Badlands Tank Lines
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Badlands doubles down on crude oil transport

Nov. 9, 2023
Recent acquisitions of Equipment Transport and Marathon Petroleum truck and tank trailer assets make Nebraska-based company the country’s largest for-hire crude oil carrier

Badlands Tank Lines CEO Roger Johnson quietly is constructing the largest for-hire crude oil carrier in the country.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based carrier recently added over 300 pieces of equipment in separate acquisitions of Equipment Transport and Marathon Petroleum crude oil transportation assets, swelling the company’s fleet to 380 tractors and 550 tank trailers serving oilfield operators in the Rocky Mountains, Texas, and Ohio.

“The crude oil space we operate in is a funny place today,” Johnson, Badlands founder and co-owner, told Bulk Transporter. “Twelve years ago, it was the place to be. Since then, it’s kind of been the worst place to be, and everybody’s running for the doors—but we keep doubling down because we’re good at it.”

Equipment Transport was a division of Berkshire Hathaway-owned Pilot Flying J, which acquired the company from private-equity firm CIVC Partners in 2018. Equipment Transport at one point had over 500 trucks but was down to 283 units, including 87 tractors and 196 tank trailers, when Johnson—who started his career with Pilot Flying J’s trucking group—and his business partner, Badlands COO Dave Taylor, acquired the company in October.

The Marathon transaction, which included MPLX subsidiary assets in North Dakota, netted 19 power units, 23 tank trailers, and three shops in September.

“The way to make money in crude oil is different than the rest of the commodity space,” Johnson said. “It’s a rough-and-tumble world, and it wears people out. But what’s been nice for us is, private equity is staying out. They don’t want anything to do with this space. So for anybody who wants an exit—because they’re tired or just want out—there’s nobody out there buying. There is no exit. It’s basically us.”

Those deals also delivered Badlands over 100 drivers, bringing the carrier’s total head count to 550 employees, including approximately 450 company drivers and 75 owner-operators. Other acquisitions include Lunderby Trucking in December 2021 and Twin Eagle Transport in August 2019. Badlands now has dominant positions in the Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming crude oil markets.

“When you’re the only one buying, you usually get a good price,” Johnson confided.

“And we can take those deals because we can turn around and make money with the assets. Most people can’t.”