Versatile Crew And Equipment Makes Things Happen For Kentucky's TPM Group

Kentucky’s TPM Group utilizes a diverse fleet of service trucks and a versatile crew to meet a variety of industrial vac and hydroexcavation challenges.
Versatile Crew And Equipment Makes Things Happen For Kentucky's TPM Group
Scotty Dukes, left, and Tyrone Scoggins, right, dump accumulated waste from a Vacall combination truck during a hydroexcavation job. (Photos by Jeff Brown)

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Environmental services company TPM Group was founded in 1991 on the business of excavating and removing underground storage tanks. Today, industrial vacuum services are an important component of a diverse business that prides itself on delivering service from project concept to completion.

TPM President Eddie Hanks was introduced to the art of equipment operation at age 14.

“My older brother CK was an entrepreneur,” says Hanks. “In 1978, Kentucky was putting in a lot of rural water mains, but installing service lines was the responsibility of the property owner. CK bought an old Ditch Witch J-15 trencher, and I learned how to use it in the field behind my house. I offered an attractive price for my labor and my brother subcontracted the trenching to me.”

Hanks established Hanks Construction of Bowling Green in 1986 and operated it while completing a business degree at Western Kentucky University. Classes concluded in 1989, but Hanks couldn’t collect his bachelor’s without finishing his internship. “In 1991, I bid on the steam tunnel concrete replacement contract at (the college) and wrote my internship on that,” he says.

Hanks recalls talking to his father about “ivory tower” consultants who design a project and then bring in technical know-how to perform the actual work.

“My dad advised me that I needed to offer more value by becoming the consultant and also delivering a service,” he recalls. “That would maximize the value of my equipment to allow a better return on investment.”

Hanks saw an opportunity following the establishment of the federal regulations pertaining to underground storage tanks in 1988, which required owners to upgrade or replace tanks over the next 10 years.

“I became state certified to install, remove and service underground tanks, then hired a geologist and a hydrologist to handle contaminated soil remediation and groundwater issues, and established TPM Environmental Services in 1991,” says Hanks. “From that point on I realized that I needed to provide a full range of offerings to my customers, from concept to completion.”


The company’s first vacuum truck was purchased in 1994 – an Aquatech jet/vac – to pump groundwater monitoring wells at underground storage tanks. TPM opened a second office in Nashville in 1995.

“We were one of the few contractors in both states with a vacuum truck, so it attracted a lot of interest,” says Hanks. “We had customers who needed grease traps pumped or who were dealing with flooding. We used it for clean-outs of publicly owned treatment works, vacuuming out clarifiers and freshwater intakes, cleaning lift stations, and jetting. We later purchased a hydroexcavation reel for potholing fiber optic lines for companies such as Level 3 Communications, for which we took on a six-month contract.”

Contracts soon followed to pump industrial waste and to provide highway spill removal services.

“We decided early on that we wouldn’t deal with anything hazardous,” says Hanks. “We subcontract that because of special disposal requirements.”
Some waste products are reused, while products such as used oil can be recycled. In 1998, however, the company invested in a waste solidification service, allowing non-hazardous waste to be mixed with other materials and stabilized for safe landfill disposal.

“If we came off a job at night after picking up a load of latex paint, the vacuum truck would be of no use until the next day,” says Hanks. “Solidification is like preparing a Betty Crocker cake mix— we look for a material that can be employed in beneficial reuse. We empty the tank and mix it with a bulking agent like auto fluff – shredded nonmetallic car parts – or ground up wood pallets, which renders the product inert.”


Today, the company has consolidated its operations under the TPM brand and employs 42 people. It opened a third office in Louisville this year. Company offerings include hydroexcavation, emergency environmental response, environmental consulting and services, industrial cleaning, underground storage tank removal, plant maintenance, demolition, drilling, aviation fuel tank fabrication, industrial water treatment and waste management. Each business helps to complete a full project cycle using in-house resources.

