Jacksonville-based Advanced Disposal System is the largest privately held waste company in the country, with 5,400 employees, a 3,000-truck fleet featuring new Peterbilt Model 567s and a footprint in 20 states. However, ask CEO Richard Burke to talk about the company, and he prefers to focus on the company culture.
“Service first, safety always is the cornerstone of our foundation,” he says. “Our goal is to have 5,400 people embrace and practice that philosophy every day. There is a difference between safety first and safety always: safety is too important to rank. If you don’t have a safe process, you can never get to service.”
A 30-plus year veteran in the refuse industry, Burke took the reigns at ADS in 2012 following the acquisition of Viola Environmental Services Solid Waste, where he was CEO. The company has made nearly 200 acquisitions since 2000, and has established three regions—Charleston, S.C., Atlanta and Chicago—to accommodate its 95 hauling companies. While ADS has a vast network, Burke is quick to point out that the company encourages highly autonomous field operations.
“Safety is too important to rank. If you don’t have a safe process, you can never get to serice.” – Richard Burke, CEO
“Corporate sets standards and guidelines,” he explains. “But execution happens at the local level where there is constant attention to safety excellence and customer service, which leads to growth. We strive to create an entrepreneurial environment where everyone feels like they are an important part of the process and key contributor to our overall success. We believe that it’s a real differentiator.”
Not surprisingly, the words ‘employee engagement’ are actually contained within the ADS vision statement, and according to Brian Beaudrie, vice president of corporate maintenance, there is buy-in throughout the organization.
“As the saying goes, it’s easy to quit a job, hard to quit a team,” he says. “We are committed to providing our drivers with completely safe working conditions and a first class, premium truck.”
To keep pace with 2,300 daily routes, there are currently about 3,000 Class 8 trucks in the ADS fleet, a growing percentage of which are Peterbilts. Citing the often-harsh environments in which refuse trucks operate, along with his 35 years of experience spec’ing and maintaining heavy-duty trucks, Beaudrie considers durability to be a primary requirement of any roll-off truck.
“Our trucks are hauling 20-yard steel debris bins and take a pounding,” he says. “So, durability is a must. We’re confident the new Peterbilt Model 567 will be up to the task.”
Another reason why Beaudrie considers durability a priority is because ADS expects 16 years of service out of each and every truck. He is a strong proponent of total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) analysis.
“Quality is a huge component in our purchase decision, and we are willing to pay up front for quality,” he says. “Understanding what our TCO will be over the long haul is what matters most, and 16 years is a pretty long haul.”
ADS’s Peterbilt Model 567s are equipped with the PACCAR MX-11 Engine. After many years of dependable performance of the MX-13 in other ADS vehicles, and the solid track record of the MX-11 in their Peterbilt Model 320 cab-over-engine trucks for residential hauling, Beaudrie has high expectations for the MX-11 in hauling applications.
“Both the MX-13 and MX-11 are stellar engines that have performed extremely well,” he says. “In most states we stay under 54,000 pound loads, but elsewhere we get up to 64,000 pounds. The MX-11 is more than well-suited to power the trucks and offers outstanding gallons-per-hour fuel efficiency.”
Area Maintenance Manager Granville Carrol sees the driver enthusiasm for the Peterbilt trucks on a daily basis. In fact, it’s the one downside that he associates with the Model 567.
“Once a driver gets in a Peterbilt, he doesn’t want to get out,” says Carrol. “I’ve heard of a couple instances where drivers have taken a PTO day if they’re not assigned a Peterbilt that day.”
With a far below industry average of 30 percent driver turnover at ADS, much can be attributed to the driver friendly features of the Model 567. Specifically, Beaudrie refers to the sloped hood that provides increased visibility for drivers operating in congested work sites; the luxury interior features; the pod-mounted headlamps designed to reduce out-of-service potential; the smooth, comfortable ride; and more.
“Our trucks are rolling billboards,” he adds. “The image we portray to our customers and our employees is very important, and whether we’re rolling into a pristine parking lot or a landfill site, we are sending a message that our trucks are mechanically well maintained and aesthetically well maintained. I will often see one of our trucks on the road and pull over to send an appreciation text to the maintenance manager.”
The importance of image at ADS is further illustrated by the way their trucks are retired. They will not release a title to the secondary market unless their markings are scraped off and the bodies removed. Once that’s been done, the trucks can see another 16 years of service.
“Farmers will often attach grain boxes to the trucks, and realize another long service life,” observes Beaudrie. “That’s okay by us as long as the farmer’s not a competitor.”