Heyl Truck Lines: A success for more than seven decades

Posted December 20, 2019 at 8:56 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

An Akron family marked their trucking company’s 70th anniversary in 2019, and as the year winds down, they are looking forward to the expansion of their Heyl Truck Lines Inc. facilities in Akron.

Construction, which will begin next spring and is projected for completion in September 2020, is of a new 20,000 square feet shop, which will connect to their current warehouse building, taking up most of the parking lot between their original shop and the office building at the south end.

“This will enable us to become even more high-tech with our equipment,” said Alan Heyl, noting the current shop was built when trailers were 43 feet in length and now trailers are 53 feet long.

The new shop will feature drive-through bays with a paint booth and alignment shop, he explained. The existing warehouse building will be used for the truck and equipment parts and inventory.

To the east of the current facilities, a new parking lot will be added.

Heyl Truck Lines History

In 1949, Don Heyl realized the farm he grew up on wasn’t going to support both his family and he and his new bride.

At 19 years of age with experience of driving farm trucks carrying livestock and grain, he bought himself a Chevrolet gravel truck and took to the road. One of his first jobs was hauling gravel for area county roads that were all gravel back then.

Soon, the Akron native was on the road hauling fruit out of Texas. The fall of 1957 was a little slow for the trucking industry and while Don was in Texas, he contacted a person who shipped products to Canada.

“It slowly developed into one hell of a good business,” said Don.

In 1963, he changed from driving to managing the growing company. “It’s something that gets in your blood. It’s pretty damn hard to get it out. The hardest thing I ever did was quit driving.”

At 89, Don is still coming to the office a few days a week.

In 1965, his son, Roger, joined the family business, and later served as its vice-president until his retirement in 2015.

In 1970, Don’s son, Alan, joined his father and brother, and currently serves as Heyl’s president and chief executive officer.

In 1977, Don’s son, Scott, began his career in the family business, ending in the Sioux Falls, S.D., office with his retirement in 2006.

In 1981, Don’s son, David, joined his father and siblings and currently serves as its secretary-treasurer.

Their sisters, Linda, Stephany and Lindsey, didn’t follow their father’s footsteps but in the last decade four of Don’s grandchildren have joined Heyl Truck Lines Inc. full-time: Roger’s son, Jordan Heyl; and Alan’s three children: Mackenzie Schaffert, Caitlin Muhlbauer and Wyatt Heyl.

Sometime between 1970 and 1975, Don moved the company’s office from his home to the Akron creamery building at 221 Mill St. where The Lock Shop is today.

In the early 1970s, Don built a one-stall shop building, where Alan Huygen’s Rendering Service on South Street was located. Later, Don built a three-stall facility at Heyl’s current location in Akron’s Industrial Park, then added three more shop stalls.

In 1971, the company was incorporated as Heyl Truck Lines Inc.

In 1975, they moved their office to the west end of the shop.

In 1982, the Heyls built a building to pack watermelons for shipping. It is now used as a warehouse. A shop office was constructed for parts storage, and they created DD Sales, which entailed making produce sales to retailers. After two years, this venture ended.

In 1987, they opened an office in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and in 1988, Heyls purchased Quasar Trucking in Sioux Falls and opened a terminal there. They also moved their Canadian office to a terminal in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

In 1990, Heyl’s expanded again by opening a new office in Edinburg, Texas; and by 1993, they had 143 trucks on the road.

In 1994, Heyl’s moved their Akron offices from the shop facility to their present location, just a little farther south in the industrial park. They also opened a terminal in Yakima, Wash.

In 1995, they opened a terminal in Dade City, Fla., and by 1998, they had 165 tractors on the road.

In 2005, Heyl’s opened a new Florida terminal in Zephyrills and started intrastate routes with 52 trucks in Florida.

In 2008, they expanded their Florida terminal with the addition of three stalls. They also began a partnership with Smart Way.

This same year Heyl’s was awarded an Outstanding Customer Award by Tyson Foods, and HyVee Food Stores named Heyl Truck Lines Inc. the 2008 Dry Carrier of the Year.

“There has been a migration from when Don started to what it is today,” said Alan in 2009 when they celebrated the company’s 60th anniversary. “It took a lot of hard work back then and it still does today but that work has changed.”

“It’s managing the world through technology,” he explained. “It’s all computers and everything is tied to the internet. It’s a totally different world than when it started.”

Alan predicted the company would “see continued growth” as they had doubled the operation every decade.

In the last decade, they closed the Yakima terminal and replaced the Calgary terminal with a new terminal at Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. They still have offices in Akron, Sioux Falls, Zephyrhills and Edinburg.

“We have gone from paper logs to eLogs which means when the truck moves, that log is active,” said Alan about improvements in the last decade. “We’ve gone from trucks being mechanical to trucks being a computer and everything along with it is computerized.”

“We’ve got more safety equipment — Collision Mitigation, an alert that brakes the truck when it comes upon something,” he explained. “Lane Departure Alert, which warns drivers if they get outside their lane without their turn signal on. We’ve got cameras that face forward and back toward the drivers. Disc Brake systems which improve braking distances.”

“We have GPS tracking on everything — trucks and trailers. We can pull them up on Google maps. It’s all very technological.”

“The number of support people it takes per truck is much greater than it used to be,” he said. “Ten years ago we probably wouldn’t have needed 15 to 20 of our office staff that we currently have. We have to keep adding people to keep up with the requirements, rules and regulations we have. There’s more ahead, too.”

Today, Heyl drivers transport mostly food products to all points in the United States and western Canada. The company has more than 550 employees and over 425 trucks.

“Family-driven,” is the company’s motto.

“It’s not our internal Heyl family, it’s everybody who works here,” said Alan, adding they are a tight-knit group with many young employees who understand the technological advancements and will keep the company on the cutting edge of the trucking industry.

In addition, many employees have been with Heyl’s more than 20 years — the longest has given 45 years of service.

When reflecting on seven decades of success, Alan said, “You’ve got to be looking ahead for changes in the economy and prepare for those changes. I think we’ve always done a nice job at that.”

Heyl Truck Lines Inc. is on the road to its next successful decade.

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