MILTON - What local trucking company delivers to 48 states and is experiencing expansion and growth?
With a fairly healthy local economy, easy access to major highways such as Interstates 80 and 81 and Route 15, Watsontown Trucking is primed for riding that wave of growth, said company president Steve Patton.
"This is a great area for freight, from Williamsport to Bloomsburg," he said.
A Watsontown Trucking tractor-trailer pulls into the company’s site. Owners of the business say the company has expanded its truck fleet and looks to hire more drivers.
Most recently, the company added to its fleet of trucks and is looking to hire more drivers.
A 10,000-square-foot addition is going up at its headquarters at the sound end of Milton.
"We are doubling the size of our shop," said Jared Brokenshire, director of maintenance.
The company employs about 20 mechanics, many of them Pennsylvania College of Technology graduates.
Patton called trucking a "fairly simple business" which amounts to picking up and delivering goods.
Sure, it has its headaches, from ensuring the work gets done to maintaining a large fleet of 245 trucks.
"There's a lot of rewards in it, but a lot of things that can go wrong," said Patton, as he sat in his office recently.
A trucking company, he said, always is at the mercy of the weather, especially in the winter.
There's the fuel costs and the rising expense of health insurance.
"For a trucking company, finding qualified employees is the No. 1 challenge," he said.
Patton said he believes the best approach to hiring and maintaining good people is treating them well.
That in turn, helps grow the company.
"We took a look at how we can be friendlier to drivers," he said. "We have set up more runs where drivers can be home more."
As a result, the turnover rate for drivers has dropped significantly, he said.
Patton has hired a number of truckers from the Marcellus Shale industry, where hours can be long and demanding.
"In this business they have a hard life to begin with. If I can take their hurdles away, they want to stay and do a good job with the company," he said.
Most recently, the company opened a relay point station near Buffalo for shipments moving in and out of Canada.
"We have 10 truckers there," he said.
That helps cut down on longer runs for truckers.
Patton bought Watsontown Trucking in 1994 from Robert Russell.
At the time there were just nine trucks.
"I had worked for a trucking company in sales and management," he said.
Patton and Russell at first formed a partnership with the agreement that Patton would eventually own the company outright.
The two, he said, worked well together to set the company up for growth.
"He stayed with me until 1997," Patton recalled.
At the time the company's sales were $300,000.
Those modest figures would grow.
"We will do $54 million in sales this year," he said.
Patton said Alcoa Aluminum is one of the company's major customers.
"We haul non-perishable foods. We haul for automotive and truck assembly plants," he said.
Patton said it's usually not difficult to find customers in the trucking business.
About 75 percent of the company's customers are in a 50-mile radius of Milton.