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Foltz Trucking: the family-owned business covers miles of open road

The Foltz family has continued to grow its fleet of trucks to become one of the largest in the region. Photo by Brian Basham

The Foltz family has taken Foltz Trucking from its roots on the family farm near Callaway to one of the largest bulk agricultural commodity truck fleets in the region.

Along the way it’s won accolades for developing programs to improve driver health and wellness — and by treating employees like family, it’s seen a turnover rate way below the industry average.

Clem and Kathryn Foltz moved to the Callaway area from Nebraska in the early 1950s. They raised 14 kids, eight boys and six girls.

The young ones would start out by helping around the farm, and usually move into the trucking end of the business.

“With all those kids, they had to do something to keep us busy,” so the trucking business expanded, Ken joked.

A number of those kids are running Foltz Trucking today.

Frank is co-owner and president, Ken is co-owner and runs the dispatch center, Jim is the controller, Tom is the safety director, Donna is office manager and Jane is head of the accounting department. Several younger relatives also work there.

Clem started hauling corn with a single tandem truck with a pup trailer and launched Foltz trucking in 1958.

“We’re celebrating our 55th anniversary this year,” Tom said.

The company now has $25 million in annual revenues, 145 employees and 125 trucks with 350 hopper-bottom trailers.

It has customers across the United States and Canada, but focuses on the Midwest and South.

The company hauls things like spices, grain, cotton seed, canola meal, edible beans, rice, cornmeal, sunflower meal and potatoes.

“Most of our competitors are small farm-based operations with four or five trucks,” Ken said.

Foltz Trucking can handle the big orders, like when Anheuser-Busch   needs 20 trucks to haul malting barley from the big plant in Moorhead.

Other customers include Land O’Lakes, Tuffy’s, Jennie-O, Iams, Nestle and Faribault Foods.

Foltz Trucking stresses customer service, and that means delivering on time. Living that motto is one reason Foltz trucking has so many repeat customers.

And its new-model Volvo trucks are state-of-the-art: All have I-Shift automatic transmissions — a computer shifts through those gears, not the driver.

That saves fuel, and stress on the driver, though some kicked up a fuss when the switch was made five or six years ago. Now drivers wouldn’t go back to manual transmissions, Tom said.

Engine governors ensure drivers don’t go over 65 mph (68 mph, if driver’s make their idling time bonus).

With the help of PeopleNet onboard computer logging, dispatchers know in real-time where the trucks are, what speed they’re going and when driver down-time will be needed.

(Drivers can be on the road for 11 hours per day, within a 14-hour window, said Tom.)

Drivers can use the onboard computers to communicate with loved ones at home via e-mail. The computers can’t be used while the truck is in motion.

The half-dozen dispatchers at the Foltz office use both telephones and computers to communicate with drivers.

By 1972, Foltz Trucking had grown to eight trucks and moved to a new shop and office on Highway 59 just north of Detroit Lakes.

By 1985 the company had 30 trucks and just continued to grow. Two years later the company bought a small building nearby and converted it into an office, leaving the original building as the shop.

An electrical fire in 2006 hastened the decision to upgrade the shop, and in September of 2012 a new 5,000-square-foot office was finished, about twice the size of the previous office.

“Foltz Builders did it,” and it includes geothermal heating and cooling, Tom noted.

Foltz trucking has a much better driver retention rate, 23 percent turnover, than most of the industry, which has 100 percent turnover nationally, Ken said.

Foltz trucking loses most of its drivers through retirement. It is a pioneer in promoting healthy living, and even developed a handbook of exercises for over-the-road drivers that can be done in or near their trucks.

All drivers attend at least one safety and health seminar each year, with weight and blood pressure checks and guest speakers.

“These guys are on the road all the time, they can’t easily get to a doctor,” Ken said. They earn a $200 safety bonus every six months by attending the seminar, and their accomplishments and long-term health accomplishments are recognized at the meeting.

The company also provides things like free flu shots every year, and quit-smoking assistance.

All the trucks are equipped with refrigerators to make it easier for drivers to stock healthy food like yogurt and milk.

“We’re pioneers, we were one of the first ones to start health and wellness (programs for drivers),” Ken said.