Counting down to NTTC's Diamond Anniversary | Part 2

Niness, Sutherland review activities of ODT’s Petroleum Carriers Section

During World War II, the Office of Defense Transportation’s Petroleum Carriers Section played a key role in keeping the Homefront supplied with refined fuels.

That agency was directed by Sam F Niness, a founder of the company that became Chemical Leaman. He was assisted by C Austin Sutherland, founder of Petroleum Transporter magazine and a co-founder and first managing director of National Tank Truck Carriers. They had oversight for over-the-road petroleum transporters and local delivery haulers.

They were interviewed by National Petroleum News, and the story was reprinted in the June-July 1943 issue of Petroleum Transporter.

The NPN article pointed out that the Petroleum Carriers Section’s primary concern, in over-the-road operations, was to divert short tankcar hauls to tank truck. Working with the section of Tank Car Service in the Division of Petroleum and Other Liquid Transport, the section has freed 14,000 tankcars for use in supplying the East Coast with oil.

When the Tankcar unit issues a permit for tankcar hauls of less than 200 miles, the permit is sent to the Petroleum Carriers Section, which forwards the pertinent information to the proper State Petroleum Transport Advisory.


The committee investigates circumstances surrounding the permit, reporting whether trucks could do the job instead of railroad. If trucks can, the committee makes arrangements for equipment to serve the shipper.

Created in February 1942, the section had an enormous job on its hands due in part to the lack of national information on tank truck operations. The rubber shortage was cropping up, and the War Production Board (WPB) was daily throwing rolling blocks into the automobile manufacturing industry. And all the time business was on the rise.

The section took an inventory of tank transports, and then approached its problem from the standpoint that a carrier must be in good operating condition, with good equipment and with personnel enough for peak efficiency operations.

To achieve peak efficiency, many things were necessary, including new operating rights which the section helped carriers obtain from the Interstate Commerce Commission and state regulatory bodies.

Over time, the section had to pay closer attention to replacement parts and tires. The parts problem meant carriers had to be constantly updated on procedures for obtaining replacement parts. Not only that, the section went out on its own on several occasions to locate a needed part for some operator.

In the face of rigorous WPB shutdowns on civilian manufacture, the section was instrumental (along with the WPB Automotive Division), in orchestrating the construction of 1,092 new tank trailers.

When this story was published (as of mid-1943), the section was wrestling with manpower issues, which had pushed the rubber concerns into the background. The section drew up an extensive replacement schedule for tank truck operators (drivers) and was in the process of mapping out a training program.

The section was also looking at ways to get more utilization out of tank trucks belonging to petroleum jobbers.


Founded in 1945—at the close of World War II—National Tank Truck Carriers Inc will celebrate 75 years (its Diamond Anniversary) in 2020. The association is planning a big party for its annual conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington DC.

Over more than seven decades, NTTC grew from a diamond in the rough to the multi-faceted organization that exists today.

From now through the end of 2020, Bulk Transporter will review some of the highlights of the tank truck industry and NTTC. These highlights will be drawn from the industry publication that grew into Bulk Transporter and will be posted in our Bulk Logistics Trends e-newsletter and on

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