With the cornerstone of their business focusing on all aspects of solid waste management, Red River has a history of continuous profitable operations and consistent corporate growth with current management and operating personnel that have been actively engaged in service contracting since the late 1960s.
Red River Waste Solutions (Dripping Springs, TX) is a nationally recognized third generation family company that is a diversified provider of essential solid waste and recycling management services to federal, county and municipal governments since 1953. After returning from service in World War II, Weldon Smith, the company’s founder, started Midland Maintenance, Inc., building country roads throughout central and southwest Oklahoma. That same year, he was awarded his first federal contract for the U.S. Army doing refuse collection and disposal at Fort Sill, OK. His company continued to grow over the years when he was awarded many other contracts, including the U.S. Air Force Academy (CO), Fort Benning, (GA), Fort Hood (TX) and Tinker AFB (OK). Today, Red River Waste also provides residential, commercial, industrial waste and recycling collection/processing and disposal services in six states for counties, municipalities, individual customers, commercial businesses and the Department of Defense. The company currently employs 277 individuals at various contract locations and possesses 213 fleet vehicles.
Weldon’s sons have always been active participants in the company. James A. Smith (Jim) began working for the company building roads, throwing trash and working onsite at each of the company’s contracts. When Weldon decided to retire in 1988, Jim took over and began pursuing other types of contract services. In addition to refuse collection and disposal, the company made a name for itself in grounds and facility maintenance. In 1992, Jim continued to follow his father’s principles when he founded Red River Service Corporation (RRSC), “Our belief in each employee’s contribution to the success of the company, and our commitment to Total Quality Management, is the foundation that makes this such a great company.”
Like his father, Weldon James Smith began working for the company at a very early age, traveling with his Dad to each location and watching him in action. He started by riding in the dozer while building roads and eventually worked at the jobsites, doing everything from throwing trash, welding bottoms on front loaders, running routes (driving and riding on the back), as well as working on new job startups. In 2011, Weldon James Smith was appointed as President and COO. In 2014, Red River partnered with Ironwood Capital and Patriot Capital, thus forming the company known today as Red River Waste Solutions (RRWS).
Weldon, Jim and Weldon James Smith have been involved with the company from every aspect since its inception. Although Weldon, Sr. passed away in February 1991, his legacy today is not only the company he built, but also his family and their commitment to this third generation company. With Jim at the helm as CEO and Weldon James Smith as President and COO, Red River Waste Solutions continues to see steady growth and continued success.
Red River Waste is very fortunate to have a CEO who believes in investing in employees’ knowledge and experience. When there is an opportunity to learn and grow, employees are given that with full support, whether that is looking to improve customer service, safety awareness, office supporting tools and applications, industry tools, or attending workshops and trainings. “We will be kicking our safety initiatives into another gear as we are excited to roll out a Web-enabled training solution for our organization starting this year,” says Michel Lavoie, VP and Chief Human Resources Officer. “Along with required company, federal and state regulated compliance training, we are hoping this will incentivize our employees to want to participate in more trainings to enhance their skillsets across the organization.” In addition, Red River Waste employees attend various conferences and expos, including WASTECON® and Waste Expo, that offer seminars and workshops in order to stay on top of industry news, trends, technology, regulations and innovation.
For the past 10 years, Red River Waste has even hosted an Annual Leadership Training at the corporate office. “It is an invaluable experience where staff and administration can hear and learn from each other through an open forum where ideas are shared. There is a focus on training efforts from HR, Safety to DOT, etc. as well as some good Texas food, fun and games!” adds Jennifer Gleason, Loss Prevention Manager.
Throughout the year, the company also participates in various national campaigns put on by the NWRA, NSC and CVSA to promote safety in this industry. These organizations provide the marketing and social media tools for Red River Waste to share with their company and customers. There are daily safety topics for them to facilitate meetings, conversations, scenarios, risk assessments and opportunities for enhanced safety in the workplace environments. For example:
- NWRA—National Waste & Recycling Association’s Safety Campaigns and Stand Downs. Company-wide initiative to promote awareness and safety on a variety of issues from Heat Stress/Stroke Prevention, Back to School Safety, Backing, Water -Rest-Shade.
- NSC—National Safety Council’s yearly “Distracted Driving Campaign”.
- CVSA—Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Brake Safety & International Roadcheck. Red River Waste shares the documents and materials available, such as the Vehicle Inspection Checklist, videos and topics on pre/post trip inspections, and they even recognize their drivers who do get stopped for inspections during this week who receive zero violations.
Safety culture is woven throughout every part of Red River Waste’s organization. Each of their project sites conducts weekly safety meetings. More than just a company value, it is inherent in the day to workday and life. “Our drivers are an extension of a big family. At the end of the day, it is not only Red River Waste’s commitment to service our customers, but it’s also the intention to have that driver and technician return to their families without accident or injury. With more distracted drivers and pedestrians on the roadways, training for our drivers and raising community awareness are key to helping keep everyone safe,” explains Gleason.
