In June 1966, Duane Acklie, a nationally recognized attorney and partner at Nelson, Harding, Acklie, and Tate law firm that specialized in motor carrier law, represented his client, Ken Norton, to file articles of incorporation that gave birth to Crete Carrier Corporation. The company started with just six leased trailers, $5,500 capital contribution, and one customer, ALPO. At the time, Crete was located above an old creamery and cold storage building in Crete, Nebraska, and had only a one-bay shop. The door to the shop wouldn’t even close if a truck was inside.
Five years later Duane represented Norton in the sale of Crete Carrier. Norton wanted to move back to his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. When negotiations with the prospective buyer fell though, Duane and his wife, Phyllis, decided to purchase the company with the help of friends. The deal closed on June 21, 1971.
The company expanded quickly and soon built a second terminal in Knoxville, Tennessee, replacing the existing offices held in two old gas stations at a junction near Lenoir City, Tennessee. Soon after, the company purchased 100 brand-new 45-foot trailers. In 1973 the company built a new terminal in Lincoln, Nebraska, that would serve as the company headquarters.
“We had so much room we didn’t know what to do with it, and we thought we would never outgrow the new terminal,” said Duane. “We spent $135,00 for approximately 5 acres of hard-surface parking around the terminal. It was almost unheard of to spend that much money for just a place to park trucks. Our whole family pitched in, and we received no salary in 1973.”
After moving into the Lincoln terminal, Crete continued to expand quickly. Soon Shaffer Trucking, Sunflower Carriers, and Hilt Truck Lines (HTL) were a part of the Crete Carrier family. In March 1989 the company reached an exciting milestone, passing 1,000 power units. By the 25th anniversary in 1991, Crete had reached 1,300 tractors, 2,800 trailers, and 22 terminals in 12 states. In January 1992, Tonn Ostergard took over as president and CEO.
1996 was another exciting year for the Crete Carrier family. Hunt Transportation was purchased, adding a whole new variety to the types of freight the company could service. Today Hunt remains headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, and operates 200 power units and 550 flatbed, drop-deck RGN, and curtail side trailers.
Throughout the years, the company has continued steady growth. An exciting area for the company has been the military sector. Veterans currently make up 30 percent of the employee population at Crete. In August 2012 the company moved forward with a new way of honoring these members. The Patriot Fleet was designed to pay homage to all military veterans. The fleet began with five International Pro-Star trucks proudly decorated with decals to honor all of the U.S. armed forces. Today the Patriot Fleet has grown to 20 trucks.
“We are very proud to be able to offer an excellent career choice for members of our armed forces. The Patriot Fleet is our way of saying ‘Thank You’ for serving our country,” said Tonn Ostergard. “We want military members to know how much we appreciate everything they do to protect our everyday freedoms.”
In 2016 Crete will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Since the humble beginnings in 1966, Crete and its Shaffer Trucking refrigerated division has grown to over 5,200 power units, 12,500 trailers, and 5,300 drivers. The company has seen significant growth and expanded the customer base to include the likes of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Lowe’s, Kellogg’s, and many other quality companies.
When celebrating our 25th anniversary in 1991, Duane Acklie had said, “Without you, and the support of each of you, Crete would have gone the way that many of the other truckload carriers have gone. With you, Crete celebrates its 25th anniversary and will in the future celebrate its 50th anniversary and its 100th anniversary. We only say thank you, very, very much.” Duane’s prediction then was right; thanks to the support of all of Crete’s employees and families, the company is proud to be reaching 50.