How the search for a competitive advantage transformed Detmar Logistics into an industry trendsetter
For fracking sand transportation specialists Detmar Logistics, a wholehearted embrace of groundbreaking green technology is the ultimate sustainability play. Founded in 2013 with just three trucks, the indefatigable San Antonio-based enterprise made strides through excruciating booms and bust cycles — in both the fracking and trucking industries, no less — to build one of the 10 greenest fleets in today’s heavy trucking industry.
Detmar outpaced FedEx, DHL, and UPS on the 2021 list of the greatest and greenest, and there’s no slowing down their remarkable journey. A glance in their rear-view reflects the character and commitment that led to their current leadership position.
Their entry into frac sand transportation and logistics came at a time when the fracking industry was on the rise, money was flush, and the growth of oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) companies seemed limitless.
In 2014, a year after setting up shop, Detmar inked a series of master service agreements with E&P and completions companies working the Eagle Ford shale in southeastern Texas and added roughly 10 owner-operators and 20 trucks to their fleet of sand haulers. By year’s end the oil market had crashed, leaving Detmar on the precipice of closure.
A quick move to hauling over-the-road freight helped them to keep the lights on for a while, but it wasn’t their specialty. “We were up against a rock and a hard place, and it was either get back to running our pneumatic trailers in the sand business or shutting down,” company CEO Matt Detmar said.
As oil prices began creeping up in 2015 and the need for fracking sand began to increase, Matt cold-called every sand mine in the state of Texas. The very last sand mine he approached was owned by a large E&P company that was looking for a trucking company to work on their live fracking sites, and he won their business.
That life-saving boost propelled them into sudden, massive growth. As the market rose, they increased their fleet from 10 to 120 tractors and 120 trailers, with another 210 subcontractor owner-operators on the payroll. In 2019, when the trucking industry suffered the worst period of bankruptcies in its history, Detmar’s sterling reputation with their customers and drivers pulled them through.
Recovery in the oil and gas space was on the close horizon when the pandemic changed everything. Years of cultivating close relationships with their customers, suppliers, and vendors turned out to be the company’s ultimate survival strategy, as did strong financial backing. “We were also fortunate to have customers that did have some work during that time,” Matt pointed out. “Luckily, we were able to help them out with hard uniform assets, which helped them perform well during a time when performance was everything.”
Success becomes electric
The pandemic swept much of the company’s competition off the board. While that opened some possibilities, they still needed to stand apart from the companies still in business. “We’ve always been looking at ways to differentiate ourselves in the sand logistics space, and our competitive side has always been our focus on updated power,” Matt said.
He’d been noticing a consistent move towards electrification and the use of alternative fuels in the oil and gas sector and realized that early adoption of transformative technology could be the path to the vibrant, sustainable future he envisioned for his company, the trucking and energy industries, and most importantly, the planet.
Enter Hyliion (NYSE:HYLN), a developer of innovative electrified powertrain systems for massive Class 8 semi-trucks. The systems are designed to augment or replace diesel or natural gas-fueled powertrains, offering an improved driver experience and performance, lower fuel bills, eliminated idling, and reduced total cost of ownership, while leveraging existing alternative fuel infrastructure.
The leaders at Detmar had considered straight battery electric drive technology for their fleet, but felt it wasn’t the right fit. Reading about Hyliion in the trade press shortly after their NYSE debut piqued Matt’s interest. “When we saw this technology light bulbs went off, and we thought, ‘Wow, this is something that we can get behind,’” he said.
Hyliion’s Hypertruck ERX™ powertrain captures energy as it drives, and an onboard natural gas generator eliminates the need for charging stations. Trucks fitted with Hypertruck ERX™ technology can fuel up conveniently at commercial natural gas vehicle filling stations.
In Spring 2021, Detmar placed an order for 10 Hyliion Hybrid EX hybrid electric systems. The investment proved to be so successful that, in September, they placed an order for 300 of Hyliion’s next generation Hypertruck ERX™. The full electric propulsion Hypertruck ERX™ uses renewable natural gas produced from biowaste and can be a net-carbon-negative emissions solution for electrified heavy duty semi-trucks.
The Hypertruck ERX™ features an onboard compressed or renewable natural gas (CNG/RNG) generator under the hood. The generator charges the batteries in the area beneath the cab where traditional diesel tanks would be. A pair of electric axles propel the trucks forward while using regenerative braking to capture additional energy to power the system.
“This makes perfect sense to us for an application as a full electric drive and it allows us to run on natural gas but have a full electric truck without having to change the infrastructure significantly,” Matt said.
The units are easy for drivers to operate and have been a big hit with them. “We’re able to provide a next-to-none opportunity for our drivers as far as comfort, safety, reliability, and giving them good tools to work with, and the main tool they need is the truck they’re driving,” he added.
At present, Detmar plans to have a fully electrified fleet using Hyliion technology by 2026. “I believe it's attainable with what we're seeing and what Hyliion is doing. It's an ambitious goal we set for ourselves because we want to be master adopters of the technology,” he said. “What’s beautiful about our partnership with Hyliion is that it’s a win-win. Our success equals their success, and their success equals ours.”
Detmar Logistics is the leading provider of Frac Sand Logistics solutions that offers 24/7 dispatch so someone is always on call to keep your scheduling, pick-ups, and deliveries on time.
Detmar drivers are the best in the business.
Each driver is carefully selected through our application process and trained to work in a safe, professional manner with one shared goal in mind: providing our customers with the absolute best service and a 100% focused dedication to getting the job done safely.
Simply put, Detmar Logistics provides creative logistics solutions powered by our highly trained staff who are equipped with the most cutting edge Artificial Intelligence and technology available.
503 Med Ct.
San Antonio, TX 78258