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Company, family histories intertwined at Freymiller

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David Freymiller is president and CEO of Freymiller, Inc., started by his father Don Freymiller in 1968. (Courtesy: FREYMILLER INC.)

This article first appeared in Truckload Authority, the magazine of the Truckload Carriers Association.

The Freymiller family must be sorry to see 2018 come to an end. It was a milestone year, the 50th anniversary of Don Freymiller buying his first truck, a livestock hauler.

Today, Freymiller, Inc. specializes in refrigerated cargo, with a fleet of about 540 units operating nationwide. Don Freymiller is still on board as company chairman. His son Dennis Freymiller is vice president of sales and marketing, daughter Diane is billing and accounts receivable manager, daughter Denise is facilities manager, while David Freymiller serves as president and CEO.

The company can also claim the rare distinction of having three TCA past-chairmen in its midst: Don Freymiller; along with Shepard Dunn, who recently came on board as chief operating officer; and Gary Baumhover.

This past year has been a time to celebrate and to reflect, David Freymiller said, and he is happy to share the company history — or is it the family history? The two are intertwined.

“Trucking is all we know,” he said. “Trucking is all dad taught us.”

The learning never ends as the company has grown and the industry evolves. But there’s something at the core of Freymiller, Inc., a value system that has remained constant. After 50 years, the celebration is both for what’s changed and what hasn’t.

Don Freymiller grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. “It was a hard life,” David Freymiller said. “He and his father farmed about 200 acres of rock, as Dad would describe it.”

After high school, Don Freymiller did a stint in the Army. After his discharge, he reluctantly returned to run the family farm. During a winter slowdown, David Freymiller said, “he took a side job, hauling livestock to Milwaukee.”

“The guy said, ‘you drive a truck?’ Dad said, ‘yeah,’ — Dad never drove a truck in his life. And the guy said, ‘Good, show up tonight and take this load to Milwaukee.’”

Don Freymiller eventually bought that truck. Then he bought a few more. In the early ’70s, he bought his first refrigerated unit, which he used to haul canned hams to California.

Over the next few years, Freymiller, Inc. transitioned entirely over to reefers. But it wasn’t a straight line to the company that exists today.

“In 1980 we moved from Shullsberg, Wisconsin, to Bakersfield, California,” Freymiller said.

The company had 53 trucks at the time, but they struggled over next decade, eventually going into bankruptcy in the early ’90s, pushing them almost back to square one. They moved the company headquarters to Oklahoma City, and “In October of ’96 we basically started back up again with 10 trucks,” Freymiller said.

“We’ve gone from nothing to something, back to nothing, and then back to something again.”

Specializing in reefers has its advantages and its challenges, Freymiller explained, and both have to do with the fact that the vast bulk of reefer freight is food.

“We’re extremely heavy in protein,” Freymiller said. “We haul a lot of meat, whether it be chicken, whether it be steaks.” Protein accounts for more than half the tonnage they haul, followed by frozen pies and pastries, then produce.

During economic downturns, people may cut back on a lot of things, Freymiller said, but, to put it bluntly for effect, “People gotta eat.”

“Whether times are good or bad, they’re going to eat. So refrigerated, with no pun, is somewhat insulated from the economy.”

Everyone needs food, but most meat processing is done in the Midwest, he explained. That means long hauls to get it everywhere in the country. In an era when average length-of-haul is going down industrywide, “our average length-of-haul is right at 1,000 miles,” he said.

And they consistently run heavy. Freymiller estimated that about 90 percent of their loads bump right up against that 80,000-pound limit. And those long, heavy hauls must stick to schedule.

“If you’re hauling washers and dryers, and you’re six, eight, 10 hours late because the truck broke down, it’s not a big deal,” Freymiller said. “But if you’re hauling a load of meat, and it’s being exported and you miss the boat, that meat is pretty much junk.”

And as they keep one eye on the clock, the other is on the thermometer. If the temperature inside the trailer is off by just a few degrees, it can ruin the entire load. Today’s telematics make a world of difference in monitoring and regulating the refrigeration in their trucks, he said.

But as much as technology continues to enhance efficiency, Freymiller said, it’s still the people operating that fleet that hold the key to a successful operation.

A reefer can cost up to three times as much as a dry van, Freymiller said, and a company can realistically run a dry van for 10 years or more. Freymiller turns its trailers every five years.

