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Fourth Generation Oil Company Refines Business with Service Truck Upfit

February 2024


By Drew Farrell, Territory Sales Manager, Thunder Creek Equipment

In its nearly 100 years of business, what is now Davis Oil Company has serviced residential and commercial customers with the fuel of the time — from wood, coal, and oil to propane and today’s environmentally friendly, renewable fuel blends. It’s the commitment to providing the best possible service and product to its customers that has made this small family-owned business a success.

“I like to make our customers happy. We love our employees,” said Steve Walsh, owner of Davis Oil Company. “They are the true grind that makes this whole company go. And we are a small company, but we have a very good following. I’m proud of that.”

Walsh’s grandfather started the company in 1926 in Keene, New Hampshire, where it is still based today. His parents and siblings have all had a hand in running the business since then, and today it’s Walsh and his son, Joe, at the helm.

The company serves an approximately 30-mile area from its office, providing full-service fuel oil, and on and off-road diesel, along with a renewable energy product called Bioheat Plus — a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating fuel that helps reduce a home or business’ greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent. This dynamic product can be used without requiring property owners to convert heating sources. The company has also recently added propane to its lineup of offerings.

To transport this variety of fuels for its customers, Walsh and his son rely on the No HAZMAT Fuel and Service Truck Upfit (MTU) — a medium-duty truck upfit from Thunder Creek equipment. They’ve found that it’s not only an excellent all-in-one solution for flexible fueling, but also comes with many additional benefits.

Steve first learned of the Thunder Creek MTU from an employee who knew he was looking for a smaller truck to service customers in areas where the larger ones weren’t feasible to go (narrow driveways, extremely rural, requiring driving off-road, etc.). They also wanted a solution for hauling new products that Joe and other younger employees could drive that weren’t yet eligible for a commercial driver license (CDL). The MTU could open more hiring possibilities and alleviate the need to have a HAZMAT or CDL-certified driver on call at night as part of Davis Oil’s 24-hour Watchdog Service. 

“Our customers can call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and they're going to get fuel if they need it. We make it simple,” Steve explained.

The MTU features Thunder Creek’s patented multi-tank design, which includes eight separate, 115-gallon tanks that are connected by a common manifold to a commercial grade pumping system. Due to this system (with each tank being under 119 gallons) and the smaller size of the truck, drivers aren’t required to have a HAZMAT endorsement or CDL.

This allows Davis Oil to transport up to 920 gallons of fuels in a compact, easy to drive and easy to operate platform.

“I just got my CDL this year. I just turned 21, but I've been delivering for the past two years with this truck,” Joe said. “I've run about 400,000 gallons of fuel through it and driven it about 20,000 miles with no CDL. Our company was able to do this legally because of the MTU’s design and size.”

According to Steve, of those 400,000 gallons of fuel, approximately 80 percent was heating oil with the remaining being diesel products for other off-road applications such as generators and construction equipment.

The company is known for its quality and attention to detail: every product Davis Oil sells has its own conditioner in it, and the tanks all have air dryers on them to control humidity. They put treatments in the on- and off-road diesel, including a winter fuel cold flow preventer and cold flow reducer, along with injector protectors and cleaners. Similar conditioners are added to the home heating oil.

“If we protect our tanks and our trucks, the downstream effect to the person that's got heavy equipment or the home heating oil tank or the home heating oil burners benefits,” Steve explained. “Everything is treated and climate controlled and I'm proud of that because our customers are truly getting a premium product.”

The maneuverability of the MTU is a major advantage for Davis Oil — made possible by the platform working from a medium-duty truck chassis. They can deliver fuel to locations where large trucks or trailers won’t fit.

"We originally thought we would use the MTU mostly for on- and off-road diesel fuel delivery,” Steve explained. “We've done that, but it also comes in handy when we've got five or six deliveries out of town in one area. The smaller truck has been perfect for that and we can have our other three or four trucks take care of the big routes.”

For customers who have narrower and longer driveways, or when it’s necessary to drive on the several covered bridges in the area, the MTU provides reliable access. It also simplifies delivery for the employee on call for nights since the driver can take the truck home instead of having to travel to the garage to get it. Customers also like that the MTU helps preserve their property.

“We have people ask us to send the smaller truck since it’s easier on their driveway. It's less impact on it in the mud season,” said Steve. “Most of the time we can accommodate those requests and our customers really appreciate that.”

Joe explained that he likes the ease-of-use of the MTU and the fuel tanks, citing that it makes training new drivers easy. 

“It’s very simple to use. You put your ticket in, put the PTO on and start your meter at the back of the truck. Then flick the pump on and go,” he said. “We've had a couple new drivers come in and I show them the process once and they've got it.”

From a financial perspective, Steve has been pleased that the MTU has been significantly less expensive to operate than the company’s big trucks.

“It costs less to operate for sure since it uses less diesel fuel. It was just economically the right thing to do. We didn't need another big truck at the time. We needed something that would accommodate more people driving it,” he explained. “And being able to move the new fuel products we were getting into without emptying a 3,000-gallon fuel oil truck was so handy.”

The future of the business
Steve and Joe are both bullish on the future of Davis Oil Company and the fuel oil market.

“My vision right now is to expand these product lines that immediately fit the business, particularly the renewable fuel blends that are in demand,” Steve said. “We have an excellent customer base and the MTU is probably one of the best vehicle purchases we’ve made. And I mean it sincerely. It will allow us to grow our business in that direction.”

He added that with Davis Oil nearing the century mark, they’re making plans and “digging in” for another hundred years of success as a small family business.

“We love what we do. We want to set this business up for our kids, the next generation to succeed and let them build onto even more,” he said.

That’s a sentiment that Joe agrees with.

“I think there’s quite a future here with the fuels. I mean a hundred years. How do you give that up?,” he asked rhetorically. “I’m going to try and keep it going as long I can and see where it goes with the fifth generation.”