Minn-Dak hauling own sugar beets - The Daily News: News

Minn-Dak hauling own sugar beets

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Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2006 12:00 am

For the first time in its history, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, located north of Wahpeton, will no longer contract an outside vendor to haul sugar beets.

"It was a business decision based on what management thought was best for the co-op. We thought it would be a better business decision," Susan Johnson, communications manager at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, said. "It will be more efficient and we will have better control of transportation."

Minn-Dak officials said there is no underlying reason for taking on the trucking business themselves. Hauling its own beets, Minn-Dak will have better control over the process, officials said.

There were no hard feelings between Minn-Dak and its former hauling service. "We parted on good terms," Johnson said.

The transportation will now be a division of Minn-Dak and a part of the cooperative's ag department. Many new drivers will be hired for this coming beet hauling season. "It will be a totally different operation," Johnson said.

Hauling beets from pilers to the plant is a 24 hour, seven day a week operation. From Sept. 1 to mid-March, drivers haul beets from seven pilers within 30 miles of the Wahpeton plant.

There is a variety of hours and Minn-Dak officials plan on hiring 100-125 drivers for this beet hauling season. Although many drivers are expected to return and many more are new, it will be the first time they will be Minn-Dak employees, Minn-Dak officials said. Shifts for drivers vary due to the round-the-clock schedule.

According to a Minn-Dak press release, drivers must meet Department of Transportation regulations, be physically qualified, maintain a class A CDL license, have at least three years verifiable experience. They also must pass a pre-employment drug screen and have an acceptable driving record.

"It will require quite a crew," Johnson said. Not only will Minn-Dak require more than 100 workers, it has 15 trucks purchased three seasons ago and will lease-rent five more to meet hauling needs.

Minn-Dak has used its own trucks and supplied equipment since 1983, Johnson said.

Drivers haul anywhere from 250-300 loads of beets in 24 hours. In the six and a half months drivers haul beets, they log nearly three million miles on all trucks.

All trucks now have automatic transmissions, which makes driving more convenient. Minn-Dak mechanics do most of the service work on the trucks. "That helps us keep a handle on the maintenance and maintain a history on each truck," Johnson said.

Minn-Dak uses "450,000 gallons of diesel fuel per campaign," said Bruce Bopp, beet fleet transportation supervisor, who has worked at the plant since 1979. All diesel fuel is purchased locally and delivered in bulk to the plant north of Wahpeton.

There are two diesel tanks on site making, combining to make a total of 25,000 gallons, Bopp said. "And we have three semi loads delivered a week during beet hauling season." Each semi load of diesel fuel delivered is 7,000 gallons.

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