Trucking since the Ice Age!

Late 1949, in an old tin shack near the stockyards in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Midwest Coast Transport was founded. The company consisted of four leased trucks, which transported goods for two local clients: John Morrell & Co., a meat products company, and Nash Finch, a grocery wholesaler. Loads were hauled from the Midwest to the West Coast and back - meat out; produce back - hence the name, Midwest Coast Transport (MCT).
Over the course of almost 60 years, four trucks have grown into an independent contractor fleet of over 600 trucks. MCT transports perishable and general commodities for a solid base of quality shippers in a 48-state operation. (We still transport goods for our first two customers.)

Today, MCT is part of a half billion-dollar transportation system: Comcar Industries of Auburndale, Florida.

Besides the Sioux Falls headquarters, MCT also has facilities in Sanford, Florida, West Chicago, Illinois, and Florence, KY. MCT operates the largest LTL foliage consolidation/shipping operation in Florida at their Sanford terminal.

Fun history tidbits:

Babyhood: MCT's First Decade

  • In 1953, a "first seat" or solo driver would earn about $160 per load (round trip).
  • In the 1950s, before the days of interstates, the speed limit in Montana was 45 m.p.h. Diesel fuel cost 14.9 cents a gallon.
  • "Customizing" a truck meant putting a two-by-four on the accelerator to try and keep the driver's foot from getting too hot from all the engine heat coming up through the floor.
  • Conventional trucks in the 1950's sported a hole in the wall to climb in to the unheated bunk, which was nothing more than a shelf on the wall.
  • A brand new conventional Kenworth in 1948 cost $15,200. Sixty years later, a new Kenworth is around $115,000.
  • If you didn't like your truck, you could buy a kit and convert it to a Kenworth. Any model of truck would work. The kit contained just the cab and frame; no motor, transmission, tires or rear-end.
  • What is now known as EDI (electronic data interchange) used to be a postcard that drivers would fill out and mail in to MCT with the trip number, the time and date, driver's name, and where he unloaded. Later, drivers sent in night telegrams so the dispatch office would know they were unloaded.
  • Until the 1950s, meat was primarily hauled by the railroad to the West Coast. It took 7 to 10 days for the shipment to arrive. It was often spoiled or never arrived. When MCT trucks began hauling the meat, they would load on Friday and arrive on Monday. Customers were tickled to get their orders so quickly.
  • MCT trucks hauled "green meat," ham that came right off the kill. Trailers would be lined with racks on the sides and paper on the floor. Hams and pork bellies would be thrown right in. Blood would run out of the back of the trailers all the way to California.
  • On Donner Pass in California, trucks would pull at about 10 m.p.h. The law stated that if a truck had more than four cars behind it, it would have to pull over and wait for the cars to pass, making regaining momentum extremely difficult.
  • Field produce on the backhaul from California meant driving the trailer right out onto the field where field workers would bring a wagonload of lettuce or cabbage up to the side door. Then the driver would drop the loaded trailer at a building where they would suck the hot air out of the trailer and vacuum cool the whole load. Thermo King units were simply fans that would blow air on the loads. Drivers would then go to an ice house and get about 20 blocks of ice, each weighing 200 pounds. The ice would be crushed and blown on top of the produce. As it melted, streams flowed out the back end of the trailer down the road. When the weather was really hot, the driver would stop in Las Vegas to ice down the produce again.
  • In the late 50s, refrigerated trailers ran on propane. Trailer lengths started out at 33 feet, gradually increasing. In Iowa, the overall length of a tractor/trailer combo was 45 feet. Law officers would get out their measuring strings and stop truckers right in the middle of town. If the combo were over length, the driver would either remove the truck's rubber bumper or call another truck to haul the load out.

