Midwest Carriers chooses Volvo Trucks to protect their drivers and their business
A charming town, Kaukauna, lies nestled on the Fox River, a little more than 20 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Much like the river that threads its way through Kaukauna, its local businesses are ever in motion, carving new routes toward progress and innovation. Among these businesses is Midwest Carriers, a family-owned Wisconsin trucking company that started in 1986.
Every day, Midwest Carriers transports a diverse range of products, from cheese, pizza, and coffee to life-saving medicine. The timely delivery of temperature-sensitive goods is critical to their success. Much like the adaptable Fox River, Midwest Carriers has created a vibrant ecosystem where it continues to adapt and thrive.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO LEADING LOGISTICS
The journey that began as a modest family operation in Kaukauna has now grown into a leading, safety-oriented, driver-focused freight and refrigeration logistics business. Midwest Carriers, started by Dave and Marge Van Handel in 1986, was a classic grassroots operation – a single truck, a lone driver, with the family chipping in to help with paperwork and all fueled by a diligent, hands-on attitude.
Today, his parents’ legacy endures under the guidance of Eric Van Handel, president of Midwest Carriers. The company has expanded to include a dedicated workforce of over 225 employees, operating a fleet of 180 trucks and over 500 trailers. Under Van Handel’s leadership, the “roll-up-your-sleeves” attitude that typifies the company spirit remains vibrant.
“When we talk about that roll up your sleeve mentality, that’s still at our core. But we’ve seen technology really take hold of Midwest Carriers,” says Eric Van Handel, president of Midwest Carriers.
"When we talk about that roll up your sleeve mentality, that’s still at our core. But we’ve seen technology really take hold of Midwest Carriers."
ERIC VAN HANDEL – PRESIDENT, MIDWEST CARRIERS
A key element in Midwest Carriers’ success and growth is its strategic partnerships, particularly its collaboration with Kriete Truck Centers. “We believe in working smarter. From our partners to our vendors, they help us move forward and be more efficient to continue to drive the company forward,” Van Handel says.
In a business as dynamic and challenging as trucking, moving the business forward means prioritizing not just technology but safety. For Midwest Carriers, safety demands a holistic approach, where every business aspect plays a part, from the drivers and the trucks to human resources and logistics. To help actualize this vision of safety and efficiency, Van Handel turns to a trusted brand: Volvo Trucks.
“We want to take care of our people, our drivers, and the motoring public.” For this reason, Midwest Carriers rely on Volvo Trucks to provide solutions to ensure their drivers can be efficient and maintain paramount safety standards for everyone on the road.
Over the last few years, this shared dedication to safety has been a driving factor in Midwest Carriers’ decision-making process when purchasing trucks from their local Kriete Truck Centers dealership. “When we look to our vendors, it’s what can you do to make us safer? With Volvo, that’s been their calling card. In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve made that a priority when purchasing trucks,” Van Handel affirmed. The adage holds true for him, “If you can’t do it safe, then then it’s really not worth being in this business.”
A DRIVER-FIRST COMPANY
By harnessing Volvo Trucks’ cutting-edge technology, Midwest Carriers mitigates road hazards, allowing their drivers to concentrate on their primary goal – hauling freight. Volvo’s products meet the needs of Midwest Carriers’ drivers, offering a smooth ride, precise, nimble handling and optimized seat design and positioning. Adding enhancements to their fleet, such as Volvo Dynamic Steering, drivers are safer and feel safer too. But as with any new technology, adoption is critical. To help drivers adapt to these new features, Van Handel makes it a point to participate in every new driver orientation. “The percentage of Volvo Trucks in our fleet has grown over the years. It’s what our drivers want. Ultimately, it’s very difficult to get drivers nowadays. And so, anything you can do, you’re doing it to bring in the best drivers. Volvo helped us to do that,” Van Handel explained.
Midwest introduced their fuel bonus program in 2007. The fuel-efficient VNL helps their drivers significantly increase their earnings through this “fifth paycheck” every month. Van Handel says the program positions the fleet as a high-performing carrier, “It’s a testament to our drivers. You need the tools ultimately to do that. And I don’t think there’s anything that makes it easier than Volvo.”
IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
“I never thought I would get into truck driving, but I got my CDL and started driving with Midwest Carriers, and I just fell in love with it.” Robin Grapa, a veteran truck driver with nine years of experience at Midwest Carriers, wears multiple hats within the company. Aside from her primary role in marketing, she is also a driver, with a focus on driver recruitment for Midwest Carriers. Despite having experience with various truck models, Grapa consistently prefers Volvo. “I fell in love with it right away,” she said.
One of the first issues Grapa noticed when she started as a truck driver was fatigue. Volvo’s driver area allows customizable positioning ensuring drivers have an endless array of choices for positioning the wheel exactly where they prefer for maximum comfort.
"The way the trucks are built helps combat fatigue. It's just a very comfortable ride and you can drive for a long time safely."
ROBIN GRAPA DRIVER, MIDWEST CARRIERS
Along with enhanced driver comforts, innovative features such as Volvo Dynamic Steering adds a safer, effortless driving experience. This new feature adds torque to reduce steering strain at low speeds and provides stability when encountering crosswinds, highway crowning, soft shoulders, or emergencies like tire failure. “It’s just so comfortable to drive. It feels like you’re driving on a cloud,” praised Grapa.
Midwest Carriers takes pride in being a driver-centered company and have expanded their fleet of Volvo Trucks, thanks to Kriete Truck Centers. Paul Hurley, Fleet Manager at Midwest Carriers, remarks, “That is one of the things we do a good job with, working with our salesmen there to get the newest technology that Volvo offers.” He added, “Now we’re able to spec a truck that not only is it a safer truck but also gets a better fuel mileage and that is a huge thing to not just us but to our drivers with their fuel bonuses.” Kriete’s support extends beyond the purchase of new trucks. They assist Midwest Carriers with the service and maintenance of their fleet, which is crucial for operations and timely deliveries. Through a Kriete Service Contract, Midwest Carriers can park trucks at Kriete Trucks dealerships while service and maintenance are managed for them. The service contracts eliminate unforeseen costs in an industry that is usually unpredictable.
Transportation is a dynamic business and Midwest Carriers is evolving and meeting new opportunities with partners like Kriete and Volvo Trucks by their side, ensuring their success as they expand in the future.
This time next year, Midwest Carriers will be moving to a brand-new headquarters on the interstate less than a mile from their current office. This new central hub will feature a modern driver’s lounge, increased space for the growing workforce and ample room for them to keep their momentum going. Having their partners by their side, the future holds new adventures for the team at Midwest Carriers, but they stay true to their cornerstone. Van Handel sums it up, “Of course, there are things like fuel mileage and reliability…all those things are very important. But if you can’t do it safely, then it’s not worth being in this business.”
- Based in: Kaukauna, Wisconsin
- Geography covered: Nationwide in U.S.
- Founder: Dave Van Handel
- Company started: 1986
- Number of employees: 225
- Number of trucks: 180
- Major loads: Temperature sensitive goods including food and medicine
Get the latest product information, Volvo Trucks news and updates delivered. Sign up below.