Massachusetts Fuel Oil Company Delivers Environmental Message

Sept. 1, 1997
CUSTOMERS of Dennis K Burke Inc get more than just a load of fuel oil when a tankwagon arrives at their doors. Some of the tank trucks resemble works

CUSTOMERS of Dennis K Burke Inc get more than just a load of fuel oil when a tankwagon arrives at their doors. Some of the tank trucks resemble works of art with picturesque images of an alpine lake or a lighthouse on the edge of a rocky New England shoreline.

"The murals were created to illustrate the company's commitment to the environment," says Ed Burke, treasurer. "They also are a reminder of what is really the most important responsibility of any business-leaving clean and useful resources for future generations.

"We believe that our company can make a difference when it comes to saving a little corner of the planet. That's why we make sure every delivery of product doesn't result in any adverse environmental impact."

The Chelsea, Massachusetts, company received national attention in 1995 when it won top awards in the Fleet Graphics Contest sponsored by Fleet Owner magazine. The trucks also won first place in the 1996 Professional Environmental Marketing Association's Excellence Award in Marketing.

Dennis K Burke has delivered fuels and lubricants for more than 35 years. The company is a commercial, industrial, and wholesale distributor of bulk and packaged petroleum products for Chevron, Citgo, Shell, Sierra, and Safety Kleen. It also markets its own branded product, Fleetline.

A fleet of 14 tankwagons and 12 tank trailers delivers product to customers throughout Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. The carrier's yearly average is more than 42 million gallons of distillates, which includes diesel, kerosene, and jet fuel. Gasoline yearly totals average 12 million gallons, and motor oil and engine coolant account for about two million gallons.

During the 1990s, the company expanded its product line to include biodegradable antifreeze, biodegradable gear lubes made from vegetable oil, and regenerated motor oil produced from used oil. To ensure quality control, drivers collect product samples for customers and the Burke office.

The company headquarters is located on a four-acre site. An 18,000-sq-ft warehouse holds more than 230,000 gallons of motor oil, hydraulic fluid, and engine coolant stored in packages, drums, and totes. Adjacent to the building is a rail siding with space for 22 tank cars.

Environmental Commitment As part of its environmental responsibility to surrounding communities, Dennis K Burke Inc regularly hosts training sessions for professionals involved in environmental issues. The company also furnishes tank truck equipment for the training.

Sponsored by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), air regulators and air quality inspectors from five New England states attended a training session at Dennis K Burke in 1996. The NESCAUM training provides participants with hands-on experience in smoke opacity testing of trucks and tractors.

Dennis K Burke Inc also participates in a local emergency planning committee (LEPC). The carrier provides hazardous materials training for local firefighters and law enforcement officials, including inspection training for tank truck equipment and emergency response techniques for overturned tanks.

On a Friday morning in June, Dennis K Burke employees assisted the Chelsea Fire Department while it battled an eight-alarm blaze that destroyed a four-story brick plant containing box-making equipment. Burke drivers hauled several thousand gallons of diesel to keep pumpers from running out of fuel until the fire was under control hours later.

The fire was not completely extinguished until Sunday afternoon through the efforts of 20 fire companies working over two days. Firefighters say a wax machine inside the 79-year-old paper box company caught fire.

In the past decade, employees at Dennis K Burke have met plenty of challenges, including economic and natural disasters. After a hurricane moved across Cape Cod on Labor Day weekend in 1996, electric utility crews began removing fallen trees and repairing broken power lines. Burke drivers refueled utility trucks during evening hours while linemen had a chance to catch a few hours of sleep.

During the early 1990s, communities across Massachusetts were spiraling toward financial collapse. Chelsea was one of the first cities to go into receivership.

Since then, Chelsea has developed a new infrastructure, including a healthy tax base to build new schools. Dennis K Burke Inc continues to support local education through several programs.

In 1993, the carrier began providing grants to recruit corporate sponsors for Chelsea's Choice Through Education, an alternative school that offers educational support to area teens who have left public schools. Since 1994, Dennis K Burke has given an annual grant to the Chelsea School System for a classroom video series. Science Screen Report helps children learn about the environment and how it affects their lives.

Educating Customers Publications that contain up-to-date information on regulatory and environmental issues are part of the service that Dennis K Burke offers to customers. The company's newsletter provides regular features, such as Tax Notes, Environmental Update, Diesel Talk, and Fleet Tips.

In 1996, the publication won first place in the New England Marketing Association's Excellence Award for Newsletters. Glen Davis, safety director, writes a column that addresses safety, preventive maintenance, and equipment use issues.

"New state and federal laws are constantly changing the industry," Davis says. "We realize the importance of keeping customers updated on new regulations and how they might affect the fuel oil business.

