The history of Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI) is really the story of several companies that were combined or acquired over several decades. This FreightWaves Haul of Fame article provides an overview of that history.

Humble beginnings

Quality Carriers was founded by B.F. Leaman in 1913 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Leaman and his son Clair delivered loads of milk and lime around the county. By 1930, they were successful enough to purchase Mileage Motor Corporation, and began hauling fuel oil in addition to the lime and milk. In 1933, the Leaman Transportation Company was formed. 

An early milk truck.

Acquisition fuel further growth

In 1961, Leaman merged his two companies with Chemical Tank Lines, forming Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Inc. Following the merger, the company had 31 terminals nationwide and approximately 1,300 bulk tankers. That year the company also acquired the routes and assets of Frank Cosgrove Transportation Co., Inc. as well as Forbes Trucking Co. 

The 1960s were a period of great growth for the company. In 1966, it employed more than 2,000 people and reported record revenues of over $47 million. The following year, Chemical Leaman Tank Lines acquired the tank line operations of Ryder Truck Lines. This acquisition solidified the company’s place as the largest transporter of bulk commodities in the United States with a fleet of more than 1,800 trucks operating east of the Mississippi River. 

An early company logo. (Image: U.S. Patent and Trade Office)

Meanwhile, Buzz Babbit purchased the operating authority of Denver-based carrier J.B. Montgomery in 1965.

Chemical Leaman Tank Lines continued its financial success throughout the 1970s. In 1973, the company reported revenues of over $100 million. And in 1979, it achieved a record for net profit, reporting $7.1 million.

Deregulation and more changes

Passage by Congress of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 brought deregulation of the trucking industry, and Chemical Leaman Tank Lines was impacted negatively for several years. That year the company reported declining profits, citing economic recession that affected the commodities it hauled as well as deregulation and rate discounting throughout the United States.

This photo shows a vintage Chemical Leaman bulk tanker. (Photo: Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

The years that followed were tumultuous. In 1982, the company reported a loss of $1.3 million and started to trim plant locations and staff. Losses in 1984 were reported at just under $1 million. Finally, in 1985, the company began to make some headway and reported its first profit since deregulation ($700,000). Although that amount was far from its 1979 record, things were at least moving in the right direction. Chemical Leaman Tank Lines was able to survive the deregulation of the industry when so many other companies could not.

Changes in the 1990s

Chemical Leaman Tank Lines was taken private after the stock of company chairman Sam Niness   was purchased in 1992 by a private group led by David R. Hamilton. 

In 1998, Chemical Leaman Tank Lines merged with Montgomery Tank Lines. This created the industry’s largest fleet and most complete service offering. An integration of the two companies culminated in 1999. The combined companies announced the creation of Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI), as the parent company and re-established the name of Quality Carriers for its first subsidiary. 

Quality Carriers combined the bulk tank trucking fleets of the two companies and became the successor to Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Montgomery Tank Lines and the other companies that had previously been acquired. Quality Carriers had the largest bulk tank trucking fleet in North America.

In November 2003, QDI completed an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and was listed on the NASDAQ Exchange. In August 2015, QDI was acquired and taken private by funds advised by Apax Partners.

A Quality Carriers driver next to his tractor. (Photo:

Today, QDI operates three subsidiaries:

Quality Carriers Inc. is headquartered in Tampa, Florida and continues to operate the largest chemical bulk transportation company in North America. 

Boasso Global is based in Chalmette, Louisiana. The company’s specialties are value-add services, including “ISO tank container cleaning, heating, testing, maintenance, storage, transportation, and the sale of associated equipment throughout the U.S., U.K. and continental Europe.” 

Quality Transload is focused on “railcar and stationary tank transfer and storage, warehousing, packaging and intermodal and total distribution of bulk liquid and dry flowable commodities.” 

According to the company website, QDI “operates the largest dedicated bulk tank truck network in North America based on bulk service revenues.” Among the types of freight hauled by its fleet are “chemicals, gasoline and food-grade products.”

The company is a “core carrier for many of the Fortune 500 companies engaged in chemical processing, including Dow Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble company, E.I. Dupont and PPG Industries.” Moreover, QDI provides “services to each of the top 100 chemical producers in the world with U.S. operations.”

The company has come a long way from its earliest days in Lancaster County…

A Quality Carriers tanker on its way to a delivery. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)