FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Quality Distribution, Inc. has a heritage dating back to 1913

The story of Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI) is truly the story of several companies that have been consolidated or acquired over several decades. This FreightWaves Haul of Fame article gives an overview of that story.

Humble beginnings

Quality Carriers was founded by BF Leaman in 1913 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Leaman and his son Clair delivered tons of milk and lime throughout the county. In 1930, they were sufficiently successful in purchasing the Mileage Motor Corporation and began hauling fuel oil in addition to lime and milk. In 1933, the Leaman Transportation Company was formed.

A milk truck at the start.  (Photo: qualitydistribuiton.com)
A milk truck at the start.
(Photo: qualitydistribuiton.com)

Acquisition fuels growth

In 1961, Leaman merged its two companies with Chemical Tank Lines, forming Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Inc. Following the merger, the company had 31 terminals nationwide and approximately 1,300 bulk tankers. That year, the company also acquired the routes and assets of Frank Cosgrove Transportation Co., Inc. as well as Forbes Trucking Co.

The 1960s were a period of great growth for the company. In 1966, it employed over 2,000 people and reported record revenues of over $ 47 million. The following year, Chemical Leaman Tank Lines acquired the tank line business of Ryder Truck Lines. This acquisition solidified the company’s position as the largest bulk cargo transporter in the United States with a fleet of more than 1,800 trucks operating east of the Mississippi River.

A first company logo.  (Image: US Patent and Trade Office)
A first company logo. (Image: US Patent and Trade Office)

Meanwhile, Buzz Babbit bought the operating authority of Denver-based transporter JB Montgomery in 1965.

Chemical Leaman Tank Lines continued its financial success throughout the 1970s. In 1973, the company reported revenues of over $ 100 million. And in 1979, he hit a record net profit, declaring $ 7.1 million.

Deregulation and more changes

The passage by Congress of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 resulted in the deregulation of the trucking industry, and the Chemical Leaman Tank Lines were negatively affected for several years. That year, the company reported declining profits, citing the economic recession that affected the products it carried as well as deregulation and tariff cuts across the United States.

This photo shows a vintage Chemical Leaman bulk tanker truck.  (Photo: Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
This photo shows a vintage Chemical Leaman bulk tanker truck. (Photo: Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

The years that followed were tumultuous. In 1982, the company reported a loss of $ 1.3 million and began to reduce plant locations and staff. Losses in 1984 were reported at just under $ 1 million. Finally, in 1985, the company started to make headway and reported its first profit since deregulation ($ 700,000). Although this amount was far from its 1979 record, things were at least going in the right direction. Chemical Leaman Tank Lines was able to survive industry deregulation when so many other companies could not.

Changes in the 90s

Chemical Leaman Tank Lines was privatized after the purchase of the shares of company president Sam Niness in 1992 by a private group led by David R. Hamilton.

In 1998, Chemical Leaman Tank Lines merged with Montgomery Tank Lines. This has created the largest fleet in the industry and the most comprehensive service offering. The integration of the two companies culminated in 1999. The amalgamated companies announced the creation of Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI), as the parent company, and reinstated the name Quality Carriers for its first subsidiary.

Quality Carriers consolidated the bulk tanker fleets of the two companies and became the successor to Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Montgomery Tank Lines and other previously acquired companies. Quality Carriers had the largest bulk tanker fleet in North America.

In November 2003, QDI completed an initial public offering (IPO) and was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. In August 2015, QDI was acquired and privatized by funds advised by Apax Partners.

A Quality Carriers driver beside his tractor.  (Photo: QualityDistribution.com)
A Quality Carriers driver beside his tractor. (Photo: QualityDistribution.com)

Today, QDI operates three subsidiaries:

  • Quality Carriers Inc. is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and continues to operate the largest bulk chemical transportation company in North America.
  • Boasso Global is based in Chalmette, Louisiana. The specialties of the company are value-added services including ‘cleaning, heating, testing, maintenance, storage, transportation and sale of related equipment of ISO tank containers in United States, United Kingdom United and continental Europe ”.
  • Quality transhipment focuses on “the transfer and storage of railcars and stationary tanks, warehousing, packaging and intermodal and total distribution of liquid and dry bulk liquid products.”

According to the company’s website, QDI “operates the largest network of dedicated bulk tankers in North America, based on revenue from bulk services. Among the types of cargo carried by its fleet are “chemicals, gasoline and food grade products”.

The company is “a primary carrier for many Fortune 500 companies engaged in chemical processing, including Dow Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble Company, EI Dupont, and PPG Industries.” In addition, QDI provides “services to each of the world’s 100 largest chemical producers with operations in the United States.”

The company has come a long way from its beginnings in Lancaster County …

A Quality Carriers tanker truck en route for delivery.  (Photo: Jim Allen / FreightWaves)
A Quality Carriers tanker truck en route for delivery. (Photo: Jim Allen / FreightWaves)

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About Alan Adams

Alan Adams

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