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FreightWaves Classics: Crete Carrier Corporation keeps moving

Crete Carrier Corporation was founded as a family-owned company in Crete, Nebraska in 1966. Today, it is one of the largest privately owned trucking companies in the country. The company has three divisions – Crete Carrier, Shaffer Trucking and Hunt Transportation.

Now headquartered in Nebraska’s capital city of Lincoln, Crete Carrier serves customers throughout the continental United States. The company operates 20 terminals around the country to serve its drivers.

Crete Carrier's earliest days. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)
Crete Carrier’s earliest days. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)

Crete Carrier Trucking Division

When Crete Carrier Corporation began in 1966, the company leased six trailers to haul loads of ALPO dog food, which was the company’s first customer.

Five years later (1971), Duane and Phyllis Acklie purchased Crete Carrier Corporation. Duane was a Nebraska native and an attorney. In 1973 the Acklies made the decision to relocate the company’s headquarters from Crete to the state capital of Lincoln.

“The family purchased a 5-acre plot of hard-surface parking” that became a terminal in West Lincoln. According to Acklie, “It was almost unheard of to spend that much money for just a place to park trucks. Our whole family pitched in, and we received no salary in 1973.”

The Acklies are all smiles after purchasing the company. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)
The Acklies are all smiles after purchasing the company. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)

In 1974 Crete Carrier acquired Shaffer Trucking and five years later acquired Sunflower Carriers. Both were refrigerated carriers, and the two companies were later merged. They operate under the Shaffer Trucking name.

The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1980 and signed into law by President Carter, who was an ardent proponent of transportation deregulation (the airline and rail industries were also deregulated). Over the next few years, this completely changed the industry, and companies like Crete Carrier were well-positioned in the new era of deregulation.

In 1987 Crete Carrier Corporation expanded its dry van fleet with the acquisition of Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Hilt Truck Lines.

The Hilt Truck Lines acquisition was followed in 1999 with the acquisition of Omaha, Nebraska-based Hunt Transportation. The newly acquired company provided (and still provides) “open deck and specialized transportation services” across the United States. It had been founded in 1927 as a livestock-hauling trucking company.

A Shaffer Trucking refrigerated tractor-trailer. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)
A Shaffer Trucking refrigerated tractor-trailer. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)

Shaffer Trucking Division

Shaffer Trucking actually predates Crete Carrier by nearly 30 years. The company was founded in 1937 in New Kingstown, Pennsylvania. It began delivering chocolate for Hershey, which continues to be a key customer. Shaffer was one of the first domestic companies to haul confectionery products; in the 85 years since the company’s founding it has become one of the nation’s largest food and temperature-sensitive carriers.

Crete Carrier Corporation acquired Shaffer Trucking in 1974. Crete Carrier Corporation expanded its refrigerated trucking division by acquiring York, Nebraska-based Sunflower Carriers in 1979. Sunflower Carriers was later merged into Shaffer Trucking, creating one of the largest refrigerated trucking fleets in the U.S.

At this time Shaffer Trucking provides refrigerated truckload and dedicated contract carriage services to its customers. The company has more than 1,100 tractors and more than 2,800 refrigerated trailers that are used on local, regional and national routes. Shaffer Trucking’s reefer trailers have tri-temp units that can adjust to three different settings – cool, cold and frozen.

Hunt Transportation Division

Hunt Transportation operates for-hire and dedicated fleets. The company operates more than 250 tractors and 600 flatbed freight, drop-deck, and removable gooseneck trailers throughout the continental United States.

The company handles a wide variety of specialized loads, including: oversized and overweight freight; construction and agricultural equipment; raw materials; and machinery.

Crete Carrier Corporation in 2022

A nationwide leader, Crete Carrier Corporation transports a wide variety of products through its three divisions. In total, the company operates more than 5,000 tractors and over 13,000 trailers across the nation. Within its three divisions, Crete Carrier provides truckload dry van, refrigerated and flatbed trailer services, as well as dedicated contract carriage.

Although it has grown into one of the largest trucking companies in the United States (and the world), the company still operates as if every customer was its only customer, and customer service is a key emphasis of every employee.

A Crete Carrier truck at a fuel island. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)
A Crete Carrier truck at a fuel island. (Photo: Crete Carrier Corporation)

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Crete Carrier (No. 19).