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COVER STORY


concentrating on the petroleum stuff.” The only interruption to Ankrum’s life in


trucking was from 1978-1982 when he joined the Marines. He had done fine in high school but Ankrum knew college wasn’t for him, and as much as he enjoyed the family business this would be his time to try something else. “I couldn’t drive a truck,” said Ankrum,


who was 18 when he enlisted. “I wasn’t old enough, I had driven some but I couldn’t drive. I really didn’t want to go to college. I’d had enough of schooling. I did well in school, I just didn’t think I wanted any more schooling and my family was always pretty behind the military. Patriotic. “For those times it was something


different. The Marine Corps said ‘Hey you can work on jets for us’ and I said ‘Hey, that sounds like fun.’” Ankrum, who as a young trucking


employee learned to drive on two-sticks and Ankrum worked in the company shop


from 1982 until Harold retired in 1992 and handed off the day-to-day operation to his sons. In that span and beyond, the company


maintained its flexibility as an operation that could haul meat and produce or petroleum products. “For us, where he bought that first one


and then built up to a three truck and then a five truck, it was just a natural fit for us to switch directly over to it,” Ankrum said of his father and the petroleum hauling option. “We always kept reefers around as long as we had the hauls but when the hauls went away it was easy to go away from it and concentrate on the tank. “We’ve hauled cattle and flatbeds. It


always seemed we were tank-slash-reefer or reefer-slash-tank. However you want to look at it.”


“THE REGULATIONS HAVE ALWAYS COME DOWN. YOU HAVE TO JUST ADAPT AND OVERCOME. THAT’S PART OF THE MARINE CORPS MOTTO —ADAPT AND OVERCOME.”


thought a 13-speed transmission was almost an automatic, worked on avionics systems for the F4 Phantom and did stints in El Toro, Calif., Millington, Tenn., and Yuma, Ariz., where he spent the bulk of his enlistment. “We were climbing on the birds, working


on the birds,” Ankrum said. “Doing everything. We had confidential gear we had to work on all the time. In Yuma you ran three crews five days a week.” Ankrum was good at his job and enjoyed


it, which led to his one temptation to follow something outside the family business. But when his father offered him a job, the temptation didn’t last long. “I looked at extending one time and he


offered me the job,” Ankrum said. “I didn’t ever extend on. That may have changed the whole thing. “That deal would have put me in Dallas,


I would have had to extend for two years. It was a reserve station. You’re on active duty for reserve pilots; promotions come a little easier. Maybe you get promoted a little quicker you never know.” But Ankrum doesn’t wonder much about


what might have been. “You can’t worry about what if. You’ve got to keep going forward,” he said.


12 In 1947, there were more than 200


canneries, dairies, slaughterhouses and mills in Montana but the emergence of refrigerated trucks, ironically, was one of the contributing factors that helped force a lot of the local food producers out of business. Pierce Packing, one of Ankrum’s clients, shut its doors in 1985 and the recent economy more or less led Ankrum to its current status as a full-time petroleum hauler. Well, that and the location of four main


refineries in Montana, three in the Billings area. And it’s hard to overlook the presence of the Bakkan Play, which underlies parts of Montana, North Dakota and Canada and is one of the biggest oil finds in the country. “In a smaller market like Montana you do


what you can,” Ankrum said. “We’re always looking at expanding and picking up different work. That’s what everyone is in business for. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting your foot in the right door.” The types of loads aren’t the only things


Ankrum has seen change in his business. Technology has improved the trucks — there are automatic transmissions and more horsepower now — and of course there are the ever-present federal regulations, a subject no trucker can get too far without discussing.


Ankrum is somewhat philosophical,


though, about the rules handed down from the government. Regulations have always existed, he said, though there may be more zealous enforcement these days as everyone is looking for ways, including fines, to generate revenue. “The regulations have always come


down,” Ankrum said. “You have to just adapt and overcome. That’s part of the Marine Corps motto — adapt and overcome.” While adapting and overcoming, Ankrum


Trucking, Inc. has continued to make a nice name for itself. The company won the 2004-2005 Air


BP carrier of the year award and won safety awards from the Motor Carries of Montana in 2010 and 2011. The Ankrum Brothers’ model truck hobby


got them written up in a 2006 issue of Toy Trucker and Contractor, the magazine for toy truck hobbyists. “We sell them once in awhile at different


times,” Ankrum said. “We just build some that we see that we like that we remember as kids and build them.” And then there are the kinds of things that,


as far as Ankrum is concerned, no trucking company executive in his right mind can turn down. A wall in the Ankrum Inc. offices is


covered with pictures of Little League teams the company has sponsored since 1972, when Harold was running the show. The teams traditionally are in Lockwood, where the Ankrums have lived and where the company has its shop. Additionally, Ankrum Inc., has taken


part in the “World’s Largest Convoy” to benefit Special Olympics. The event takes place in multiple states and is a fundraising cooperation between local trucking companies and the law enforcement agencies, who escort the participating trucks from a staging area to a selected location where a celebration and recognition ceremonies usually take place. Ankrum, whose daughter is a Special


Olympics volunteer, felt inspired and challenged by her role in the organization and wanted to do something as well. For Ankrum, such altruism is the easiest


thing to do, easier even, than putting together a model or recognizing one’s path in life. “In our industry we’re always looking for


ways to improve our image,” Ankrum said. “And here we have an organization that’s willing to help us improve our image. It’s really something that I think is good too.” RW


ROADWISE | ISSUE 2, 2012 | www.mttrucking.org


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