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in 2004, he moved his family, with three teenage sons, to a 10-acre plot in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, where he built his house and shortly went to work for Sammons. “I haven’t regretted a bit of it,” Hinshaw

said. In Sammons, both men joined a company

that had been sold once since its 1962 founding but was staying true to its roots. “Pete ran an exceptional business,” Burke

said. “Pete was a hard-driving, trucking guy. Working through the realms you had to

in Washington, D.C. to get your authorization and expand on those authorities and get that business, it was a classical trucking company. “You always had to make sure you had

your T’s crossed and I’s dotted.” The first sale, in 1976, was to a group

of three owner-operators, which helped Sammons retain the family-style identity customers still find appealing today. “It’s something that adds a little bit of

credibility to our company as a supplier of transportation,” said Hinshaw, a former director with the Washington Trucking

and technology. All of that stuff is a factor.” Some changes, however, come more

rapidly than others. In 2005, Portland, Oregon-based Market Industries purchased Sammons. Six months later, in 2006, UTi Worldwide, of Long Beach, Calif., purchased Market Industries. The back-to-back sales may have ensured

long-term stability but, to say the least, they caused some short-term uncertainty. People wondered if the company name would change, or if bottom-line, cost cutting measures would have an impact. “It was unnerving for our owner-

operators,” Burke said recalling the six-month period. “Our checks still say Sammons on them. Are we a UTi Worldwide company? You bet we are.” While there was something to the aura of

being part of a $4.5 billion per year company, Burke said, the big boys didn’t try to remake Sammons or rob it of its identity. “It’s not like a group of investors have

come in and taken us over and are strictly looking for the penny return of X to this and

Sammons has also dealt with the issues affecting the trucking industry at large. The company is battling the nationwide driver shortage problem and resisting what is considered excessive government regulation seen most vividly in proposed hours of service limitations. Sammons already prides itself on being

one of the safest carriers operating, no easy task when one considers the changes the company has seen, Hinshaw said. “We started primarily as a company

that hauled lumber out of the Northwest,” Hinshaw said. “We now haul very little lumber out of the Northwest. Less than 5 percent of our miles are Montana miles so our 300 operators are in a lot of different states, and from a safety standpoint that’s another challenge.” It helped Sammons to stay on the cutting

edge of industry safety when Montana was selected as one of nine test states for the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program, which officially launched in


Association and now a director with the Motor Carriers of Montana. The goal after the first ownership

change was to primarily continue what Pete Sammons had begun, Hinshaw said. But as the company grew, adding to its commodity and territorial base until the deregulation of 1980, greater changes were in store. In the 1980s Sammons became a

nationwide carrier of general commodities specializing in flatbed freight. “I always knew Sammons and I knew they

were a high quality company,” said Burke, who got his start in the business driving part time while attending Eastern Illinois University. “I knew they were experts in their market. One thing I didn’t know about them was they had expanded into the specialized side.” Such innovation is a key to Sammons’

durability, Hinshaw said. “Basically, 50 years, there’s a huge amount

of change in the industry in that time period,” Hinshaw said. “And the only way a company can survive is they have to be flexible enough to change with the economy and the industry


that,” Burke said. “I said ‘They paid a good dollar for us and we need to give them a good return.’” Hinshaw praised the ownership for

keeping the Sammons name and owner- operator business model. “The name recognition of the past 45-plus

years has been such a big selling point to customers that if we were to lose it, we would lose leverage and a tool and a respect that people have for Sammons Trucking in the shipping world,” Hinshaw said. Both men said the company’s veteran,

experienced workforce helped Sammons endure the troubling times. Of the 50 or so employees at the

corporate office in Missoula, close to 20 have been there 25 years, Hinshaw estimated. Of the 300 owner-operators, 17 have been there at least 10 years, many have been there longer and one has been with Sammons for 43 years. “They’ve seen it all,” Burke said. “It’s just

a hoot.” While dealing with its ownership changes,

ISSUE 6, 2011 |

2010. Montana and its companies like Sammons

were able to weigh what worked, what didn’t, and provide feedback to the FMCSA. For safety personnel like Hinshaw, and to an owner-operator-based company like Sammons, the CSA test run was important in that it encouraged the value of safety awareness and its long-term importance to the individual driver. After all, Sammons has always been about

the individual owner-operator. They are what have carried the company through its first 50 years and they will be at the wheel heading into the next 50. “We are kind of a bit unique in a sense

that we are truly focused on owner-operators,” Hinshaw said. “Our owner operators are kind of our No. 1 customers. Their success is really our success and we certainly know they are independent contractors. There is no forced dispatch or no area they have to go into. “They make choices all along like they

were true business persons making business decisions.” RW


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