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Company, family histories intertwined at Freymiller

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David Freymiller is president and CEO of Freymiller, Inc., started by his father Don Freymiller in 1968. (Courtesy: FREYMILLER INC.)

This article first appeared in Truckload Authority, the magazine of the Truckload Carriers Association.

The Freymiller family must be sorry to see 2018 come to an end. It was a milestone year, the 50th anniversary of Don Freymiller buying his first truck, a livestock hauler.

Today, Freymiller, Inc. specializes in refrigerated cargo, with a fleet of about 540 units operating nationwide. Don Freymiller is still on board as company chairman. His son Dennis Freymiller is vice president of sales and marketing, daughter Diane is billing and accounts receivable manager, daughter Denise is facilities manager, while David Freymiller serves as president and CEO.

The company can also claim the rare distinction of having three TCA past-chairmen in its midst: Don Freymiller; along with Shepard Dunn, who recently came on board as chief operating officer; and Gary Baumhover.

This past year has been a time to celebrate and to reflect, David Freymiller said, and he is happy to share the company history — or is it the family history? The two are intertwined.

“Trucking is all we know,” he said. “Trucking is all dad taught us.”

The learning never ends as the company has grown and the industry evolves. But there’s something at the core of Freymiller, Inc., a value system that has remained constant. After 50 years, the celebration is both for what’s changed and what hasn’t.

Don Freymiller grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. “It was a hard life,” David Freymiller said. “He and his father farmed about 200 acres of rock, as Dad would describe it.”

After high school, Don Freymiller did a stint in the Army. After his discharge, he reluctantly returned to run the family farm. During a winter slowdown, David Freymiller said, “he took a side job, hauling livestock to Milwaukee.”

“The guy said, ‘you drive a truck?’ Dad said, ‘yeah,’ — Dad never drove a truck in his life. And the guy said, ‘Good, show up tonight and take this load to Milwaukee.’”

Don Freymiller eventually bought that truck. Then he bought a few more. In the early ’70s, he bought his first refrigerated unit, which he used to haul canned hams to California.

Over the next few years, Freymiller, Inc. transitioned entirely over to reefers. But it wasn’t a straight line to the company that exists today.

“In 1980 we moved from Shullsberg, Wisconsin, to Bakersfield, California,” Freymiller said.

The company had 53 trucks at the time, but they struggled over next decade, eventually going into bankruptcy in the early ’90s, pushing them almost back to square one. They moved the company headquarters to Oklahoma City, and “In October of ’96 we basically started back up again with 10 trucks,” Freymiller said.

“We’ve gone from nothing to something, back to nothing, and then back to something again.”

Specializing in reefers has its advantages and its challenges, Freymiller explained, and both have to do with the fact that the vast bulk of reefer freight is food.

“We’re extremely heavy in protein,” Freymiller said. “We haul a lot of meat, whether it be chicken, whether it be steaks.” Protein accounts for more than half the tonnage they haul, followed by frozen pies and pastries, then produce.

During economic downturns, people may cut back on a lot of things, Freymiller said, but, to put it bluntly for effect, “People gotta eat.”

“Whether times are good or bad, they’re going to eat. So refrigerated, with no pun, is somewhat insulated from the economy.”

Everyone needs food, but most meat processing is done in the Midwest, he explained. That means long hauls to get it everywhere in the country. In an era when average length-of-haul is going down industrywide, “our average length-of-haul is right at 1,000 miles,” he said.

And they consistently run heavy. Freymiller estimated that about 90 percent of their loads bump right up against that 80,000-pound limit. And those long, heavy hauls must stick to schedule.

“If you’re hauling washers and dryers, and you’re six, eight, 10 hours late because the truck broke down, it’s not a big deal,” Freymiller said. “But if you’re hauling a load of meat, and it’s being exported and you miss the boat, that meat is pretty much junk.”

And as they keep one eye on the clock, the other is on the thermometer. If the temperature inside the trailer is off by just a few degrees, it can ruin the entire load. Today’s telematics make a world of difference in monitoring and regulating the refrigeration in their trucks, he said.

But as much as technology continues to enhance efficiency, Freymiller said, it’s still the people operating that fleet that hold the key to a successful operation.

A reefer can cost up to three times as much as a dry van, Freymiller said, and a company can realistically run a dry van for 10 years or more. Freymiller turns its trailers every five years.

“We run pretty much Peterbilts and Kenworths,” Freymiller said. “They got all the bells and whistles.” His father shakes his head at some of the amenities in today’s sleeper cabs. “A lot of it is the kind of stuff that does nothing to help business, except that it makes for happier drivers.”

Employee satisfaction is a top priority, Freymiller said. “We are the truckers’ trucking company. That goes back to Day One.”

His dad started in the business as a driver, he said. And he still has his CDL. For his 80th birthday, Don Freymiller’s present to himself was to take a load out. Both David and his brother Dennis drove when they started. Their perspective on the business was first formed behind the wheel.

“Without the driver, we’re nothing,” Freymiller said. “Their job is the only job in the company that generates the revenue. The rest of us are overhead.”

A lot of companies like to refer to their staff as a “family.” Freymiller, Inc. is literally a family company, and it has always been a priority to extend that sense of family to everyone on the staff.

Don Freymiller has a longstanding tradition of calling every driver on their birthday, David Freymiller said, and their doors are always open for any driver who needs to hash something out.

“A lot of times, if you listen to a driver, you don’t have to fix anything, you just have to listen to them. And when they walk out, they’re happy.”

For the sake of their employees’ wellbeing, the company also has its own in-house pastor. Olen Thompson holds chapel every Sunday, and he is available for consultation the rest of the week.

