On October 22, 1958, Caledonia Haulers, Inc. was formed for the purpose of hauling milk from area farmers to the Land O’ Lakes plant in Caledonia. The original six shareholders of the company were Joseph Gavin, President; Glen Derr, Secretary; Eugene Kohlmeyer, Vice-President; Hugo Muenkel, Director; John Schmitz, Director; and Walter Schuttemeier, Treasurer. These six men invested $200.00 each in the startup company, and acquired a loan from Sprague National Bank for $10,000 to purchase one milk tank and a 1958 International truck to mount it on. This first tank truck was driven by John Schmitz.
In the beginning, the milk pick up routes consisted of an average 90 cans of milk a day which were loaded on a straight truck at 20 different farms, traveling an average of 50 miles a day. The milk was hauled to the Land O’ Lakes plant in Caledonia. The men picked up milk cans in Caledonia, Eitzen, Hokah, Spring Grove, Nodine and Decorah, Iowa.
In 1960, the company purchased the Spring Grove milk route and a Chevy truck from Orville Flatten. On February 4, 1962, the company bought a new Ford truck and a Ford tandem truck to haul milk from Mabel to Caledonia and from Caledonia to Whitehall, Wisconsin.
In May of 1964, Lawrence Demmer, Leslie Heintz, and William Koch bought into the corporation. The company then purchased the William Jahn truck line which included an International semi tractor, a livestock trailer, a feed trailer, and the rights for hauling. Caledonia then started hauling livestock from Caledonia to South St. Paul for the Armors, and they hauled products for Caledonia Implement, Brady Elevator, and Hormel.
On January 6, 1965; the company bought Leslie Heintz’s shares and purchased a new Ford semi tractor and a used tank trailer for Heintz’s milk route to Illinois. This route is still in operation today.
In 1969, the company bought their second livestock trailer and hired Dennis Hanson to drive for them at a rate of 7 cents a mile.
In 1970, the company bought out Hugo Muenkel’s shares and purchased another milk route in the area around Decorah, Iowa. In 1972, the company purchased Frank Schmitt’s business which included a livestock truck. Later on in the year, Caledonia bought a new livestock trailer and also started hauling milk to Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1973, the corporation bought back Eugene Kohlmeyer’s shares.
By the year 1977, the fleet had grown to 5 tractors and Caledonia began to transport milk to Carlinville, Illinois. Two owner operators were hired, and Caledonia bought their first new Walker tank trailer. John Schmitz retired from driving in 1977 and Walt Schuttemeier retired in 1980. William Koch is still driving today. Joe Gavin continued to act as President of the company until 1992.
In 1982, Caledonia started a truck repair service for other truck owners which rapidly enlarged the service department. In 1984, Caledonia began taking back hauls of corn sweetener from Keokuk, Iowa to Minnesota and other points to the North.
In 1992, upon the death of President Joseph Gavin, Joseph, son Dennis assumed the responsibilities of running the company. A new office and parts building was added to accommodate the growing needs of the company and to better serve customers. On July 1, 1992 Caledonia bought their first computer. Up until that time, everything was done by hand.
In May of 1994, Dennis Gavin was voted in as President/CEO of the corporation, a position he still holds today.
In 1996, Caledonia purchased a reload station plus 6 acres of land that was owned and operated by Land O’ Lakes.
In 1997, Caledonia again started hiring Owner Operators. On September 15, 1997, Caledonia bought the Erdmann farm route and added another 2 tractors and 4 trailers to the company fleet.
On June 3, 1998 after driving for the company for 23 years, Harold Heaney, Sr. retired. Harold was the second over the road driver to retire from the company. Donnie Rask was the first driver to retire. On July 13, 1998; Caledonia bought the Gary Nation farm route and sold the livestock trailers. With the growing number of trucks, Caledonia built another building to be used as shop area. Caledonia started using this building in October of 1998. On December 1, 1998 the company bought the Wittenberg milk route in Rollingstone which included 4 quad axle trucks and 4 drivers, plus another 9 tractors and 7 trailers were added to the fleet.
In 1999, the company black topped half of the yard and bought another 19 tractors and 6 trailers and the “10 Years of service” and the “3 year Safety Plaque” Programs were started. Then in March of 1999, Gerald Myhre was nominated by the Minnesota Trucking Association for the “Driver of the Year” in the State of Minnesota. Gerald ent on to be selected as the March Driver of the Month in the state of Minnesota.
In the year 2000, new technology took the company to such new areas as the Internet, E-mail, their own web page, and bar coding parts. New marketing materials, such as brochures to send out to customers, employees, and other interested individuals were developed. Remodeling was done on part of the office, two more offices were added, and put in new lighting and plug-in poles in the yard. The company also purchased their own truck scale from Dean Foltz in the fall of 2000, and bought 10 more trailers and 9 trucks. In 2000, Caledonia Haulers had a 10% growth in revenue.
Caledonia Haulers started with it’s growth in the year 2001 by purchasing 9 more trailers and 13 more trucks. They started an engine interface with Highway Masters that lets them look at engine information such as idle time and fuel consumption on any truck through their satellite system. In August 2001, the rest of the yard was blacked topped and a cement pad to park trailers was added. Caledonia Haulers celebrated its 7th annual “Truck Drivers “appreciation Week” on August 30 and 31 by serving lunch each day to all truck drivers.
Caledonia Haulers has grown from hauling canned milk to hauling dozens of food grade products including milk, cranberry juice, honey, corn sweetener, orange juice, vegetable oil, and soy and whey products. Caledonia hauls to all 48 contiguous states and Canada and have trucks in Florida, New Jersey, and California weekly. Caledonia operates 130 semi tractors, 170 food grade tankers, and 11 farm route trucks, with 8 more farm route trucks to be added in 2007 for a new venture in Michigan.
Caledonia went from traveling approximately 19,000 miles a year in the early years, to over 15,700,000 million miles in 2006. Employment now is 122 full time drivers, 3 owner operators and 26 other employees working in the office and shop.
As of 2007, there are only 2 shareholders left, Dennis Gavin, President/CEO and William Koch, Vice-President.
This article was taken from the Minnesota Metro Newsletter February 2007.