Delta Western’s Dennis Massingham: ‘I’m a lifelong learner.’
By Hilary Reeves
Dennis Massingham’s work history is a menagerie of life experiences – but perhaps he saved the best for last:
“I get to work with one of my former students from when I was a teacher at the University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA),” he said. “Ben Hansen works for Carlile Transportation; we’ve been a team for the past two years. He travels with me to our fuel terminals to perform cargo tank inspections and truck maintenance. I’ve been able to mentor him, and he became a registered cargo tank inspector on Dec. 28, 2018. I’m very proud of him. How cool is that?”
Massingham’s current title of rolling Stock Supervisor for Delta Western’s Alaska operations is a comprehensive one. He coordinates and performs the maintenance and repair of the company’s trucking fleet and support equipment in and around terminals across the state.
“The most important thing I do is take care of the cargo tanks that haul our fuel products. I, too, am a registered cargo tank inspector. My name goes on all our cargo tanks; I make sure they are safe to use and are compliant with Alaska and Federal Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency. I have a special credential from the Feds that allows me to perform mobile cargo tank inspections at remote terminals not connected to the road system. It’s a huge responsibility with much accountability.”
Back to school
Massingham grew up in rural Thurston County, Washington, near the state’s capital city of Olympia on a “small family hobby farm.” His parents owned Massingham Trucking, a cargo company that specialized in hauling forest timber.
“Of course,” he said, “that influenced the direction I took with my education and career.”
His “first real W2-type job” was at the Evergreen Sportsman’s Club.
“It’s a skeet and trap range,” he said. “When I turned 12 years old, I filed for a permit with the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries. I set the target machine that would fly the clay pigeons. It paid $2.75 per hour. In 2019, can you even imagine a 12-year-old working downrange at a shooting range? I miss the ’80s,” he laughed.
Massingham went on to attend what he considers a comprehensive high school vocational auto shop program at Tumwater High School, which sparked his interest in further academic achievement. He went on to earn an associate degree in Diesel Power Technology from Centralia College,
At the encouragement of an instructor, he transferred to the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and finished a Bachelor of Science in Diesel Power Technology.
“I’m a lifelong learner,” he said. “After working in the heavy equipment and transportation equipment industry for 10 years, I went back to school.”
This time, he said, he was the professor.
“I taught diesel technology at Lewis-Clark State College for five years. At the same time, I attended graduate school at the University of Idaho and earned a Master of Education in Professional-Technical education.”
From professor to cargo fuel tank inspector
After graduating with his master’s degree, Massingham held positions at a large Caterpillar dealership in Idaho: Western States Equipment Co.
“I was a corporate trainer, training manager, HR generalist, recruiter, and probably a couple other titles I don’t remember,” he laughed. “My career is all a blur from there. As I mentioned, I was a professor at the University of Alaska before going to work at Delta Western.”
Massingham’s initial impression of Delta Western was limited to Anchorage, but he said his excitement built at the prospect of traveling to all the terminals.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in many significant projects,” he said. “One project that stands out is a 350,000-gallon fuel transfer to a pair of Japanese warships that sailed to the Port of Anchorage for a fill-up. We used an engine-powered skid pump to move the fuel. The transfer took about 18 hours, and the electrical system on the engine was being temperamental with the salt spray and heavy rains. It took constant babysitting to keep running, but we completed the transfer safely, on time and under budget.”
“My career has been constantly changing, but the one thing that stays the same is I’ve always worked in the heavy equipment and transportation industry. Every job has been related to maintenance or technical education.”
While Massingham isn’t a big proponent of changing his past, his take gives pause: “I’m reflective, but I don’t dwell on the past except to learn from it.”
The aspects of his life of which he is most proud are all related to his family: 30 years of marriage to his wife, Tammy, the graduation of his son, an electrical engineer, from UAA, and the near-graduation of his daughter, a soon-to-be-nurse, from the same alma matar.
“I like to shore fish Hawaii and chill on the beach with my wife. Doesn’t Hawaii Petroleum need some cargo tank work done? Something in Kona probably needs maintenance,” he joked.
“I see us moving into new communities – perhaps maybe we’ll see the gas station business grow, or maybe we’ll get into other energy products and new markets. Eventually, I’ll go back to school again and earn a doctorate in Education. When I get too old to crawl into cargo tanks, I’ll go back into academics or teaching. I enjoy helping people learn career-related skills and helping them grow their careers. I’m a huge supporter of career and technical education.”