Milk Haulers Face Driver, Insurance, Diesel Concerns
Apr 24, 2001 12:00 PM, Mary Davis, Associate Editor
The cost of diesel, finding and retaining drivers, and increasing insurance rates continue to plague carriers that haul milk in the United States and Canada. That was the opinion of five transporters at a meeting of the International Milk Haulers Association (IMHA) April 23 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Colin Kerr, president of Colin Kerr Holdings Inc and retiring IMHA president, said he has introduced a surcharge to keep up with the rising fuel prices. "It's been tight," said Kerr, who operates from Millet, Alberta, Canada.
And if the fuel prices weren't enough trouble, the driver crisis is as much a concern in Canada as in the United States. Kerr said that a booming economy in Alberta has kept the unemployment rate low, which means many companies are competing for employees.
In the Midwestern United States, the situation is pretty much the same. Jerry Mies, owner of Mies & Sons, Colwich, Kansas, said he has tried to offset the cost of fuel by buying on contract from a fuel broker. He believes that many of the companies unable to adjust to the increasing costs are no longer in business.
On the other hand, his company’s three-year safety record of 3.7 million miles without an accident has steadied insurance premiums, and a loyal 25-driver force has eased recruitment and retention pressures.
In Texas, the driver situation is grimmer. Johnny Leibham of Navasota, owner of a small milk hauler fleet with seven drivers, said he lost two drivers recently, one to retirement. Finding a replacement will be difficult. He's also anticipating increases in minimum insurance coverage.
"Our biggest problem is labor,” said Tom Ottery of Tom Ottery Transit Inc, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. As in Canada, the good economy has made driver recruitment and retention very difficult. Ottery retired recently, but his sons continue to operate the company-and are wrestling with the driver situation.
Bev Wark, Wark Transportation, Fort Elgin, Ontario, Canada, forecasts a 25% increase in driver wages in order to keep trucks rolling. On the insurance front, he said many trucking companies are opting for higher deductibles to keep premiums in line.