When Alan S. McKim founded Clean Harbors in 1980, he did it with a Mack® truck.

The company has grown from a four-person tank-cleaning operation to the largest hazardous-waste-management firm in North America. McKim, chairman and CEO of Clean Harbors, gradually added services – including emergency response and recycling, processing and selling collected materials – to the small business he started. A few high-profile projects opened doors for Clean Harbors to garner additional work and expand through acquisitions – more than 100 so far.

Today, Clean Harbors has approximately 400 service locations and operates throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The company provides hazardous-waste management, emergency-spill response, industrial cleaning and maintenance and recycling services. Through its Safety-Kleen subsidiary, Clean Harbors also is North America’s largest re-refiner and recycler of used oil. Its customer base includes many Fortune 500 companies as well as federal, state, provincial and local governments and spans a wide range of industries, including chemical, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and automotive.

“The Clean Harbors name has almost become a generic brand it’s so pervasive,” says Brian Buckley, vice president of sales for Ballard Truck Center, the Mack dealer that works with the Norwell, Massachusetts-based company. “Whenever there’s any kind of environmental spill or natural disaster, Clean Harbors is on site. They’re an excellent brand that’s kind of become the industry standard.”

Transportation equipment plays an enormous role in the company’s success, says William McKim, senior vice president of asset management for Clean Harbors Environmental Services. “We’re an environmental company, but we’re also a very large trucking fleet,” McKim says. “We have over 10,000 trucks, including thousands of pickups, and trailers that are used daily for a variety of reasons.”

Clean Harbors currently operates 326 Mack trucks: 126 units that are 2010 models or newer; 80 units from model years 1979-2008; and one restored 1958 B Model used for company events.

“We have put an emphasis on delivering superior customer service, and we need a dependable fleet of equipment to ensure we are meeting our customers’ pickup schedules,” says Brian Rushton, vice president of asset management for Clean Harbors Environmental Services.

The fleet includes Mack Anthem®, Pinnacle™ and Granite® models, and the trucks are vital components of both the fleet and its business strategy.

“The durability of a Mack truck helps us,” says Mark Gangemi, director of asset management for Clean Harbors Environmental Services. “We keep our trucks from cradle to grave in most our vocational applications. Mack trucks are durable and last. We still have 20-year-old Mack trucks working at our plant and facilities.”

Trucks and applications

Buckley says Clean Harbors is an unusual customer because it buys the full Mack product line to meet the needs of its many businesses. “They buy sleeper tractors from us, they buy day cab tractors from us, they buy vocational roll-off trucks from us,” he says.

Over-the-road trucks with 53-foot van trailers haul hazardous waste long distances to company facilities for disposal or recycling. Vocational trucks with a wide range of bodies are used at company facilities, to clean up sites and to haul material containers and dumpsters.

Several of Clean Harbor’s new Mack ® Pinnacles™ at the company’s Braintree, Massachusetts, location.

“The majority of our fleet is composed of roll-off trucks, vacuum trucks, hydro-excavators, numerous back-end specialized vacuum truck systems, waste oil collection trucks — and I think that’s where Mack shines because it’s known for having the bigger frame and integrating with body builders,” William McKim says. “They have a lot of those options for us.”

Clean Harbors recently took delivery of 10 Mack Anthem trucks and has ordered 20 more that will be used in the company’s National & Regional long-haul division. The Anthem is spec’d with 70-inch mid-rise sleepers, 445-horsepower MP®8 engines, mDRIVE™ automated transmissions, 40,000-pound rear axles and 12,000-pound front axles.

“We can upfit the Mack Anthem or the Pinnacle sleeper with refrigerators and all types of accessories that are needed for the drivers’ extra storage and such at a very reasonable price compared to the market,” Gangemi says. “We feel the price we pay for that truck – it’s a lot more value than what we get with some of the other OEMs in this current market.”

Kelly Pitts, senior manager of National & Regional logistics for Clean Harbors Environmental Services, says of the new Anthems, “The drivers love these trucks.”

Clean Harbors typically specs axle forward Pinnacles, for heavier-haul applications, with 505-horsepower MP8 engines, mDRIVE transmissions, 46,000-pound rear axles and 14,600-pound front axles.

For vocational applications, Granites are spec’d with 425-horsepower MP8 engines, mDRIVE transmissions, 46,000-pound or 52,000-pound rear axles and 20,000-pound front axles and heavy duty frames.

Why Mack?

The popularity of Mack trucks with drivers is another selling point. “When you talk to drivers about Mack trucks, one of the first things almost everyone says is, ‘Oh, my dad drove a Mack truck,’” McKim says. “And the drivers just love them. That’s what it comes down to. We want to buy the trucks that our drivers want to drive the most.”

Clean Harbors has had trucks in its system for more than 35 years, and when he started examining the fleet after joining the company four years ago, Mack stood out. “If any truck is still running over 20 years, I usually find out it’s a Mack truck,” Gangemi says. “And if I need to retire it, I get a very good resale price for the Mack truck. I think the legacy of ‘Built Like a Mack Truck’ holds because I don’t see people trying to jump and purchase other OEM’s product lines, especially if it’s a 20-year-old truck.”

The company’s restored 1958 Mack B Model is parked in front of the corporate headquarters in nearby Norwell. The B Model is identical to the first truck Alan McKim drove after founding the company.

The mDRIVE automated manual transmission is one reason drivers view Mack trucks so favorably, Gangemi says. Clean Harbors specs the mDRIVE in almost every Mack it buys.

A roll-off hoist truck driver recently stated he loves the mDRIVE “Grade Gripper” feature. At one of his customer sites he needed to back up onto an isolated ramp, stop the truck and dump his load into a pit. He said, “It was a bit scary due to the elevation.” This feature gives him the freedom to operate the truck and focus on the safety of dumping his load over the manual and clutch operation. He said it was the perfect truck for the application.

“We feel like that’s a very good fit for our drivers,” Gangemi says. “And it’s also an advantage for driver recruitment and retention.

“These guys are usually in tight operations, and they’re running around in-site facilities, picking up and dumping cans. It’s good that they’re not always shifting and stepping on the clutch,” Gangemi says.

The mDRIVE saves on maintenance and driver wear and tear or repetitive work motions.

The mDRIVE plays a part in another characteristic of Mack trucks that Clean Harbors’ asset-management team values: fuel economy. mDRIVE allows Clean Harbors to rely less on drivers to manage their fuel economy, Buckley says. Some over-the-road drivers get 6 to 7.5 mpg, which is above average within their applications, Gangemi says.

Mack’s reputation for safety is a draw for Clean Harbors as well. “Drivers want to be safe,” McKim says. “When they’re hauling a tanker with 5,000 gallons of acids or chemicals, they want to be in a good truck, a safe truck, one that’s reliable for them.”

Mark Gangemi, director of asset management for Clean Harbors Environmental Services, stands with a new Mack Anthem, a model he says gets outstanding fuel economy.