For the past two years, Red River Waste has participated in the National Waste & Recycling Association’s Driver of the Year Award. The RRWS Risk Management and Executive Team supports and believes this is a great program and an excellent way to motivate and encourage drivers to be the best driver that they can be daily. This year, Red River Waste nominated their first female driver, Phillippa Cranick, from the Union City, TN location and she came in as a finalist. Holden Furler from their Council Bluffs, IA jobsite was considered and although he did not win, he will be recognized as Red River Waste’s Driver of the Year.
As a company in whole, Red River Waste largely follows the manufacturer’s guidelines pertaining to preventive maintenance service intervals as well as tracking the service intervals by hour and mileage depending on the type of vehicle or equipment. This is accomplished by entering the mileage and hours each day from the drivers DVIR sheet, which are used by the drivers to request repairs on their vehicles or equipment. After the maintenance department receives the write-up, a work order is generated and the work order is assigned to a mechanic. After the mechanic completes the repairs, it is then written up with all the parts that were used, a brief description of the work that was preformed and the mechanic turns in the work order. The shop foreman or shop manager then inspects the repair and releases the vehicle back to service. The parts and materials that were used are then removed from inventory and reordered if a stocked item. Upon completion, the work order is than filed in the vehicle’s service folder.
Extremely proud of their community involvement projects in all of their market areas, Red River Waste provides in-kind services to investing into the community by way of sponsoring and supporting community events. One of their most treasured community involvement projects is the company’s annual art contest and rolling art museum, Nashville Beautiful. It was developed in order to educate current and future generations on environmental stewardship. The contest is open to 3rd and 4th grade students in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools system.
The Brent Wolston Scholarship was originated by Jim in the late 1990s as a tribute to Wolston and his family. Brent worked for Jim from 1988 through 1998. He was hired as the company mechanic and later promoted to the position of Operations Supervisor. “Wolston was a remarkable man with a love for children and I felt the best way to memorialize his life was to name a children’s scholarship after him. Our employees’ children are encouraged to apply for this scholarship, which is awarded each spring and fall college semester,” says Jim. In addition, Red River Waste has also provided sponsorships to project locations, such as the American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Hay County Sheriff’s Office, the March of Dimes, American Red Cross of Central Texas, local law enforcement at jobsites to participate/assist with the National Neighborhood watch programs and the Oklahoma National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Like any growing business, the challenge for Red River Waste has been to leverage growth to achieve efficiency and enhanced customer service. For example, Red River Waste has built upon its success by operating the metropolitan solid waste service for the City of Nashville, TN, expanding into subscription services within Williamson and Rutherford Counties, which adjoin the city. One of the key aspects to helping grow the Nashville area business sustainably has been the use of technology to help service and manage customers more efficiently and effectively. With customer growth coming through acquisition as well as organic growth, routes became difficult to maintain and resulted in long hours for some drivers. Red River Waste wanted to increase levels of customer service and achieve cost synergies, so they introduced EasyRoute, a solid waste route optimization software solution, in late 2016/early 2017. The use of specialized optimization software, designed specifically for solid waste collection, has resulted in allowing Red River Waste to produce highly accurate routes that account for the unique nature of solid waste vehicles and collections. The optimization solution also allows them to balance and optimize existing routes concurrently. By not only determining how to efficiently driver a route, Red River Waste can also determine which truck should make which collection. As a result, Red River Waste has been able to build routes that make the best use of all available resources.
With some of the complicated routing issues for the subscription service now resolved, Red River Waste is turning their attention to their municipal services within the City of Nashville. The project team, with support from EasyRoute, is seeking to achieve major efficiencies on the city routes by redesigning and optimizing solid waste collection routes serving close to 100,000 properties. “As Red River Waste continues to expand its customer base, these technologies will increasingly play a key role in creating positive synergy and solidifying our ambition to provide superior customer service,” says John Willars, CIO.
Staffing has also been a challenge in many of Red River Waste’s market areas due in part to the economic construction boom in Nashville and other areas. “We have all read that there will be a shortage of CDL drivers. I think the operative word should be ‘qualified’ CDL drivers,” explains Gleason “Insurance carriers want to insure drivers with more than three years of experience. That mindset will need to adjust to catch up to the industry reality. New CDL carriers, or what the FMCSA refers to as “Entry-Level Drivers’, are potentially the best kept resource.”
Gleason goes on to point out that since turnover is extremely high in the waste industry, it is vital more than ever to train from within to sustain this industry epidemic. “Promoting from within has shown to be a positive incentive for our service technicians who aim to grow in their career and become CDL Drivers.”
One of Red River Waste’s greatest safety concerns and challenges is keeping drivers and service technicians safe in the trucks, on the back of trucks and outside of their vehicles. All the training offered cannot help the accountability of others being distracted on the road and legislature may be the only way to make a change in safety in this industry. Red River Waste hopes to help raise awareness and campaign for the safety of their employees on the roadways, and will be ready when laws are passed. Says Gleason, “Our corporate mechanic has helped engineer LED vests so our employees have more visibility as well as a mechanical sign that extends from our trucks similar to a bus stop sign to notify drivers to slow down! Once we go through the proper protocol to place these on our trucks, we are hoping this helps others be more present and mindful the next time they are eager to pass a trash truck.”
