Up from cattle
Don Hummer built his father’s single-truck business into a nationwide food-hauling fleet
The lineage-owned and -operated Don Hummer Trucking’s roots lie in a Midwest one-truck livestock-hauling operation started in the 1960s by Buck Hummer, who hired his son in the ’70s to drive for him.
The entrepreneurial-spirited progeny, Don, incorporated the company in 1982 — with its current name — after buying a few trucks and fleshing out a small fleet. “At that point, most of our trucks were leased onto other carriers,” says Chris Hummer, Don’s son and company vice president. So in the mid-1980s, “We got our own authority and started building a customer base,” he says.
A quarter-century later, one of the carrier’s drivers hauls livestock, but the rest pull dry van food products and refrigerated units to California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and within a 500-mile radius of Columbus, Ohio.
Through a series of acquisitions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hummer grew from a 50-truck fleet to a 180-driver, 172-truck fleet — growth Chris says helped strengthen the company’s driver and customer bases.
“Most of those carriers we had worked with through brokerages,” he says. “We were getting freight from them; they were getting freight from us. We had a similar customer base, so it was just a way to grow the business and make us stronger.”
At the company’s Oxford, Iowa, headquarters, Chris says Hummer puts an emphasis on driver image, and their driver lounge includes amenities such as large showers, washers and dryers, televisions and wireless internet. “Not that those are big things,” he says, “but they’re small things that we can do to help our drivers improve negative stereotypes by giving them the opportunity for good personal hygiene and clean clothing.”
Chris also says the company’s drivers aren’t bound by “lots of arbitrary rules, for lack of a better way to put it,” and at driver orientation, he says the carrier tells them four things up front — don’t injure yourself, don’t injure anyone else, don’t crash the truck and provide good service.
“It’s simple, to the point: the value is on people and on safety, and assuming those things happen, we’ll be able to provide good service to our customer.”
The company also offers a year-round bonus program disbursed each pay period. “We pay our drivers assuming they are professional drivers,” Chris says. “The logic is that there’s a certain level of performance that’s expected, and drivers shouldn’t have to wait a quarter or for a year-end bonus. If you’ve done what you’re supposed to, it should show up immediately.”
Chris says the fleet will continue to grow as long as there’s demand, but “we can only do so if we can do it safely,” he says. “It’s really about our ability to attract customers and have a profitable customer base,” he says. “But you can’t lose that focus on safety. As soon as you do that, you’re pretty much done I think.”
Don Hummer Trucking
Location: Oxford, Iowa
Primary freight: Food products
Number of drivers: 180
Number of trucks: 172
Area of operation: Nationwide, with most runs to the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas and 500-mile radius around Columbus, Ohio
Family of drivers
Chris Hummer, son of founder Don Hummer, worked his way through the company’s ranks to his current VP position. He, like his dad, started as a driver for the company before going to the University of Cincinnati to study operations management and entrepreneurship, and he continued driving between semesters.
Don started driving in the 1970s for his father, Buck, who hauled livestock in the Midwest. Buck died in 1987, but Chris said he and his father still have CDLs today.