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Year in review: Top tank truck stories from 2021

Dec. 28, 2021
Bulk transporters overcame COVID-19 challenges and supply-chain constraints through acquisitional growth, new transportation partnerships, driver pay increases, advanced technologies, and much more

You made it.

No doubt, 2021 threw as many curveballs as 2020, with tank truck operations forced to navigate capacity constraints caused by supply-chain kinks and the growing driver shortage exacerbated by Year 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But bulk carriers consistently found ways to meet each challenge—and do their part to keep America moving into 2022.

Many companies increased driver pay this year. Others touted innovative approaches to compensation, or looked for different ways to keep their drivers happy, and ensure they didn’t catch a wandering eye.

Acquisitions, which accelerated in 2021, also helped tank truck businesses unlock capacity, and Bulk Transporter explored this trend in depth, spotlighting the rapid growth of Heniff Transportation Systems and TFI International’s Tank Group, which now rank among the top five largest tank truck carriers in North America.

Further survive-and-thrive strategies included utilizing technology to enable fresh efficiencies, and forming new partnerships that benefit customers.

All those methods will come in handy again because operating in 2022 is unlikely to get easier.

COVID doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, Washington is as dysfunctional as ever, and American Trucking Associations says the industry, which this year was short 80,000 drivers, is on pace to be down 160,000 by 2030.

That’s not counting the dearth of technicians, who now must be technologists as much as truck mechanics.

But before worrying about next year’s problems—which surely will include familiar and all new complications—take a minute to reflect on this year’s biggest stories by revisiting Bulk Transporter’s most-viewed articles and media galleries from 2021:

1. Kenworth launches T680 Next Generation on-highway flagship truck

Yes, 2021 was hard, and new equipment often was equally hard to come by, but truckers and trucking companies still love shiny new tractors, as evidenced by the Kenworth T680 Next Gen’s prominent place atop this list.

2, Keep it moving: How trucking can address its driver shortage dilemma

No surprise here. Executives everywhere are looking for ways to grow their driver pools. This article provides a few potential solutions.

3, Peterbilt unleashes most ‘game-changing’ truck to date

See No. 1.

4, CSX to buy Quality Carriers

This deal turned heads when it was announced in May. Bulk Transporter explored the combination in greater detail in our November/December issue.

5, KAG acquires Ag Trucking

If it has to do with the Kenan Advantage Group, it’s big news in the tank truck industry. This development was no exception.

6, Heniff out to build tank truck industry’s preeminent operation

Take a ride with ambitious CEO Bob Heniff as he continues to grow one of the industry’s most technologically advanced organizations.

7, Pilot surprises longtime driver with custom truck

Trucking companies that treat their drivers well tend to do well themselves. Here’s a great story rooted in tradition, and one family’s love for classic big rigs.

8, NTTC crowns 2020 North American safety champions

A tank truck tradition like no other. This year, NTTC celebrated one of Ron Dana’s companies, and crowned its first private-fleet winner. And while we're celebrating winners, let's not forget a very deserving 2020-21 Tank Truck Driver of the Year, a G&D Trucking/Hoffman Transportation driver who Bulk Transporter spotlighted in a series of stories on this year's long-suffering finalists.

9, Excellence maintained: Carbon Express one of 2021’s ‘Fleets to Watch’

Steve Rush is a legend, and ATA knows it. The same year J&M Tank Lines CEO Harold Sumerford Jr. was crowned the federation’s 77th chairman, Rush received a Mike Russell Trucking Image Award for his efforts to improve drivers’ quality of life.

10, Acquisitional by nature: TFI grows Tank Group into $500M operation

Bulk Transporter did its best to count up the many tank truck companies absorbed by TFI en route to becoming an industry giant.

11, Trimac boosts trucker pay for 2021

Even Trimac was among the top tank truck carriers raising pay in an effort to attract drivers.

12, A&R absorbs Luckey Trucking

A&R Logistics stayed active in the acquisition game—before it ceased to exist. Or at least its name. A&R now is Quantix.

13, On the mark: GulfMark Energy endures oil downturn, aims high for 2021

Many bulk transporters serving the oil and gas, and construction industries were hit hard during the COVID downturn. One byproduct that received national attention was the lack of fuel haulers. But savvy crude oil marketers persevered amid societal changes, and forward-thinking fuel distributors fortified operations through consolidation.

14, ABC turns 50: Virginia-based tank truck carrier celebrates milestone

Milestones still matter. And family-owned firms still can thrive.

15, Liquid bulk shippers, intermodal supply-chain stakeholders convene for ITCA’s 2021 event

Speakers weren’t allowed at the 2020 Bulk Liquid Symposium, so ITCA members were happy to hear from the intermodal experts again this year—until one started talking about the growing importance of environmental, social, and governance scores in 2022.

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.