photo of a new Peterbilt Model 320 equipped for handling refuse

A Day’s Work

The Peterbilt nameplate on Valley Tank and Container equipment these days is identical to the one that adorned Johnny Verschuur’s classic Model 379 a couple decades ago, when the then-owner-operator hauled feed to the mills of British Columbia.

But trust that the medium-duty Peterbilts in the fleet of the versatile Chilliwack, B.C., refuse management firm are very different than those Verschuur, president of Valley Tank and Container, operated in his long-haul days.

“I’m a truck guy,” says Verschuur. “I like the shiny hub caps and the tall pipes.

“But the guys here, they’re the crew that makes this whole thing work. And they come in with a different mentality. They’re not nearly as fussy. They just want a truck that’s ready to go to work, every day, so they can get out and do their job.

“So it’s not about how fancy these Peterbilts are in this industry. It’s about how they can do the job. And they’re proving that they can.”

Equipment performance and customer service are at the root of Valley’s remarkable growth and success. In fact, the firm has recorded double-digit growth every year but one since Verschuur bought the company in 2001, when he put himself, three trucks and three other employees to work. Today, the fleet is up to 25 trucks and 35 employees.

Fleet changes

Peterbilts are relatively new to the fleet. A Model 348 that was soon equipped with a hydro excavation unit was among the first in 2010, soon followed by another Model 348 equipped to handle roll-off bins. A couple of Peterbilt Model 320s were also brought on board and assigned to refuse collection, and a new 2017 Model 320 has been assigned to comprehensive front-end bin service.

Versatility is demanded of the fleet, as the firm also engages in portable toilet delivery and management, septic cleaning and service, demolition and mobile fencing. But the early days of the company seemed to offer little promise that the future would be so bright.

Verschuur’s final days as a long hauler were punctuated by an economic downturn in 2001 that saw the mill he had long serviced go broke. When he turned to equipment hauling to keep his truck busy, the flat economy spelled a similar fate, so Verschuur went looking for new opportunities and saw a friend of his had put the fledgling Valley company up for sale.

“It’s not about how fancy these trucks are. It’s about how they can do the job.” Johnny Verschuur, president

“I’m very entrepreneurial, so I’m constantly looking for opportunities and trying things,” he says. “Fact is, I’ve probably made more decisions that didn’t turn out than ones that did, but this type of business looked like it was going places, so I bought it.

“There were some Monday mornings that came along and I wondered what I was going to do to keep this thing going, but the economy came to us, and we started growing like crazy.”

The company’s dedication to customer service was at the forefront of that growth, according to Verschuur.

“Service — that’s been the key for us,” he says. “We do it on the fly. Call today, you’ll get serviced today. The other thing has been to zero in on what we do. If it doesn’t complement what we do already, don’t do it.”

It’s that rationale that has driven the fleet development, according to Verschuur, particularly the use of the Model 348 hydro excavator. And a commitment to customer service only exists if there’s an in-house commitment to premium, working equipment. Most of the Valley Peterbilts are powered by PACCAR PX-9 Engines, and their reliability has been a key driver of success.

“They’re always ready to go,” he says. “And we’re going to run them for 10 years or more, so that’s important. I work closely with the guys in the shop, and these trucks are in good shape.
“A little preventive maintenance goes a long way, but none of these trucks have had an issue. They go to work every day.”

And that’s what matters to the Valley crew.

“I steer the ship, but they’re what makes it work,” he says. “So it’s important they’re satisfied with our equipment performance.

“The image our equipment presents is also really important to us. We generate more comments on our trucks than with any advertising I’ve ever done. They may not look like that old Model 379 and I can’t put any pipes and chrome on them, but customers like to see these Peterbilts coming to work.”