“We run pretty much Peterbilts and Kenworths,” Freymiller said. “They got all the bells and whistles.” His father shakes his head at some of the amenities in today’s sleeper cabs. “A lot of it is the kind of stuff that does nothing to help business, except that it makes for happier drivers.”

Employee satisfaction is a top priority, Freymiller said. “We are the truckers’ trucking company. That goes back to Day One.”

His dad started in the business as a driver, he said. And he still has his CDL. For his 80th birthday, Don Freymiller’s present to himself was to take a load out. Both David and his brother Dennis drove when they started. Their perspective on the business was first formed behind the wheel.

“Without the driver, we’re nothing,” Freymiller said. “Their job is the only job in the company that generates the revenue. The rest of us are overhead.”

A lot of companies like to refer to their staff as a “family.” Freymiller, Inc. is literally a family company, and it has always been a priority to extend that sense of family to everyone on the staff.

Don Freymiller has a longstanding tradition of calling every driver on their birthday, David Freymiller said, and their doors are always open for any driver who needs to hash something out.

“A lot of times, if you listen to a driver, you don’t have to fix anything, you just have to listen to them. And when they walk out, they’re happy.”

For the sake of their employees’ wellbeing, the company also has its own in-house pastor. Olen Thompson holds chapel every Sunday, and he is available for consultation the rest of the week.

Freymiller said the way he sees it, it’s much better to have drivers take to the road in tune with their spiritual side rather than “mad at the world and filled with road rage.”

“He was a truck driver, so he can relate to the drivers because he’s been in their shoes,” Freymiller said.

Not too many companies pass successfully from one generation to the next, Freymiller said. “Usually, the second generation screws it up.”

It appears he and his siblings have pulled it off, even as the company grows and the industry and its technology evolve. As David Freymiller explains it, the key is keeping up with the changes while having the confidence and the humility to know that even when you are the decision-maker, outcomes depend on a lot of factors.

“It’s just good luck, perseverance, the Good Lord and all of our employees, because you can’t do it without the foundation.”

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Schneider says it will use its assets to enhance middle mile capabilities

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With its acquisition of Watkins & Shepard Trucking in 2016, Schneider became a provider in first to final mile delivery of over-dimensional goods for omnichannel retailers and manufacturers. (Courtesy: SCHNEIDER)

GREEN BAY, Wis. —  With its end-to-end delivery portfolio, Schneider says it is able to deliver seamless shipping that keeps businesses one step ahead from the first to the final mile. The middle mile, which provides connectivity from and between local last-mile terminals, is equally as important as its first- and final-mile counterparts.

To optimize the movement of freight through its 24 terminal networks across 48 states, Schneider is broadening its middle-mile configuration to include its van truckload and intermodal owned assets, according to Rob Bulick, senior vice president and general manager of First to Final Mile.

With its acquisition of Watkins & Shepard Trucking in 2016, Schneider became a provider in first to final mile delivery of over-dimensional goods for omnichannel retailers and manufacturers.

Schneider now capitalizes on the full force of its broad network for the middle and final mile, with access to more than 10,700 trucks, 22,000 intermodal containers and a suite of technology tools for comprehensive freight management, Bulick said.

Throughout this process, Schneider is able to fully apply its proprietary network optimization system to freight within the middle mile to enhance consistency of the engineered network. An engineered network determines required departure and processing times, expected delivery times and regulates workflow through the terminals.

Schneider’s engineering management tools apply data-driven recommendations to optimize operations and manage the movement of freight through the middle mile. The overall engineered network will also contribute to standardizing pricing and transit, he said.

“Full incorporation of Schneider’s assets into the middle-mile service offering will reduce the number of freight handlings through the terminal network, ultimately reducing product claims. This optimization will also improve driver efficiency and increase consistency in service standards and delivery times,” Bulick said.

Along with middle-mile optimization, Schneider is implementing a standardized delivery day for ZIP codes, creating predictability.

Customers will be provided with the exact transit flow of their shipment, as well as a projected day and time for delivery from ZIP code to ZIP code for a holistic, end-to-end scheduled solution.

“A seamless delivery experience – whether it’s the first mile, the last mile or the miles in between – means there’s a consistent, reliable network working hard for a customer’s business,” Bulick said. “Expanding our middle-mile strength to include Schneider’s owned assets and data-driven network optimizations ensures we’re constantly meeting the high expectations for final-mile delivery that customers and consumers can depend on and trust.”

