Gladstone Transfer Ltd. - 65 years of success


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Submitted Photo

One of the fleet of 30 trucks operated by Gladstone Transfer Ltd. This family owned company has been in business for three generations.

By Ken Waddell

Banner Staff

Humble beginnings are the best way to describe the start of Gladstone Transfer Ltd. From one truck and one driver in 1952, the rural Manitoba company has grown to 30 trucks and 50 employees in 2018.

The first generation member and founder of the company were John A. (Jack) Kinley who started out in 1949 as a partner with John Ross but bought out Ross in 1952.

Back in the 1950s, the core business was hauling livestock to Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Stockyards and general freight back to Gladstone and some surrounding communities. Now 65 years later, Jack Kinley’s grandson Scott, explains from his office in the company headquarters in Gladstone, that hauling livestock and general freight is a thing of the past. As livestock producers know, St. Boniface has been long closed, livestock is often hauled to local livestock marts nowadays by the owners and hauled away by trucking firms specializing in livestock hauling. “For general freight, most (retail) companies have their own trucks now,” said Kinley.

Second generation

The second generation, his dad, Tom is still very much involved in the business and his uncle Ken, was heavily involved for a number of years before establishing a local accounting firm. Sadly, Jack Kinley passed away in 1979.

Operating out of a well-equipped office and wash/repair facility on the south side of Gladstone, the company has grown to be one of the largest employers in Gladstone.

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Photo by Diane Warner

Rural trucking firms such as Gladstone Transfer Ltd., move a lot of grain and fertilizer for the farming industry.

“We have had to diversify to being a commodity based company hauling grain, fertilizer, aggregate (sand, gravel, rock). The company hauls mostly across the prairie provinces but is licensed across Canada and can go into the United States. “Basically, we haul from  Ontario to BC and everywhere in between,” Kinley noted.

With over 50 people on the payroll, recruitment has expanded beyond the local area bringing drivers from overseas. Countries of origin include Moldova, Croatia, England, Scotland, Lithuania, Belgium, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Eritrea. The company has helped the local real estate market as many of the employees have naturally taken up residence in Gladstone.

Challenges faced

When asked what challenges are faced by the trucking industry Kinley said, “Today’s equipment reliability is only a fraction of what it used to be. We are now a 100 per cent SCR powered fleet now. There is no longer the black smoking diesel trucks.” But Kinley explained that also means there is a lot of sensors on board that can shut a truck down. “We end up towing a truck on average of once a week.” It’s a challenge that happens across the industry as the company uses four brands, Freightliner, Volvo, Western Star and Kenworth trucks.

Kinley cited other challenges such as the weak Canadian dollar combined with the cost of trucks and truck repairs.

Testing challenges

Getting drivers tested is also a challenge at all times as MPIC (Autopac) are short of driver testing opportunities and there can be a wait time for tests of 8-12 weeks. The actual road testing sites are not all that conveniently located as they are as far away as Steinbach, Swan River and Thompson. The written exams are conducted at Portage, however more difficult by the day to get an appointment.

Attracting young people into the trucking industry is something Kinley wishes was promoted more in the education system. He feels that when he was in school, trades and trucking were downplayed as career options and it is still that way. “A person can be paid quite well and be happy in the industry, maybe even happier than other occupations more promoted by the education system.

As to success, Kinley noted. “We have been in business for 65 years in a rural Manitoba setting. The business, over the past five years has taken me all over the world (recruiting and learning). A lot of the work we do comes from outside of Canada. We have brought 15 new families to Gladstone and increased the property tax base in town. We have brought value to our community but finding affordable housing, a place to live is a challenge. The people we bring in help our community, our grocery store, gas station, the butcher shop, etc.”

Expansion planned

Looking to the future, he sees adding a second mechanic and more repair capacity to their shop. “Taking more repairs in-house will add five more jobs to the company.” Kinley thinks self-driving trucks may come but thinks electric trucks will come first. “Humidity and temperature extremes may hinder the electric truck idea.” He noted that as the company looks to the future the e-logs will make for better driver time utilization and that technology will only increase. “I don’t think it will hurt the bottom line.”

Kinley is the third generation in the business but his family is very young so he doesn’t know if they will follow the family business path. However he did say he was happy in the trucking business so only time will tell.