When the gas and oil industry comes calling, Energy Waste Rentals & Service is ready to be a one-stop portable sanitation and equipment rental solution.
Providing great customer service isn’t the stuff of rocket science. Yet there always seem to be contractors who don’t provide it – and that spells opportunity for those who do, as Kenneth Schumacher can attest.
Almost 30 years ago, Schumacher took note of a friend’s dissatisfaction with a trash-trailer company he’d hired to collect garbage at oilfield drilling sites. Schumacher responded by starting his own trash-trailer venture in 1986, and that eventually led him to establish Energy Waste Rentals & Service, a thriving portable restroom operation with offices in Yoakum, Texas, and a yard in Cuero, Texas.
Schumacher’s business philosophy is simple: Listen to what customers want and deliver the goods. It’s short and to the point, and he says the mantra is critical to his success working in several enterprises.
“My friend wasn’t getting trailers when he needed them,” Schumacher recalls of his venture into refuse collection. “Sometimes it took two or three days to get new [empty] trailers. And once those trailers were full, there was no place to put trash. Between the raccoons and the wind, it was creating big messes. So I asked him if I built some trailers, would he rent them from me? And he said yes.”
At the time, Schumacher admits he didn’t even know what a trash trailer was. But after his friend explained it, Schumacher built two of the wire-mesh-enclosed trailers and began hauling trash. A couple months later, the same associate asked Schumacher if he’d be willing to provide portable restrooms, too. Schumacher complied by buying 28 restrooms and a small slide-in tank unit to service them.
Energy Waste Rentals has grown considerably since then. It now employs 70 people and provides nearly 2,000 restrooms and other equipment, catering primarily to oilfield drilling companies. It deploys 18 vacuum trucks and eight slide-in units and operates branch yards in Cuero and Cotulla in south Texas; Mertzon, Monahans and Pecos in west Texas; and New Castle, Pennsylvania.
SERVICE IS EVERYTHING
Schumacher graduated from college with an agricultural education degree and taught vocational agriculture as a high school teacher for eight years before he and his wife, Jacque, purchased her family’s office-supply business, Dewitt Poth & Son in Yoakum, in 1996 (they still own the store). He had also worked many summers for his late father, Marvin, who was a heavy-equipment contractor.
Hearing about his friend’s experience with poor customer service in the oilfields drove Schumacher to succeed in a new field he knew nothing about.
“Even though we’ve gotten fairly large, we started with nothing – and I mean nothing,” he says. “Like any business, whether it’s in construction or business supplies, if you want to grow, it all comes down to customer service. Some people talk the game and some people actually play the game.
“If you’re supposed to have a cleaning truck out to a drilling site twice a week, it needs to be there,” he continues. “The oilfield industry is very demanding. If we get a call at 6 a.m. and someone needs a restroom by 7 a.m., we’ve got to get it going … there’s usually not a lot of notice or advance warning.
“In the end it’s all about listening to customers and providing what they need, and doing what you promised you would do,” he adds. “And you need to do the little things, like being on time and cleaning the outside of the restrooms as well as the inside. It’s the little things that differentiate you from everybody else.”
FLEET AND INVENTORY
Nine vacuum trucks built by Satellite Industries on Hino chassis form the core of Energy Waste’s fleet. Four of the trucks feature steel tanks (1,100 gallons wastewater/500 gallons freshwater) and the others carry aluminum tanks (1,500 gallons waste/500 gallons freshwater). All are equipped with Masport Inc. pumps. Schumacher says he buys steel tanks for trucks that travel more frequently on rough roads.
Schumacher says that when it comes to tank size, he prefers to strike a balance between having enough capacity to minimize disposal runs, but not so big that they require his drivers to obtain a CDL.
“I prefer not to run big rigs down the road,” he notes. “Our pump trucks are just the right size … they can dump in the morning and clean all day, then be ready to go the next morning. In addition, bigger trucks are harder to get around on fracking sites, where there’s not a lot of room to maneuver.”