To learn more about how Schneider’s and Watkins’ end-to-end portfolio of services makes for smooth first to final mile deliveries, visit https://schneider.com/our-services/first-to-final-mile.

 

 

 

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No spring break for spot van, reefer rates

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The map shows the various rate ranges for van load to rate ratios. (Courtesy: DAT TRENDLINES)

PORTLAND, Ore. — National average spot van and refrigerated freight rates slipped again during the week ending April 13 as the number of load posts fell 4% while truck posts increased 3%.

The arrival of produce season in several southern markets failed to make up for the effects of more capacity in the spot market and bad weather across much of the country, said DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.

Here are the national average spot rates:

  • Van: $1.83/mile, 2 cents lower than the March average
  • Flatbed: $2.37/mile, 3 cents higher than March
  • Reefer: $2.15/mile, 2 cents lower than March

Van trends

How soft are spot van rates? Pricing was lower on 76 of the top 100 van lanes last week. Only 23 lanes saw rates rise and one lane was neutral.

Van load-to-truck ratios have not held up after a promising start to April, with the national average sitting at 1.3 loads for every available truck. The good news is that load counts rose nearly 5% in Chicago and Houston, and more than 3% in Los Angeles last week—major markets for spot van freight.

Markets to watch: Outbound rates were down from Los Angeles, Columbus, Ohio, Philadelphia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte to Allentown, Pennsylvania, gave up 13 cents to $2.08/mile, and rates fell on two Buffalo-inbound lanes: Columbus to Buffalo, down 19 cents to $2.66/mile, and Chicago to Buffalo, off 19 cents to $2.31/mile.

Reefer trends

Prices rose on 38 of the top 72 reefer lanes last week. Thirty-one lanes were lower and three were neutral. Higher volume in Florida and California was balanced out by lower volume from the Upper Midwest and Texas, which hurt spot reefer pricing overall.

Markets to watch: Lakeland, Florida, volumes spiked nearly 27% last week while the average outbound rate climbed 2 cents to $1.57/mile. Let’s see if Lakeland rates trace the pattern in Miami, where a big jump in volume two weeks ago was followed by a nice gain in the average outbound rate ($1.80/mile, up 13 cents). Meanwhile, several lanes from Florida and California produced strong rates:

  • Fresno, California, to Denver up 40 cents to $2.24/mile
  • Fresno to Boston gained 19 cents to $2.23/mile
  • Miami to Baltimore up 29 cents to $2.00/mile
  • Miami to Elizabeth, New Jersey, rose 15 cents to $1.82/mile

The Imperial Valley is underperforming for reefer freight: last week the average outbound rate from Ontario, California, was $2.51/mile, down 8 cents, on 9% lower volume.

DAT Trendlines are generated using DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $60 billion in freight payments. DAT load boards average 1.2 million load posts searched per business day.

For the latest spot market loads and rate information, visit dat.com/trendines and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.

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March used truck sales down 14% from last year

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ACT Research Vice President Steve Tam said slowing growth in the freight market is also a likely contributor to the lower sales of used trucks. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Preliminary used Class 8 volumes (same dealer sales) jumped 25% month-over-month in March, following a modest decline in February, according to the latest preliminary release of the State of the Industry: U.S. Classes 3-8 Used Trucks published by ACT Research. However, the report indicated that longer-term comparisons yielded a 14% decline compared to March 2018.

Other data released in ACT’s preliminary report included year-over-year comparisons for March 2019, which showed that average prices rose 7%, while average miles contracted 2%, and average age was 8% higher.

“We continue to hear from dealers that the lack of inventory is a limiting factor inhibiting sales volumes, an observation corroborated by the current demand and pricing environment,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “Despite the impressive sequential increase, volumes remain well below last year’s year-to-date level. It is important to note that slowing growth in the freight market is also a likely contributor to the lower sales. Truckers may be getting to the point where they have the trucks necessary to meet their needed freight demand.”

ACT’s Classes 3-8 Used Truck Report provides data on the average selling price, miles, and age based on a sample of industry data. In addition, the report provides the average selling price for top-selling Class 8 models for each of the major truck OEMs – Freightliner (Daimler); Kenworth and Peterbilt (Paccar); International (Navistar); and Volvo and Mack (Volvo).

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

 

 

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