LIKE the owners of many family-run trucking companies, Wayne and Carol Klink started out in 1965 with one truck and a dream. They wanted to work with the construction industry.
Four decades later, the couple, along with their daughter Kimberly Smith, oversee Klink Trucking Company with a fleet of dry bulk, liquid bulk, and dump trailers. That adds up to about 70 vehicles serving customers in a 170-mile radius of the corporate home in Ashley, Indiana.
“We've gone along pretty well,” Wayne says in a modest understatement. “We offer a wide variety of products along with service for aggregate and excavating needs and transportation.”
In 1978 the Klinks incorporated the company, but were still operating from their original location on the family farm. Taking a good look at the construction potential in northeastern Indiana, the couple also recognized a niche in excavating services.
By 1985, the company had grown enough that they decided to build a new corporate office and maintenance facility on a nearby Interstate highway. The 133-acre property now includes a rail siding with room for 22 cars. Railcars bring in ligen, a chemical compound used for dust suppression, and other products. Ligen is trucked from Ashley to South Bend to be blended with resins.
A new warehouse near the rail siding is used to store products, such as top soil, salt, and liquid sugar beet extract.
Fifteen nurse storage tanks are available for customers, each with 13,000-gallon capacity. They can be transported to construction projects and then filled with product.
A Portec/Kolberg twin-shaft pug mill in Ashley grinds cold-mixed materials. The mill is equipped to combine asphalt, lime, cement, fly ash, and other liquid and dry additives, producing a mix for low cost base and surfaces.
Another part of the operation is the company's road recycling (grinding) using a CMI RS-800 Recycler. Asphalt roads, streets, parking lots, and airport runways are all likely candidates for recycling, Wayne says.
Grinding all the way through the hard surface down to original dirt allows for the creation of a new fresh road surface free from dips and bumps. The company also can provide pad-foot rolling and grading behind the recycler leaving a surface ready for chip-and-seal or hot asphalt placement.
Also at the Ashley location is a Volvo asphalt spreader with a 3,500-gallon E D Etnyre & Co tank mounted on the chassis that also is available for applying dust suppression products.
But the Klinks didn't stop with their Ashley location and limit their company to excavating services. In 1992, they had an opportunity to begin asphalt transport and purchased four used tank trailers. Today, the fleet has 24 E D Etnyre & Co tank trailers with 7,000-gallon capacity used to haul liquid asphalt products and hot oils. The trailers are equipped with E D Etnyre valves, and Roper pumps are mounted on the tractors.
The trailers also are used for asphalt emulsion products that do not require as much heat in transport. Those products are transported in the insulated trailers at 185° F, while asphalt must be maintained at 285° to 310°, Wayne says.
In addition to the tank trailers, the company has added 11 Heil and Fruehauf dry bulk trailers with 1,050-cubic-foot capacity equipped with Sure Seal aerators and valves. Drum blowers are mounted on tractors. The dry bulkers are based at the Ashley facility.
“Supplying both permanent and portable concrete plants is no problem with our fleet of pneumatic dry bulk trailers,” says Wayne. “We haul products such as cement, fly ash, lime, and other materials.”
In 1997 they opened a South Bend, Indiana, trucking terminal. That same year, the Klinks formed another company, Bit-Mat Products, an asphalt emulsion supplier, and located it in South Bend. Bit-Mat has three-million gallons of storage capacity. The Klink asphalt trucking division operates from the facility.
The couple set up another Bit-Mat Products facility in 2002 on the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan. The six-acre property provides barge transloading and has 10-million-gallon storage capacity.
All of this expansion and diversification initially was prompted by the seasonal nature of the construction business, the couple say.
“Our winters are slow and the summer is rushed,” Carol says. “We're close to Michigan and Ohio, so it made sense to expand into those states, as well as in Indiana.”
The Klinks define their versatility by pointing to services that vary from providing small amounts of product for customers with small do-it-yourself projects to transporting large quantities for contractors, state, federal, and municipal jobs.
Klink Trucking's multiple locations allow it to access materials from more than 100 gravel pits and several stone quarries in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.
The company also handles product removal. Other diversification includes transportation of heavy equipment and industrial machinery. The carrier's permits cover all 48 lower states.
“We have the capability and equipment to provide site development, building pad prep, drives, parking lots, sewer and water lines, basements, ponds, and waterways,” says Wayne. “With several sizes of bulldozers, crawler hoes, graders, and rollers along with seasoned operators, we think of our company as a single source for dirt work.
“A major part of our business in this area involves working with county highway departments and asphalt companies who have tight scheduling restrictions. We operate as a just-in-time carrier. We're able to do this because of our employees and their devoted service.”
Wayne and Carol have high praise for the 85-driver workforce — 40 of whom are tank certified. “Our driver retention is good,” says Carol. “Most of our drivers are at home each night, which they prefer.”
The company established an award program for safe driving. The awards are based on driver annual reviews. Those that meet the requirements receive savings bonds annually. A 10-year safety award garners the winner $1,000.
An Employee of the Year, one from each terminal, also is selected based on the vote of company employees.
Prospective drivers must be at least 25 years old and have a commercial driver license with tank and hazmat endorsements.
Training includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling.
Coordinating the drivers are dispatchers at both terminals. They communicate with drivers via two-way radios, but about 70% of the drivers have cell phones that they also can use, says Wayne.
The transportation side of the business enhances the company's ability to provide diversified services, so emphasis is placed on good vehicle maintenance. Since 1994, the company has used Volvo tractors exclusively. They are equipped with Volvo 385-horsepower engines, Eaton Fuller nine-speed transmissions, Bendix antilock brake systems, and Alcoa aluminum wheels.
To keep the trucks and trailers on the road, the company has shops in Ashley and South Bend. Both facilities have eight bays and handle tractor and trailer repair.
Tractor preventive maintenance is conducted every 15,000 miles and includes oil change and checks of brakes and suspensions. The shop also handles all trailer preventive maintenance and repairs.
As for the future of the company, Wayne says that it will continue to wrestle with rising insurance premiums and vacillating diesel prices.
“By the end of 2004, we had spent $600,000 more for diesel than we did in 2003,” says Wayne. “We expect it to be that much or more in 2005.”
The company is able to pass some costs on to customers by various means, such as fuel surcharges, but other costs have to be absorbed.
Nevertheless, the Klinks say they are positive about the future because of their ability to provide various construction services. By realizing early on that diversification was required, the Klinks have brought success to their dream that began more than 40 years ago.