Energy Waste also runs five Ford F-550s and four Dodge 5500 trucks equipped with 700-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks built by Satellite with Conde pumps from Westmoor Ltd. To conserve truck-bed space, tanks on these trucks are mounted crosswise behind the cab. With this configuration and a raised liftgate, the truck can transport four restrooms and still tow a trash trailer. Moreover, all nine trucks feature four-wheel drive and dually rear axles to better handle muddy conditions. “We operate in as tough an environment as you can imagine,” Schumacher points out.
In addition, Energy Waste also runs eight slide-in units mounted on Ford F-350 dually pickups. Made by Satellite, the 350-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater tanks are stainless steel and are tied to Masport pumps.
Rounding out the portable sanitation inventory are three nine-stall and eight two-stall restroom trailers from Satellite and Rich Specialty Trailers; about 125 Satellite Breeze hand-wash stations; more than 200 trash trailers made by the local Griffin Enterprises; and eight restroom transport trailers built by McKee Technologies.
The company also owns about 1,800 restrooms, most from Satellite and some from PolyJohn Enterprises and PolyPortables LLC. All restrooms have hand sanitizers. Energy Waste uses Satellite Safe T Fresh deodorant products.
Equipment for rent to the oilfield customers includes Airman portable generators (MMD Equipment), Allmand Brothers Inc. light towers, flat holding tanks from Satellite and PolyJohn Enterprises, and bulk water tanks from Wylie Manufacturing. Energy Waste also designed what it calls a Gen Combo, which adds an Airman generator, diesel fuel tank and Wylie water tank to a Top Hat fifth-wheel trailer. Local fabricator Watson Ag and Welding has built about 30 of them for the company.
EFFICIENT ROUTING COUNTS
Because drilling sites are so remote, it helps to own trucks that can do more than one job, Schumacher points out.
“We try to minimize travel time and the number of trips for deliveries and pickups,” he says, noting that most oilfield restrooms require cleaning either twice a week, every other day or every day. “A lot of times we have to go out there and move the same restroom just 2 miles down the road. So if we pick up a restroom [with a slide-in unit], we can suck it out and then haul it empty. Whenever possible, I like to bring the restrooms back to the yard to fully sanitize them, but sometimes we only have time to move them from one site to the other.’’
Energy Waste relies on GPS units to boost driver safety and increase efficiency. The company also uses TrakQuip software, made by Corporate Services LLC, to better follow oilfield equipment rentals – another offshoot business for Energy Waste.
“At some point, our customers asked us to supply light towers [for rent],” Schumacher explains. “From there, we eased into rentals over time. We decided to become a full-fledged rental company about six years ago. When the fracking boom hit the Eagle Ford Shale, we found our customers preferred to use just one vendor to bring in the whole package.”
Schumacher says he wouldn’t have considered starting a rental business without long-standing customer relationships. “Our customers basically told us they’d use us if we had the equipment to rent … and that stemmed directly from relationships we’ve built over the years. I trust them as much as they trust me,’’ he says. “We’ve all been good for each other.”
Schumacher says there were growing pains for the business. “We struggled over the years,” he says. “We had to learn the logistics of the business and deal with all the financial aspects of buying and financing equipment. It’s not all roses all the time.”
But things got easier as Energy Waste established itself. As Schumacher puts it, “It takes awhile for people to see that your word is good and you’ll do what you say you’ll do – and do it for a fair price.” The energy services work significantly boosted the company’s revenues but also increased route densities, which produced efficiencies that, in turn, improved operating margins.
“Our business increased a lot just because of the sheer volume of activity going on during the last five or six years,” Schumacher says. “It changed the complexion of our business and of all the little towns around here.”
Does Schumacher see more growth ahead? Definitely.
“Someone once told me that you’re either moving forward or backward, or up or down,” he says. “I’d rather be going forward than backward, or moving up than down. So far, it’s been a fun ride. And as our customers continue to grow, we hope to grow right along with them.”