"We developed our own series of material safety data sheets (MSDS) so that customers have the latest safety information and emergency response numbers. We encourage customers to review their products on a regular basis and update their MSDS information accordingly."

Customers needing further assistance can call a toll-free number to speak to customer service representatives at Dennis K Burke. The company recently created a website,, as an additional information resource.

Readers can find product information, download MSDS, and read an on-line newsletter. They also can review prices of fuel oil futures posted on the New York Mercantile Exchange and access government websites.

Safety Education Educating drivers and other employees on the importance of safety is an ongoing process at Dennis K Burke. The Driver/Warehouse Safety program meets every month as a forum to discuss safety in the workplace. The program offers cash awards that increase each year to all drivers and warehouse personnel staff who complete an accident-free year on the road and in company facilities.

For example, drivers receive $100 for each year of no-fault accidents. The amount increases by $100 for every additional year of accident-free driving. Dennis K Burke employs several drivers who are 11- and 12-year award recipients.

"It's a great incentive to keep us trying harder to do our jobs safely," says Nick Palmitesta, a driver who has won the award for 12 consecutive years. "The award also offers the recognition of being one of the best in the industry."

Every two years, drivers and mechanics participate in a hazardous materials program that includes training for hypothetical emergency situations. Accident prevention, new regulations, and correct product handling techniques are some of the topics covered during training.

Drivers carry a spill kit and disposable camera. In the unlikely event of an accident, they are required to complete a report that includes pictures of the accident scene.

Truck drivers must be at least 23 years old and have a minimum of two years of driving experience with hazardous materials endorsement to work at Dennis K Burke. Regardless of their experience, newly hired drivers complete several weeks of training, which includes classroom instruction and on-the-job experience under the supervision of a driver trainer.

"The key to a safe working environment is comprehensive training of employees," Davis says. "Drivers appreciate the time and money our company invests in their training. Driver turnover has been less than 10% in the past five years."

CHEMTREC Emergency Information Dennis K Burke recently contracted with CHEMTREC, a 24-hour emergency service that provides medical treatment information, assistance with spill control, and product references through MSDS. This year, the company joined the National Safety Council to supplement its current safety program.

Reliable equipment is as great a concern as avoiding any chance of an accident at Dennis K Burke. The newest tractors are 1996 International 9400 6x4 conventionals with a 185-inch wheelbase. The Cummins N14 engine is rated for 435 hp at 2100 rpm. The engine generates 1,450 ft-lb of torque at 1200 rpm.

Tractors have 13-speed air-shift Fuller RTLO-16713A double overdrive transmissions. Other drivetrain components include a 15.5-inch Spicer clutch and Spicer W460-S drive tandem with 4.44 ratio.

Included in the specifications are a Bendix AD-9 air dryer, Bendix Tu-Flo 550 compressor, Phillips block heater, Horton fan drive, Delco alternator and batteries, and Fontaine fifthwheel.

The Hendrickson spring suspension has a 46,000-lb capacity. Tractors have aluminum disc wheels and Goodyear Unisteel 11R24.5 radial tires.

Dennis K Burke specifies steel tanks built by Boston Steel & Mfg Co for its fleet of tankwagons. Product capacities range from 3,000 to 6,000 gallons. Delivery equipment includes Blackmer pumps, Liquid Controls meters, and Scully overfill protection systems.

The newest truck is a 1996 Volvo WX64 equipped with a 280-hp Cummins M11 diesel engine, which generates 1050 ft-lb of torque at 1200 rpm. Other equipment includes a Fuller RTX-11708LL 10-speed transmission and 15.5-inch Spicer clutch.

On the trailer side, Dennis K Burke runs tanks built by Heil Trailer International. Most trailers have four compartments with an average capacity of 11,000 gallons and are equipped with separate meters for delivery of gasoline and diesel.

Built to MC306 standards, the tanks are constructed of 5454 aluminum. Hardware includes Emco Wheaton internal valves and Betts pressure-relief valves.

Dennis K Burke Inc uses computer software to determine preventive maintenance schedules for tractors, trailers, and tankwagons. Service is divided into A and B schedules.

Every 5,000 miles or 45 days, the A service requires that mechanics check brake linings, wheel bearings, suspensions, safety valves, and pressure-relief vents. At 10,000 miles, the B service includes all of the above plus changing of engine oil and filters.

Tires are included in every PM inspection. Retreads are used on drive axles and trailer axles. Casings get only one recap.

The maintenance program ensures that equipment is always ready to handle last-minute orders or emergency calls from customers. It is part of the overall commitment at Dennis K Burke to safety, service, and the environment.

About the Author

James Russell