How Did Truckers Find Loads 40 Years Ago?

Gene Schultz has been in the trucking business for nearly 60 years. Ask him what technological advances have made his job easier over the years and three things come to mind:

  • Computers
  • Satellite trailer tracking
  • The DAT load board

“We take it for granted now because it’s so easy,” Schultz says about the DAT load board.

“You type into the computer that you need a load from this city to that city and a second later it gives you dozens of loads to choose from,” he said. “You can do more today with one guy and the DAT load board than we could do with 10 back then.”

Gene Schultz standing next to one of his company’s trucks in 1984.

The early days

Schultz got his start in the trucking industry working for his father’s produce-hauling business in Rochester, Minnesota in the 1950s. When his father died in 1959, Schultz took over the business. At that time Schultz Transit had six trucks. Schultz grew the business to 235 trucks, 242 drivers, and back-office staff of 42, including warehouse and cross-border operations staff in Laredo, Texas. He liquidated the business in 1991, and in 1997 he and two other partners started another trucking company, Hiawatha Transport, which they later sold.

Rather than retire, in 2010 Schultz accepted a job in the transportation division of Ashley Furniture, the world’s largest furniture maker, based in Arcadia, Wisconsin. His job involves negotiating contracts, pricing, and finding loads for Ashley’s empty trucks after they deliver furniture from the manufacturing plants to distribution centers throughout North America.

Schultz says that DAT products have helped him fill Ashley trucks and have turned what previously were deadhead miles into a profit center for the company. He uses the DAT Power load board to find loads, DAT RateView™ for pricing guidance, and DAT CarrierWatch® for some monitoring of carriers.

In the early days, Schultz Transit ran a fleet of 1970s International tractors.

Life before load boards

So, how did Schultz get loads for trucks before computers and before DAT launched the first electronic load board in 1978? At Schultz Transit they used what he calls a “dispatch board.”

Schultz’s dispatch board was a series of time-card slots mounted to the wall in the company’s dispatch office. At the top of each row was the name of the city where they would commonly deliver freight. If they had a load going to Chicago, they would take a card and put it in a slot under Chicago. If it was a van load, they’d use a yellow card. If it was a reefer they’d use a red card.

“If I received a call from someone who needed to move a load out of New York, I could look up at the board and say yes, I have two reefer trailers that will be there tomorrow,” he said. “That was quicker than having to rifle through a pile of dispatch sheets.”

This photo from the 1970s shows Schultz Transit dispatchers and their “dispatch board” in the background.

The birth of Dial-A-Truck

Schultz remembers when he first heard of the Dial-A-Truck electronic load board at the Jubitz Truck Stop in Portland, Oregon.

He had a customer who had regular shipments to Seattle, Spokane and Portland. On the Portland run, the driver would stop at Jubitz to refuel–and to check the Dial-A-Truck monitor.

“The driver would call us and say there’s a load going from here to Minneapolis. Do you want it? We’d call the number and if we could make a deal we’d take the load. It was pretty slick,” he said.

Gene Schultz, Director of Business Development, Ashley Distribution Services

Soon, there were Dial-A-Truck monitors in truck stops throughout the country. “If we were delivering to Chicago or Ohio or Nebraska I’d tell the driver to go into a truck stop with a DAT monitor and see what they had coming back to Minnesota,” he said.

By the 1990s, the DAT load board could be accessed from desktop monitors in an office.

“From a technology standpoint, DAT has done so much to help the trucking industry, no matter how big or small you are,” he said. “If you’re a small company, you can’t afford to have salesmen running around. With DAT you just log on and fill your trucks.”

Schultz appreciates how DAT has expanded his capabilities and made his job easier.

“DAT has advanced so much every year, I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next,” he said.


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