75 years and still going STrong
It has been a “sweet” 75 years for Shaffer Trucking. The company, founded in 1937 by V. Domer Shaffer, has grown to be one of the nation’s largest haulers of confectionary goods. Shaffer established an early business relationship with the chocolate industry in eastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey which still exists today, but have since diversified into also hauling meats, frozen foods and health and beauty products in their temperature controlled fleet.
Originally located in Hogestown, Pennsylvania, Shaffer Trucking eventually moved to nearby New Kingstown, PA. A milestone in the company’s history occurred when the Duane and Phyllis Acklie family acquired it in 1974 after Mr. Shaffer’s death. Shaffer was merged with and into Crete Carrier Corporation in 2003 and its corporate offices were relocated from New Kingstown, Pennsylvania to Lincoln, Nebraska in 2008; however New Kingstown continues to serve as the company’s eastern operational center. The acquisition has proven beneficial to both customers and drivers. Customers have a full service carrier to handle all their temperature control transportation needs and an abundance of freight meaning that drivers have many load choices in addition to flexibility in hometime.
The Shaffer fleet has 1,085 power units and along with her sister company, Crete Carrier, operate a combined total of 5,120 trucks. Another member of the Acklie family, flatbed carrier Hunt Transportation, located in Omaha, Nebraska, operates 265 tractors. The tractors are Freightliner Cascadias featuring the DD13 engine and International ProStars with the Maxxforce 13 engine. The trucks are on a 36-40 month trade cycle and a 7-year trade cycle for trailers, keeping reefer units CARB compliant. The company plans to shorten the trade cycle as economic conditions allow. Shaffer is about 97% company owned equipment, but welcomes owner-operators as they grow their fleet.
Both Shaffer and Crete run all 48 states, and since Shaffer hauls a significant amount of meat, confections and frozen food, they have a lot of freight that runs from the Midwest to the North and Southeast and back. Pick-up and delivery is typically near larger metro areas. Shaffer can hire drivers located in or near most of the larger cities or along travel lanes between them. With the enormous freight volume moved by both Shaffer and Crete, the company is able to accommodate their drivers’ hometime needs. The company has implemented a hometime program they refer to as “RDO” or “Remaining Days Out,” designating the number of duty days for each individual. Drivers can chose a designation of RDO 6, RDO 12, RDO 21 and RDO 45, indicating how many days of driving before they return home. These RDO designations are logged into the computer so that the driver/managers can provide load planning for each driver to get them the hometime they desire. Some of the designations are predicated on where the driver lives and are relative to local freight lanes. The RDO computer designations help optimize logistical load coordinations, while at the same time helping drivers maximize on-duty driving time. Shaffer has also built a pay profile so both long and short haul drivers can make a great living averaging at least $1,000 per week or more. The pay is based on practical route miles vs. short route miles. They can also be confident and secure in their driving career with a company that is debt free and well managed. Shaffer offers a comprehensive benefit package that includes a profit sharing program. The company also awards annual raises for safe, productive drivers and driver referral bonuses. Safety recognition programs are in place with an annual safety banquet held in Lincoln each year. The individual terminals also sponsor cookouts during the company’s Truck Driver Appreciation month and driver safety meetings throughout the year.
Shaffer trucks are equipped with satellite or in-truck communications and drivers can use paper or electronic logs. Shaffer drivers are provided with training for new procedures, equipment, regulations and technologies. Shaffer’s goal is to provide drivers with the tools to succeed and work with them as a business partner, earning, rather than demanding, their respect. It is a formula that is working well for the company as they have a low driver turnover rate. Shaffer’s turnover is less than half the national average for a large carrier. A portion of the turnover number comes from retirees or drivers who must leave for family medical reasons or lifestyle changes. Shaffer offers opportunities for all types of drivers – from experienced drivers to students from company approved schools. Drivers with one year of experience and a good driving record go solo after a successful road test and, if required, after having spent minimal time with a trainer. Drivers with less than a year’s experience can drive with a trainer until they are ready to go solo. Shaffer even offers jobs for veterans and drivers who have left the industry but would like to come back.
There are several reasons why Shaffer has grown and become so successful. First, as a privately held company, they have the ability to make decisions and react quickly to changes in the trucking industry. The company remains debt free, making it unnecessary to leverage their assets to create capital. Most importantly, Shaffer stays focused on their drivers and employees, providing good wages and benefits in a comfortable work environment. Shaffer also keeps their trucks in compliance and their drivers within legal driving hours, allowing the company and its drivers to maintain low CSA scores. As one company, Shaffer and Crete reflect the same DOT number and are among the top three major carriers in the U.S. with the best CSA scores.
When asked about his vision for Shaffer’s future, President Jack Peetz replied, “In the short term, we would like to grow the Shaffer fleet by 200 trucks in the next year through a combination of company drivers and owner-operators. Our marketing department is constantly working to develop additional productive freight lanes and an expanded operational area in the Midwest. This would allow us to operate more productively and efficiently and at the same time, creating a longer length of haul for our drivers.
Our five year plan is to double the size of the company while maintaining operational excellence. We are very pleased at Shaffer to be operationally integrated with Crete Carrier Corporation. I am thankful for our outstanding teammates which include our excellent drivers, office and maintenance personnel and all the others who make up the Shaffer team. They are all an integral part of our success.”