Providing transportation solutions for over fifty years
By Julie Pederson
“Any load. Any time. Anywhere.”
So proclaims an advertisement once used by Continental Truck Freight Brokers, a family-owned company headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon. Since 1957 they have been delivering on that promise, coordinating the shipment of everything from military supplies to Oregon grown produce throughout the United States.
Lee Olsen, founder of Continental, saw a need for a truck brokerage business in the Northwest with the approach of the Vietnam War, when military supplies were needed on the east coast for shipment overseas.
Although Olsen built Continental catering to this niche market, he also realized the business must expand its services in order to survive long term. In the 1970s, Oregon agriculture, and particularly the growing nursery industry, provided Olsen with that opportunity.
Today, Continental is owned by Lee’s son Jim Olsen. With offices in Boise, Idaho, and Wilsonville, Oregon, Continental contracts with small and independent trucking companies to transport Oregon nursery stock, agricultural products and a wide range of other items – all the way to plumbing fixtures – around the nation.
“Look at the items in your house and try to find something that doesn’t go by truck. You will find nothing. Everything goes by truck,” said Brennon Newell, director of operations at Continental.
Even while providing an essential service to Oregon’s agricultural and other industries, Continental is affected by a variety of challenges in transportation. “Fuel costs are rising across the United States,” says Newell. “Getting about 5 miles per gallon, it can cost trucks $1,000 to fill up.” And it isn’t just fuel that is drastically affecting overhead. Other vehicle maintenance and insurance costs have risen exorbitantly as well.
Continental makes an effort to remain sensitive to these issues and work as a steady middle man between the carriers and shippers. “We check fuel prices everyday and try to coordinate shipments and routes as much as possible so we are not using empty trucks,” says Newell. “We also communicate with drivers about being professional. Their service has to be top notch because it’s so expensive.”
To add to the stress of the national transportation crisis, Oregon has its own set of challenges. Requirements unique to this state can make it difficult to find trucking companies willing to come here. According to Newell, Oregon is one of few states that implement a ton-mile tax. This tax is levied based on weight carried and miles travelled for each trip in the state and can add as much as $.68 per gallon on top of fuel costs.
There is also the simple question of geography. “The Willamette Valley is the farthest point from anywhere in the Northwest. We lose carriers to California and Washington because we are so far,” said Newell. And once in the state trucks are required to maintain a 55 mile per hour speed limit even on rural highways, making the trip to Oregon a test of endurance and financing for many trucking companies.
Despite all these deterrents, “there is always a silver lining,” says Newell. “90 percent of truckers like hauling nursery, so that works in our favor.”
Newell is clearly proud of the local products he helps deliver across the country. “Oregon has the best nursery [product] in the nation. It’s expensive, but people still want it,” he says. “Oregon’s agriculture in general is the best in the nation. Shippers should hold their heads high and not apologize for something that we cannot control.”
With all the challenges facing transportation, Continental takes its position in the shipping industry very seriously. The employees – most of whom have been there for thirty years or longer – work hard to foster understanding and communication between shippers and carriers. “We want to keep trucks in business and also be sensitive to keeping shippers in business because without them we have no business,” said Newell.
Another clever ad campaign was developed over the course of Continental’s history. “We’re here for the long haul.” After fifty years in the business, Continental is sure to withstand any transportation challenges that arise and continue to work with shippers and carriers to provide reasonable shipping solutions – “Any load. Any time. Anywhere.”