Breaking Into New Markets
Red River Waste’s business model of targeting disposal neutral markets struck gold in 2004 when the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County awarded Red River Waste its largest residential contract for more than 85,000 homes with a 10-year contract. In 2014, Nashville extended this contract for an additional 10 years where they are now servicing over 96,000 homes under this residential contract.
This operation has been Red River Waste’s flagship residential contract, providing the company with the ability to compete for other similar contracts throughout the country in recent years. More importantly, the Nashville contract has been a driving force of their reputation—other governmental entities have placed their operational confidence in Red River Waste’s ability to perform by awarding the company contracts in Texas, Iowa, Kentucky and Tennessee. “We have competed for hundreds of residential contracts over the years, where we have not been successful in landing the contract, but have been in the competitive range and received high remarks from our technical proposals. This means that these entities have a confidence level in our ability to perform, but that the cost of service didn’t provide us the ability to secure the contract. The evaluation factors and/or criteria in municipal contract bidding varies across the country, it is a very important factor while qualifying the opportunity to pursue or not,” states David Cooper, Vice President of Business Development.
He continues, “Recently, we are seeing more and more contract bid opportunities where governmental entities are leveling the procurement playing field by taking the existing and local advantages out of the procurement requirements. Examples of leveling the playing field include making the opportunity disposal neutral where no competitor has a direct advantage with the cost of disposal, requiring the use of new trucks as opposed to allowing existing providers to continue to use their depreciated equipment, and requiring the use of new 96 gallon carts as opposed to allowing existing providers to continue to use their depreciated and paid for 96 gallon carts. Many times, we see bid opportunities where the governmental entity has structured the opportunity that provide an obvious advantage to an existing service provider, which we understand when the service has been good and that the relationship is strong between the customer and the client. The types of procurement, meaning an IFB or an RFP, have the ability to alter the landscape of an opportunity in and of itself. We have learned the hard way that getting around good ol’ boy politics in the residential marketplace can be a hindrance when you don’t have a local presence.”
On May 16, the City of Fort Wayne, IN awarded and approved a new seven-year contract with Red River Waste (with the option to extend for an additional three years) to begin providing the citywide residential solid waste and recycling collection services to more than 82k homes beginning January 1, 2018. The value of this contract at full term will exceed $70m in revenue not including CPI adjustments. This new contract will increase the company’s revenue by just over 21 percent, which will push annual revenue to just below $40m.
This contract was the result of an Invitation for Bid (IFB) process that began in March and the City received bids on March 8, 2017. Red River Waste had submitted the overall most responsive and lowest bid of the industry’s major players. “Red River Waste is truly excited to break into another new market area where we can get established in northeast Indiana and the future will hold some additional growth potential from organic opportunities and quite possibly tuck-in acquisitions. Our transition team will be fully engaged this fall getting all the pieces of the puzzle in place for this large-scale phase-in operation into Fort Wayne,” says Weldon Smith.
Greg Knight, Regional Manager and a 21-year Red River Waste veteran in Kentucky, has expressed as an achievement the ability to work with government personnel requesting service on short notice while Bobby Rasch, Regional Manager, Hardin County, KY, feels Red River Waste’s greatest accomplishment so far has been that drivers and service techs are finally getting the recognition from customers on the exceptional service they are providing. “It is sometimes a very hard job given what they do in all weather extremes. These gentlemen give it their all. I have always stressed the importance of customer service to our employees and truly feel that they go above and beyond what is normally expected of trash collection service.”
“Another great accomplishment at our site is the working relationship we have built with the Hardin County Solid Waste Coordinator, Ms. Stephanie Givens. It is fantastic to have someone like Ms. Givens who believes in our company. The excellent communication between Ms. Givens and all our staff is a must and helps us achieve success at our site.”
Staying the Course
For now, Red River Waste Solutions is staying its course and maintaining its business strategy that has made the business successful over the years. In addition to focusing on growth from contract opportunities, they have been actively pursuing tuck-in acquisitions in existing market areas within the last 24 months. Red River Waste has completed six individual acquisitions which have provided their existing market areas with some instant growth where the company has been able to gain from the synergies that were sought-after during due diligence. Red River Waste has also been considering some new market entry acquisitions that would allow them to expand their footprint to allow the organization to continue to build upon it success.
Red River Waste has also been experiencing new growth from the relationships they have been building with waste broker partnerships, including Rubicon Global, Waste Harmonics, SLM Waste and Recycling and many others that have had a direct impact improvement in many of the company’s market areas recently. “This industry teaches us something new each and every day and we are quick to incorporate a new method and/or approach once we have vetted the good and the bad,” Cooper points out. “Our organization has stood the test of time in the ever-changing and consolidating solid waste management industry. We believe our most outstanding achievement has been the company’s ability to maintain a solid presence in the residential franchise contract marketplace within the competitive landscape that exists today. The industry is very competitive; however, Red River Waste Solutions has positioned itself to maintain an active and long term presence in the industry by focusing on the disposal neutral niche markets and staying true to our core values of what we know we are good at…. providing service.”
For more information, contact David Cooper, Vice President of Business Development at [email protected].