Meeting the Demand


working his way up from pulling green chain to superintendent of the company's plywood plant in Evergreen Montana.

     "The people who I deal with at Plum Creek now are the same people who I worked with every day when I was working there. It is a great working relationship and we have excellent communication," Steve says. "The people who I am meeting in this industry are really good, down to earth people, they know what you are talking about and they are interested in what you do."

     It was at Plum Creek that Steve realized the vital importance of communication between the mills and the trucking companies. Steve and his dispatcher crew work closely with other residual hauling companies, including Missoula Cartage, S.A.C.S Trucking, and Richardson Trucking to keep the raw materials moving.

     Covering mills is our first priority," says lead dispatcher Brian
Weaver, adding that if one of Hanson's trucks is hauling out of  a certain mill and is delayed due to traffic conditions or getting hung up at an off-load site, they will often times call one of the other companies for help. The hauls are based on weekly and monthly production schedules from each mill that forecast what type of product they will be producing and when the changeovers will take place.

    "The mills call us up every day with schedule changes," Steve says. "The logging industry seems pretty consistent with  their hauls, but in the residual business it depends on what the mill is running and what their production is like on a daily basis."

Weaver formulates the trucking schedule, for the most part, on computer using a simple Excel spread sheet program.

     He then makes a printout for drivers to check and for other dispatchers to make handwritten changes on when necessary. "I can visualize the schedule easier using the computer than I can on a piece of paper," Weaver says, showing how he can effortlessly make changes using the simple click of the mouse that on paper would wear erasure to the nub. "When I come to work in the morning I start out by doing the schedule for that evening and the next day. I am making changes right up to the minute I leave.

     Our drivers get paid by the ton, so hauling material is very important to them," he adds. "We do everything we can to keep them working." Hanson Trucking has an excellent crew of drivers. Some of them came over from Plum Creek and have been with the company since its beginning. The drivers are provided with attractive benefits and a simple retirement plan, but Steve echoes the sentiments of many transportation company managers when he points out that finding and keeping qualified drivers today is increasingly difficult.

    "There is a shortage of experienced drivers because of the lack of mills in the northwest and many of the chip trucking companies going out of business," he says. "The truck driving schools do a good job of teaching people how to drive a truck, but an experienced driver that we used to hire had to start out somewhere."

    "Over-the-road drivers, Steve had discovered, tend to have a tough time adapting to the physical life of  a chip hauler who is required to roll tarps on top of the trailers and keep in constant contact with dispatch. Hanson hires some log truck drivers to haul chips in their downtime during


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