#8 Upgraded Transportation

posted on Sunday, January 1, 2017

“What makes this company different is the extra effort everyone is willing to give to get the work done,” said Clint Dickes, an owner-operator partner with Iowa Select Farms. “I call it the ‘daily grind’, but mean it in a positive way. When you have to get up and get out there in the dead of winter it becomes pretty clear there is nothing glamorous about load-outs, hauling pigs, scraping bedding, power washing trailers and fixing trucks. But I’d like to think those of us in transportation are truly cut out for this. It makes me feel good about helping people and be a part of something that makes me proud.”

Clint typically hauls market loads for Iowa Select Farms, but right now he’s stepped in to fill a spot hauling internal movements (nurseries to finishers and undoublestocking wean-to-finish barns) during the day. “Every time I see a different part of the transportation system I am blown away by all of moving pieces and people who keep this machine going,” said Clint.

To be exact, there are 175 people in the transportation services team including company and independent drivers, employees, and independent contractors, a department that exists for the sole purpose of safely moving animals between farms and to the packer. By the end of 2016, this team will have moved 11,500,000 animals, or 850 loads a week.

“One of thing things I’ve observed is that everyone here is willing to step up to get the work done,” said Clint. “Every day a hundred things can go wrong—a truck won’t start, a tire is bad, we get backed up at the plant, but the amazing thing is that people naturally step in and cover for one another and the pigs keep moving.”

By the numbers, the transportation team operates four sanitation centers for washing and drying the trucks and trailers, a maintenance shop and a fleet of 40 pick-ups and 50 gooseneck trailers, 38 tractors and 118 trailers.

The team provides transportation services to all 700 farms, moving breeding stock through phases of production, piglets from sow farms to nurseries, feeder pig from nurseries to finishers, and market hogs from finishers out to three different packer locations and several cull markets.

“It’s crazy to think there are so many pigs ready to go at one time,” said Adaam Conradi, an owner/operator from Allison, Iowa who hauls market loads for Iowa Select Farms, “I put in long days with my market hauls, but when I think about the effort it takes around logistics and all of the drivers, wash crews and load crews and I am just one guy with my 12 loads a week, it’s oftentimes hard to imagine.”

Owner/operators, like Adaam and Clint use their own tractors with company trailers to haul market hogs from the finishers to the packer, mostly at night. “The pay is really good for me and I like knowing I am building a business that can someday be passed along,” said Adaam. But being an owner/operator also carries risk that must be planned for, warns Adaam. “We need insurance policies and are accountable to make repairs, service the trucks and fix things that break, and this week had to replace my motor for $40,000.”

This year marked the year of small but steady improvements within the transportation system, making significant upgrades to retire older company-owned tractors and trailers, and transition to larger goosenecks and weaned trucks.

The transportation dispatch team also reorganized, offering 24/7 coverage and use of a new logistics software system to help create efficiencies. Internal processes and compensation arrangements were also simplified for employees and independent drivers.

“This entire production support team, whether it be Tier 1 drivers in southern Iowa, wean drivers in central Iowa, sanitation crews, market haulers or maintenance are part of one team driven towards our one goal of moving animals safety, efficiently and in a biosecure way,” said Ron Rush, Director of Transportation.

“Being a part of the billion-pound journey has been a good experience for me,” said Adaam. “It makes me feel good to take on another load when dispatch calls saying they need an extra hand, it’s something I can do to help everyone out.”

“I like being a part of the billion-pound journey because it’s something everyone is excited about, the work is rewarding and the people I work with care about me,” said Clint. “There are over-the-road hauling opportunities that pay more, but there comes a time in your life when being home becomes the most important thing to you, and that’s part of what makes pulling trailers for Iowa Select Farms a great place to be,” said Clint. “I’ve also had previous hauling jobs where nobody cared if I even made it home or did a quality job, and I’m done with that.”

With all but one of our farms located in Iowa, the majority of the hauls are within a few short hours of each other, allowing both employee and independent drivers one, two or three loads a day depending on the location, an advantage over transportation jobs that require multiple nights away from home.

“Right now there is nothing more important to me than my little girls, and if being a driver on this team means I’m home every day and being a part of important family events then I’ll take this great grind any day, said Clint.” #billionpounds