The basic service area covers Kentucky and Tennessee, but contracts have taken the company as far as Virginia, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, New Jersey, Michigan and Louisiana.

TPM operates five vacuum rigs: a Cusco liquid/dry unit with a 3,000-gallon steel tank and Fruitland Manufacturing pump mounted on a Freightliner body; a 1985 Peterbilt semi tractor matched with a 5,508-gallon steel tanker and Fruitland Manufacturing pump; a 2004 Guzzler with a 3,000-gallon steel tank and air knife attachment mounted on a 1998 Ford LT9501 chassis; a 2014 Vacall combo unit with 2,000-gallon debris and 1,500-gallon freshwater galvanized steel tanks and hydroexcavation package mounted on a Peterbilt Model 365; and a 2004 Vactor 2110 combo unit with a 1,600-gallon stainless steel tank, a pair of 1,000-gallon aluminum water tanks and a pair of hydroexcavation packages.

Hanks has attended the Pumper & Cleaner Expo and Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show for the past five years and purchased the Vacall there.

The company fields 23 trucks as service vehicles: 13 Fords, four Chevrolets, three GMCs and three Freightliners.


The fleet is kept in top shape at TPM’s Bowling Green maintenance shop, which handles anything up to major rebuilds.

Workers receive regular safety training, while vacuum truck operators may also attend training programs offered by manufacturers.

Leveraging the vacuum fleet, the company has taken on drain cleaning and industrial vacuuming for clients as diverse as hospitals and airports. TPM also continues to expand its presence in highway cleanup contracts.

“One thing our experienced staff has learned is to send the right truck to the right job,” says Hanks. “Never send a liquid truck to do an industrial dust removal job or you’re going to go through a lot of hoses and filters – or replace a ruined blower. On the other hand, a combo truck with a boiler comes in handy to spray off road surfaces when you’re cleaning chicken gizzards from the interstate.”

Last winter, Hanks even used a Guzzler and some deicing salt to clear a load of snow from the collapsing roof of a commercial retail building.

“We used large-diameter flexible hose and kept replacing it every time the hose froze up,” says Hanks.

Industrial vacuum services, including hydroexcavation, liquid waste hauling and disposal, currently represents 40 percent of TPM’s business.


Power plants that are converting from coal-fired power represent a growth area over the next 10 years. One of TPM’s largest contracts was completed last year at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant.

“We were performing geotechnical excavation for confirmation of utility locates and footing and load-bearing capacity for the purposes of replacing the existing infrastructure to run the plant on natural gas,” says Hanks.

TPM has also seen interest from natural gas companies to hydroexcavate lines in order to replace cathodic anodes.

The company’s website and social media are prime advertising vehicles.

“We recently shot a hydroexcavation video that will be posted on our website,” says Hanks. “We hope that will replace the need for live demonstrations.”

TPM also advertises with industry associations, such as the Associated General Contractors of Kentucky. However, Hanks likes the personal touch, frequently setting up booths at trade shows.

TPM is a preferred environmental contractor and national partner with Servpro Industries Inc. As a result, some contracts take the company out of its traditional footprint – for example, pumping water and sand in New Jersey and New York during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


This year, TPM was also pre-qualified by ISNetworld, a resource for connecting clients with safe, reliable contractors.

“Pre-qualification is allowing us into places that we couldn’t otherwise go,” says Hanks. “Being certified actually has a double benefit – we find ourselves wanting to live up to the level of certification and really performing to a different level.”

TPM recently purchased a CUES camera truck to back up its vacuum service. Hanks is also set to buy another hydroexcavator this year. “I’m debating between a dedicated hydroexcavator and the versatility of a combo rig with a large blower unit,” he says.

Hydroexcavation is set to drive company growth and to expand TPM’s reputation as a do-all service provider.

“When a customer calls at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and tells me that my company is the only one that can take on a difficult hydroexcavation job, it’s not a problem, it’s a compliment,” says Hanks. “We like to be known as a company that can make things happen.”


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