The teen years

  • MCT moved from an old warehouse into an office building where snowdrifts accumulated on the window sills regularly. Truck inspections were done outside in the parking lot during any kind of weather.
  • The driver application and qualification process was formalized. Drivers who had been here for years were now required to fill out an application listing MCT as the current employer.
  • Dispatchers, including company past president Murray Smith, earned 50 bucks a week. They used paper tablets, cards and pencils to keep track of trucks and trailers. They communicated between offices via tele-type machines. Offices were added across the country to combine sales and dispatching with truck inspection facilities.
  • The D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) was formed in 1966. They used mobile inspection sites. Trucks were waved over to the side of the road for an inspection.
  • Operating authority was regulated by the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission). A panel of examiners heard lengthy and involved applications. MCT's hearing record for acceptance was in the high ninety percentile.
  • In the early '60s, due to regulation, drivers were not transcontinental. A team might bring a load of candy out of New Jersey to Sioux Falls where the load would be transferred from an East Coast trailer to a West Coast trailer. It was not unusual for dispatchers and other MCT help to work all day, then help transfer a load from one trailer to another that night.
  • Trucks in the '60s remained simple with few amenities, like no heat or air conditioning. Drivers crossing the southern states' deserts would be forced to roll up the windows to keep the hot air out.

Staying alive in the '70s

  • MCT ownership changed hands for the first time, going from a family owned organization (H. Lauren Lewis family) to a wholly owned subsidiary of a publicly traded corporation (Texas Gas & Transmission).
  • The first fuel shortage in the United States had a significant effect on MCT. The price of fuel increased so fast that there was a huge time-lapse before the first "fuel surcharge" was applied. In addition, the cost of equipment was increasing. Owner operators and fleet operators became increasingly dissatisfied with business conditions causing several large fleets to leave the business.
  • MCT started a tuition free driver training school. The shortage of qualified drivers is not new. In fact, in the 1960s the largest fleet operators of that era had to park about a third of their tractors each summer, as they couldn't find enough drivers to cover for vacations.
  • Some of MCT's customers fell on hard times, as it was also a decade of very high interest costs, putting those businesses that owed a lot of money at a disadvantage. The 70s also marked the beginnings of consolidation of shippers, longer trailers, and higher and higher service levels expected by customers.


The '80s

  • Extreme change characterized the 80s, not only for MCT, but also for the entire truckload industry. Midwest Coast began the decade as a "high service meat hauler" and ended the decade as a "high service, general commodity, temperature controlled core carrier" for a new, diversified base of customers.
  • This was the decade of technology, mission statements, and centralization of dispatch as the company restructured to serve customers under the new way of doing business resulting from "The Motor Carrier Act of 1980," more commonly known as "deregulation."
  • MCT Ownership moved from Texas Gas & Transmission to American Carriers to the MCT Acquisition group, a management team that bought out the company when American Carriers declared bankruptcy in 1988. The bankruptcy of American Carriers and the subsequent purchase of MCT by MCT Acquisition partners and Strategic Investments of Buffalo, New York provided enough drama to qualify as the major event of the '80s. MCT operated "in limbo" from August 15th of 1988 until the purchase was closed on April 14th of 1989, but never "missed a beat." This was due to the loyalty and support of MCT customers, owner operators, employees, and vendors. Throughout the confusion and turmoil surrounding the bankruptcy purchase, MCT people concentrated on serving the needs of their valued customers. Not only did they succeed, but they also earned numerous Carrier of the Year awards in 1988 and 1989 for outstanding service.


The '90s

  • For MCT, the '90s was a decade of stability, continuing growth, and advancing technology. The '90s were also marked by consolidation and size: BIG shopping malls, SUPER stores, BIG customers, BIG truck lines (several in the billion-dollar-a-year revenue category), BIG fleet operators, and BIG technology companies. Consolidation hit nearly every segment of American lives.
  • MCT continued to grow from about $75 million in revenue at the beginning of the decade to a little over $130 million at the close of 1999.
  • Competition from other trucking companies that were not really interested in "trucking for the long haul," but were "quick buck" artists entering the market, made their fortune and left with little regard for people or customers. Increased activity was fueled by low interest rates, available capital, and the assistance of some truck manufacturers.
  • MCT purchased Transhield Trucking in 1990, adding about $10 million in revenue as well as a relationship with the Nichols Group and several valued employees who continue to be a part of MCT.
  • The second major event of this decade was the Comcar Industries' purchase of the limited partner portion of Midwest Coast in 1993, followed by the completion of purchase of 100% of MCT in February of 1999. With Comcar as "our parent company," MCT is part of a half billion-dollar group of truck lines, storage facilities, and a leasing company. Comcar Industries is a family owned business, operated by the Bostick family of Winter Haven, Florida.



 


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