How Sharp Trucks Boost Word-of-Mouth Business

We get behind the wheel of one of Pumper magazine's Classy Trucks during a classy conversation with Jim Ehde of Grand Island, New York

How Sharp Trucks Boost Word-of-Mouth Business

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“We started with a little truck that held 1,000 gallons.”

Jim Ehde has come a long way in just six years since he started Grand Island Waste Management, located on the 22-square-mile island of Grand Island, New York. The island, home to about 20,000, borders Canada and is just upstream from Niagara Falls.

Today, Ehde, an island native, has four trucks, including a noteworthy gray and metallic blue 2012 Freightliner carrying a 5,000-gallon (all waste) steel tank and Juniper 330 cfm vacuum pump built out by Pik Rite. The truck, which he bought used, is powered by a 525 hp Cummins ISX engine tied to a 10-speed Fuller transmission (Eaton Vehicle Group).

“That truck was added to the fleet to handle the hauling of more than 1.5 million gallons of sludge for a contract we won with the Town of Grand Island,” says Ehde, a former computer network analyst and restaurateur.

“This truck is mostly used for hauling sludge and commercial accounts,” Ehde says, adding that most of their customers are within Grand Island, “which we can get to within 5 miles of our office.”

The Freightliner is driven both by Ehde and his employee, Don Philipps, who enjoys the truck’s amenities, such as air-ride seats, air conditioning, and stereo. The exterior features dual manways, dual toolboxes and spiffy chrome accents.

Orange and blue lettering (graphics by BuildASign) touts some of the company’s services (septic, grease traps, flushable restrooms) and includes a gentle reminder to the public to clean their septic tanks every three to four years. “The health of your tank depends on it.”

In effect, his truck is a moving billboard. “Most of our growth has been word-of-mouth,” Ehde says.

So, of course, keeping that truck and the others gleaming is important to making a big impact on a small island. “We always do our best to keep the fleet clean,” Ehde says. “It leaves a good impression.” In addition to being able to handle big jobs, the Freightliner — equipped with heated valves — is ready for New York’s ruthless winters. “That’s definitely needed on those cold days in western New York,” says Ehde, whose company services the entire island and its 2,000 septic tanks.

The island is small and contained, but Ehde says his business has grown about 30 percent each year, mainly because of a lack of competition. “We’re isolated,” he says.

Still, there are plenty of events like parades, festivals, marathons and fundraisers that keep Ehde in demand. His company just signed a contract to be the waste hauler for the University at Buffalo.

His fleet also includes a 1985 GMC Brigadier 8500 with a 2,500-gallon waste septic steel tank, (3208 Caterpillar Engine and Battioni vacuum pump).

“That truck has 44,000 original miles; we normally run about 4,000 miles a year,” Ehde says, noting that he is not loyal to any one truck manufacturer.

The rest of his fleet includes a 2003 Kodiak 18-foot stake truck with a Pik Rite 300-gallon waste and 150-gallon aluminum waste tank and a 2009 Ford F-350 for hauling mobile dumpsters for home cleanup or remodeling.

John’s Towing in Tonawanda provides all the truck maintenance for the company.

Ehde is unsure if his fleet will be growing anytime soon, but he says he prefers to purchase used vehicles when prudent.

“When business warrants it, I replace things,” he says. “You don’t put the cart before the horse.”


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