Freymiller said the way he sees it, it’s much better to have drivers take to the road in tune with their spiritual side rather than “mad at the world and filled with road rage.”

“He was a truck driver, so he can relate to the drivers because he’s been in their shoes,” Freymiller said.

Not too many companies pass successfully from one generation to the next, Freymiller said. “Usually, the second generation screws it up.”

It appears he and his siblings have pulled it off, even as the company grows and the industry and its technology evolve. As David Freymiller explains it, the key is keeping up with the changes while having the confidence and the humility to know that even when you are the decision-maker, outcomes depend on a lot of factors.

“It’s just good luck, perseverance, the Good Lord and all of our employees, because you can’t do it without the foundation.”

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ACT Research: Heavy duty markets at the edge of the precipice

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This graph by ACT Research shows freight growth will decline in 2020 and 2021 before accelerating in 2022, Class 8 truck productivity will remain in the negative through 2022 but will become less each year. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind.  – According to ACT Research’s latest release of the North American Commercial Vehicle OUTLOOK, current data and anecdotes make a strong case that the heavy-duty vehicle markets are at the edge of the precipice.

“Since the start of this demand up-cycle in late 2017, we have targeted this year’s third quarter as the point at which the industry was likely to see production rollover,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “That targeting was largely derived from historical precedent, with historical peak-level build lasting between 13 and 15 months. For the current cycle, we date peak build rates to June 2018, so August represents the 15th month of peak-level production.”

Regarding heavy vehicle demand, Vieth said, “At the heart of our cycle duration prediction, carrier profitability and production peaks always lag the freight cycle, so capacity building always accelerates relative to freight growth at exactly the wrong time, every time.

“Large new inventories and deteriorating freight and rate conditions suggest erring on the side of caution remains the right call, and we are warning those in the industry to be prepared for down weeks starting as early as fourth quarter.”

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

 

 

 

 

 

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FTR’s June Trucking Conditions Index up slightly but still negative

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An FTR executive said although rates remain weak for carriers, they appear at least to be stabilizing. (The Trucker file photo)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — FTR’s revised Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) showed a significant improvement in June but remained in slightly negative territory at a reading of -0.82, according to FTR.

Strengthening freight demand and lower diesel prices were offset by weak truckload rates and easing capacity utilization plus some higher financing costs that negatively affected carriers during the month.

FTR’s forecast for the TCI is for it to remain in low single-digit negative range into 2020, but some positive readings are possible during 2019.

Details of the revised TCI for June are found in the August issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published July 31. The ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light’ section in the current issue explains how FTR’s July 2019 Freight•cast model update affects key FTR metrics on the trucking industry, including the TCI. Along with the TCI and ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light,’ the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, costs and the truck driver situation.

“Although rates remain weak for carriers, they appear at least to be stabilizing,” said  Avery Vise, vice president of trucking. “Meanwhile, freight demand appears firmer in recent weeks than in early spring, but the outlook is far from rosy given a softening industrial sector. Our biggest near-term concern, however, is the potential impact of the trade war with China on consumer spending and business investment.”

The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market. These conditions are freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index indicating the industry’s overall health. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings (up or down) suggest significant operating changes are likely.

As noted, FTR in July completed a major update of its Freight•cast model, including both updated data and enhancements to the methodology. FTR traditionally has treated the TCI as a contemporaneous assessment of overall conditions at a point in time, so we have made very few changes to historical TCI readings. However, given the noticeably different freight volume and utilization metrics following the model update – especially during 2014 through today – we have restated the TCI back to January 2014. The historical revisions also reflect a more robust measure of market rates that FTR adopted in the spring of 2018. Directionally, the old and new TCI are largely correlated since mid-2016, but the updated TCI shows peak conditions occurring earlier in 2018 than the prior metric. Moreover, that peak range was not as strong and was shorter than previously indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MVT Solutions offers no cost fuel efficiency reports

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Fleets currently relying on MVTS results include Hirschbach Motor Lines, Penske Truck Leasing, Nussbaum Transportation, Mesilla Valley Transportation, C.R. England and Charger Logistics. (Courtesy: MVT SOLUTIONS)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — MVT Solutions, a provider of fuel economy testing and design and development services for the trucking industry, Thursday said that the test reports for its Certified Products are now available on a no-cost subscription basis.

“Receiving MVTS Certification is a mark of fuel efficiency excellence for a product and we feel strongly that the industry should have that information and the supporting test data in a timely manner and at no cost,” said Daryl Bear, lead engineer & COO at MVT Solutions. “In addition, the suppliers of the certified products have confidence that their results are being delivered by a trusted source to companies that are interested in their technologies.”

While MVT Solutions Certified Products’ Test Reports with the detailed test data on the latest fuel efficiency solutions for transportation companies are posted on the company’s website, the new subscription service ensures results are delivered automatically as soon as they are available giving fleets the ability to have the most up-to-date information, Bear said, adding that fleets currently relying on MVTS results include Hirschbach Motor Lines, Penske Truck Leasing, Nussbaum Transportation, Mesilla Valley Transportation, C.R. England and Charger Logistics.

Certified fuel economy testing by MVT Solutions was developed from race car engineering and advanced vehicle test methods using sensors and recording systems that collect data on fuel consumption, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, driver behavior and other variables that affect fuel consumption. The data is analyzed using proprietary methods.

Subscribing can be done via the MVT Solutions website or by following the company on LinkedIn.

MVT Solutions test reports for custom and developmental testing done for fleets or suppliers are released only with the permission of the company and are not part of the subscription service.

 

 

 

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