northwest terminal in north Richland.
“We’re the largest premier transportation company of radioactive waste and nuclear fuel in the country,” said Mike Lahr, vice president of logistics at Hittman’s parent company, Energy Solutions.
With 130-plus employees nationwide, Hittman transports shipping casks, vans and flatbeds throughout the United States and Canada, logging an average of eight million miles per year and 300 radioactive shipments per month.
The company specializes in the shipment of spent nuclear fuel, radioactive materials, highway route control and high-level material/waste shipments, some of which are classified missions.
Energy Solutions’ decommissioning, decontamination, packaging, processing and disposal services are complemented by subsidiary Hittman Transport Services.
According to Energy Solutions officials, the company offers the largest fleet of industrial, types A and B, shipping casks and liners to the industry in multiple sizes, shielding and certifications.
Hittman was founded in 1977 and is based out of Tennessee and South Carolina. For decades, Hittman has serviced the Hanford site and its contractors from its Clive, Utah, location.
“What we were getting from our customers was they like us, but, being so far away, when they needed help, it took us a couple days to get here,” Lahr said. “We wanted to be able to respond more quickly.”
Energy Solutions recognized a key expansion opportunity in the Northwest when it acquired two-thirds of friendly competitor Apogee Logistics’ (formerly Savage Logistics) assets.
In July 2017, Hittman took over Apogee’s former headquarters at 2750 Salk Ave. in Richland, which is comprised of a two-acre yard and 3,000 square feet of office space.
At the time of the acquisition, Apogee was in the process of constructing a new building. Lahr said the landowner, Port of Benton, was very open and supportive of the plan and worked out a contract with Hittman.
Apogee moved to 1440 Battelle Blvd. in Richland and continues to operate short-haul service to the Hanford area. Lahr said Hittman competes with about a half-dozen other transporters across the nation to move nuclear and hazardous material.
Apogee’s clients and some of its drivers were transferred to Hittman as part of the acquisition, which, with the help of existing local clients, enabled Hittman to hit the ground running.
“Hittman has been our primary fuel transporter the last 25 years,” said Rich Gentz, international transport coordinator for Framatome, formerly Areva.
Framatome is a nuclear reactor fuel fabricator that uses Hittman Transport Services to deliver fresh fuel to sites across the nation.
“It’s nice to have local people,” Gentz said. “Most of our dispatchers are coming out of the Salt Lake City area, and prior to that, it was Kingston, Tennessee.”
He added that many local businesses will benefit from having Hittman’s talents and expertise at their disposal.
“It’s a unique commodity,” said Gentz, who went on to explain how timing is everything in the transport of nuclear fuel. Punctuality is mandatory; being late, or even early, is not an option, he said.
“Hittman Transport is the carrier/trucker … but the load is Framatome’s responsibility. We’re the ones who will get the call if something is amiss, but that doesn’t happen with Hittman. Their drivers are first class and their equipment is first class. They represent Framatome the way we want to be represented,” Gentz said.
“If you call us and you want us there at a certain time on a certain date with certain equipment, we will be there. We try to maintain world-class service. We sell our services based on value, not on price,” Lahr said.
“Most of our customers are east of the Mississippi,” Gentz said. “Three to five days in-transit, so there’s a reason we call on Hittman … they have a competitive rate. The equipment is outstanding and service is outstanding.”
“I think the best word is value,” Lahr said. “We aren’t the cheapest, but we are the best. We are very, very dedicated and loyal to customer service — on time, a properly trained driver, safe equipment, good-looking equipment, clean equipment.”
Safety is paramount for the company.
“It’s serious work,” said Christine Parks, a former Apogee employee who was hired by Hittman to manage the new Northwest terminal. “This company lives and breathes safety without a doubt.”
Hittman boasts more than 148 million incident-free miles since its inception, with 38 of its drivers nationwide having reached a one million-mile milestone of accident-free trucking. Six have hit the two million-mile mark, and one has driven three million miles without incident.
Lahr explained that though Hittman aims to specialize in nuclear and hazardous material transport, the company tailors its services to fulfill clients’ needs.
“We wear many hats here,” Parks said.
Tyler Denslow, a truck driver who came to Hittman via the Apogee acquisition and now serves as the new Northwest terminal’s dispatcher, said, “We’re their lifeline basically; they call us and need something fixed, and we have to figure out and solve the problem pretty quickly.”
Looking ahead, Lahr said Energy Solutions remains open to new acquisition opportunities to expand its domestic footprint. Currently, Hittman is in the process of integrating the company’s first international acquisition—PHTS Logistics Inc., a Canadian company that would enable Hittman to ship intra-Canada.
Locally, the company anticipates ample growth in the future as well. Parks said another five acres is available for the Northwest terminal to grow into.
“A lot of the other customers in the area are welcoming us with open arms. It’s going quite well, we’re very pleased,” Lahr said.
Parks said Hittman is always hiring. “The quality of driver that (Hittman) strive(s) for is hard to find. … If someone comes along, we’ll bring them on board. They’re few and far between,” she explained, and added that the company plans to continue to source new staff locally.
The average number of years of experience that Hittman’s drivers have is 26 and the average age of drivers is 56, Lahr said.
As Parks elaborated, “It’s so specialized; there’s extensive training involved and we’re finding that the seasoned guys are a lot stronger.”
“We’ve got a really strong group of guys in our company as a whole, in addition to this terminal as well,” she added.
“We have a lot of our drivers and a lot of our management personnel who have been with us for 20-plus years,” said Lahr. “A lot of people retire from our company.”
While the annual average industry turnover for trucking rings in at 85 percent, Hittman’s turnover by percent is in the single digits, Lahr said.
Its secret? “We treat them well, we pay them well, we train them well,” Lahr said.
As Parks explained, “The training is above board; this is my fourth company in this industry that I’ve worked for, and nothing compares to the training and the requirements of the folks that work for this company.”
Currently, Hittman’s Richland terminal employs seven people, including a Utah driver and an Idaho driver who are managed out of that office.
All in all, Lahr said, “We’re looking forward to being a good corporate citizen and supporting the local community.”
Information: www.energysolutions.com/waste-transportation/hittman-transport-services-inc/; 509-392-8652; 2750 Salk Ave., Richland.
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