Reins shift

Evan Schuh is one of those fathers who was willing to let go of his company's reins when the time came. In 2004, his two sons, Clint and Barry Schuh, took on the responsibility of Schuh Hauling Inc while their father stepped aside, allowing them to acquire the company. Today, Clint coordinates the Kaukauna, Wisconsin, foodgrade hauling operation while Barry handles administrative duties. Their father, for his part, often finds himself called upon to climb into the cab when an extra driver is needed, and he continues as mentor and advisor.

“We're committed to being the best transportation company we can be,” says Clint. “We've also maintained our father's commitment to integrity and values as our ultimate goal for our small family-owned business.”

Schuh Hauling operates 12 tank trailers and six tractors. The tankers are leased from Blue Grass Tank and Equipment, and the tractors are from Idealease of Northeast Wisconsin/Packer City International Trucks. The Schuh brothers endorsed their father's philosophy for leasing equipment rather than purchasing. That philosophy began many years ago when Evan decided leasing was a better financial fit for his operation. The brothers also lease terminal property that includes an office and shop built several years ago for Evan by the site owner.

Largest customer

Not too far from the terminal, across a few miles of Wisconsin's rolling farmland, is the carrier's largest customer, a 3,000-cow-herd dairy farm that provides Schuh Hauling with 225,000 pounds of milk per day. The automated around-the-clock operation milks 200 cows per hour with the use of a high-tech carrousel. Cattle walk onto the carrousel and stand in place while milking machines are attached. At the end of the cycle, they move off as others arrive in their place.

The milk is chilled to between 36° F and 38° F as it is pumped to an awaiting tank trailer. Schuh Hauling keeps four tank trailers at the farm 24/7 to receive the milk. Pick-up is coordinated by Clint to ensure just-in-time delivery to processors that require a temperature at arrival of between 42° F and 45° F.

“We expect the production at that farm to double later this year,” says Evan. “That means that Clint and Barry will be adding another five tank trailers to their fleet in order to manage the demand.”

The Schuh family successfully bid on the opportunity to serve the large farm, having previously hauled milk for a 1,000-cow herd farm. The carrier currently transports milk for a total of three dairy farms, which adds up to about 300,000 pounds of milk per day transported to milk and cheese processors in the Midwest and Northeast.

One of the farms supplies organic milk that is delivered from Wisconsin to New York. What began as 10 loads per month has grown to 20. Four over-the-road drivers make the round trip in about 3½ days. Meanwhile, Clint looks for compatible backhauls from processors: typically cream, whey, condensed and skim milk, as well as an occasional load of orange juice. Most of the backhauls are booked through, a member-owned group that provides transaction and trading services, including scheduling, spot trading, contracting, and transportation for a variety of dairy commodities.

In addition to dairy products and juice, Schuh Hauling uses three dedicated tank trailers to transport liquid calf feed from processors to veal farm operations in the Midwest. The carrier also has two van trailers used to haul powdered feed for the calf farms. Most of the deliveries are made at night.

“These deliveries are more like our old farm runs where we picked up milk from several barns along the route,” says Evan.

Driver force

The carrier's 24/7 operation calls for about 15 drivers who are trained by two of the company's veterans of the road. Training includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and specialized procedures involved in loading, transporting, and unloading foodgrade products. Driver training also emphasizes weighing procedures, as well as the importance of sanitary handling.

Security has always been a priority in transporting foodgrade products, but after the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, precautions were stepped up. Drivers are trained to observe product seals on outlets that are applied by farm and processor personnel and tank cleaning facilities, and to be alert for any hint of tampering. After initial instruction, drivers undergo on-the-job training under the eye of an instructor, primarily learning the procedures for loading, unloading, and transporting milk from farm to processor. The instructor determines when drivers are qualified.

To administer driver records, Clint and Barry settled on RapidLog, a software program used for entering driver log data. The program reads and interprets the information, including auditing for hours-of-service compliance and noting driver duty status.

“This program is a big help in analyzing driver performance and we use it in our award program,” says Clint.

Drivers are rewarded for safe and efficient performances. They can earn $6,000 to $8,000 in annual bonuses if their records meet the criteria, says Clint. That means no accidents or driving violations, while at the same time meeting delivery schedules.

Management side

On the company management side, the carrier uses an in-house designed program for administration, including billing, fuel usage, and tractor performance. The next step will be to add data related to vehicle maintenance and parts inventory, says Barry.

“Our company is small, so we have to perform at top efficiency,” adds Barry. “The more data we process with computer programs, the more efficient we become.”

Well-maintained vehicles also contribute to efficiency. With the 24/7 delivery requirements for perishable products, there is no time for breakdowns. Although major repairs on the tractors are conducted through the leasing contract, the fleet mechanic handles almost all of the routine maintenance, as well as repairs and maintenance on tank trailers.

Just as the senior Schuh is often called on to fill in for drivers, he is as likely to don a mechanic's overalls and go to work on a vehicle in the three-bay shop.

“Working in the shop has always been one of my favorite things to do in this business,” he says.

Vehicle fleet

The fleet includes International tractors, typically with Cummins 410-to 460-horsepower engines and Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions. Four are equipped with sleepers for the over-the-road transportation.

The tank trailers are supplied by Walker Stainless Equipment Co, Polar Corp, and Tremcar Inc, and typically have a capacity of 6,000 gallons. Tank hardware includes LC Thomsen foodgrade valves and ITT Jabsco pumps.

As for the future of the company, Clint and Barry say they anticipate growth to come as dairy farms continue to change from small herds to large ones similar to the customers they now serve.

Evan recalls when small family farms dominated the milk producing areas of Wisconsin. “It has changed significantly in the past 20 years,” he says. “Even since 1990 we have gone from handling 90 farms that produced about 75,000 pounds of milk to three farms with 300,000 pounds per day.”

As the changes occurred, his sons reached the age when they could take part in the business. “I asked Clint to join the business in 1998 and Barry came on board in 2001,” Evan says. By 2004, they were ready to assume control.

The brothers also are following in their grandfather's footsteps. He started a trucking company hauling hay and managing the small company along with his wife, who took care of the administration, typical of a lot of businesses of the time. Evan learned to drive a truck when he was about 12 years old and by the time he was 16, he was transporting products. The senior Schuh died when Evan was in his early 20s, so returning from college he was soon in the driver's seat — in more ways than one. Over the years, and in addition to running the company, Evan became an active member of the International Milk Haulers Association and will complete in 2007 a two-year term as president and board member.

This history of the company's founder, as well as his sons' vision for the future, work well together and indicate the company will continue to move forward with its third generation of trucking owners at the reins.

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