Running the Distance

A 200-mile Wisconsin-Illinois relay race keeps a hardworking crew on its toes placing and picking up hundreds of units.
Running the Distance
The crew of technicians at Arnold’s includes, from left, Bob Edwards, Chris Rach, Chuck Guenther, Glen Moody, Brian Crass, Darren Devine, Erik Barber, Zach Keefe and Luke Switalski. The company’s fleet, shown in the background, includes several vacuum trucks from Imperial Industries equipped with Masport pumps. (Photos by Tom Lynn)

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THE TEAM

Tammy Thompson-Oreskovic owns Arnold’s Environmental Services Inc. Mike Steidtmann is operations manager for the company, based in Saukville, Wis., about 25 miles north of Milwaukee. Tammy serves as the company’s chief executive officer and president. The majority of the Arnold’s crew, including some temporary summer workers, were on hand for the big event.

COMPANY HISTORY

Tammy and her husband, Pat Oreskovic, bought Arnold’s Septic Service in 1992. She left a job as a graphic designer; he left a railroad job. In 2006, the couple split the company into two units: Arnold’s Environmental and Arnold’s Sanitation Technologies Ltd., a septic service company half-owned by Pat, who serves as the company’s president.

Arnold’s Environmental employs 11 workers and services customers all over southeastern Wisconsin. It owns about 1,700 restrooms, made mostly by PolyJohn Enterprises, Five Peaks and Satellite Industries; and 10 restroom trailers, made by JAG Mobile Solutions, NuConcepts, Black Tie Event Services and McKee Technologies Inc. The company uses Walex deodorant products in the restrooms.

The company also owns four restroom service trucks built by Imperial Industries Inc.: a 2003 International with a 1,100-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank; two 2004 Internationals with 850-gallon waste/350-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks; and a 2005 International with a 1,100-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank. They all use pumps made by Masport Inc.

Other service trucks include three Mitsubishis with 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tanks, built by Arnold’s; a 2007 Ford F-750 with a 1,200-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tank, built by Imperial; and a 2007 Ford F-550 with a 500-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tank, built by Imperial. All five of these trucks use Masport pumps. Two Ford F-550 flatbeds and a 2004 Ford F-350 pickup round out the fleet.

THE MAIN EVENT

In June 2013, Arnold’s Environmental served its third consecutive RAGNAR team relay race from Madison to Chicago, which covers about 195 miles through southern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. (RAGNAR is not an acronym, but rather the name of a king and hero of early ninth-century Scandinavia, known as a wild, free-spirited and fearless leader).

During the events (there are about 15 held annually across the country), teams composed of either six or 12 runners compete to see which team can cover a roughly 200-mile-long course tag-team style in the fastest time. The runners pile into two vans, and each team member runs three legs of between 3 and 8 miles during the race, which runs for two days and one night.

“As far as the number of restrooms goes, it’s our biggest special event of the year,” Steidtmann says. “We’ve learned how to run it as efficiently as possible … now we have it pretty much down to a science.”

BY THE NUMBERS

To handle the event, Arnold’s uses eight employees (or about 80 percent of its workforce), four trucks, four trailers and about 360 single restrooms, including four handicapped-accessible units (two at the starting line in Madison and two at the finish line in Chicago). Steidtmann says he “steals” staff from the septic side of the business to handle the event; it also helps that it occurs in summer, when the company typically has three college students working as temporary employees.

“It’s basically all hands on deck,” he says. “We don’t clean any septic tanks that weekend.”

The logistics are daunting. One of the biggest challenges involves figuring out the most efficient way to deliver and pick up the restrooms at the 37 different exchange sites, where runners switch off between relay legs. The start and finish lines demand the most units, while the other stops each require anywhere from seven to 17 units.

The other major challenge is time constraints on when the 37 exchange sites will not only accept delivery, but how long they’ll allow the restrooms to remain on site, Steidtmann notes.

“Some of the exchange points are at schools, so they won’t let us set up restrooms until after 3 p.m.,” he explains. “Others are at churches, so they want the restrooms removed Sunday morning by 8 or 9 a.m. – but sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m.”

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

To maximize efficiency, Arnold’s rents a staging area in Wales, Wis., near the halfway point in the race. That minimizes travel between Saukville and Madison, about a two-hour drive, and all other exchange points along the first half of the course. Arnold’s keeps about 75 or 80 units at the staging warehouse.

Deliveries start on Thursday, a day before the start of the race. Initially, four trucks – two with 1,100-gallon waste-tank capacity and two with 850-gallon waste-tank capacity – and four trailers take 104 restrooms west to Madison. From there, crews begin dropping off units at the exchange points, working their way east toward Milwaukee. When a truck/trailer is empty, it heads east to Wales, picks up more restrooms, and starts doing deliveries, this time heading west, until employees complete all deliveries along roughly the first half of the route.

On Friday morning, employees deliver the remaining 180 or so restrooms from Saukville to the remaining exchange points, which stretch from western suburban Milwaukee to Chicago.

Pickups begin early Saturday morning along the western half of the course. To boost efficiency, about 120 restrooms get taken to the staging area for cleaning; then they’re ready for another special event held the following weekend at State Fair Park in Milwaukee. On Sunday morning, employees finish picking up all the restrooms along the second half of the race course, Steidtmann says.

KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN

All waste is taken to a treatment plant in Ozaukee County, near Saukville. Minimal back-and-forth trips are required because the company employs the four trucks previously mentioned that have a combined waste capacity of about 4,000 gallons.

“We pump and dump on Saturday and again on Sunday,” Steidtmann explains. “Capacity is not an issue. When we did this event the first time, we thought we might have to bring along a septic truck [with a larger tank], but it all worked out just fine.”

After each event, Steidtmann consults with RAGNAR officials to review how things went. He says the group is always open to suggestions for adding or reducing restrooms as needed at certain exchange points, but he estimates that the number of units remains the same at about 80 percent of the stops.

BUSY WEEKEND

Arnold’s also handles a few other smaller special events the same weekend as the RAGNAR race, which can create challenges at times.

“Luckily they’re not events where they need, say, 200 units,” Steidtmann says. “Sometimes we may get a call at 2 p.m. on a Friday from a group that experienced a sudden spike in ticket sales and needs 60 or 80 more restrooms. The hours pile up … but we always make it work. Having a great team makes all the difference.”



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