Staying in Albert Lea

Published 9:45 am Monday, February 1, 2010

Austin’s Dennis Hanson is a 3-million-mile man who has brought his passion for the road to Albert Lea with Hanson Truck Lines.

“We’re in Albert Lea to stay,” Hanson said about his truckload company, now entering its second year at the Albert Lea Business Development Center.

Hanson started the company in January 2006, after spending 23 years as a truck driver and a few more in safety and management.

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“I decided that I pretty much knew both sides,” Hanson said. “As a driver, I always wanted to be treated better. When I started this, I just wanted to put some honest, hard-working men to work.”

Hanson Truck Lines began in Austin in his house.

“I started in my dining room with four trucks and four trailers,” Hanson said. “After 2 1/2 years the business had taken over the whole house so I knew I had to go someplace new.”

After looking at both Austin and Owatonna, Hanson decided his company was best fit for Albert Lea.

“We wanted to be somewhere where there was excitement and growth,” he said. “There is a lot of industry here and an overabundance of freight when things are good.”

Hanson found that place at the ALBDC where he has adequate office space with a window looking into a 4,500-square-foot warehouse.

But he wouldn’t be disappointed if he had to leave.

“This suits us so fine that we’ll stay as long as they’ll keep us,” Hanson said. “Maybe 10 years down the road we’ll outgrow our space here, and we’ll have to move someplace else, but it will be in Albert Lea I’m sure.”

Currently, Hanson Truck Lines owns two trucks; one local and one over-the-road, which Hanson drives himself. They also employee 13 owner-operators, but only own the trailers they use.

“We book all the all the loads outbound and inbound,” Hanson said. “The operators are basically subcontracted and haul all of our freight for us.”

Like many other small businesses owners, Hanson felt the recession squeeze life out of his growth plans but now believes things are back on track.

“The economy has returned enough that we’ve turned the corner,” he said. “Our growth plans had to be put on hold for the entire 2009, but they will be carried out in 2010 because we’re that optimistic that things are going to continue to get better.”

Hanson’s plans include purchasing more equipment and growing to 15 trucks and 17 drivers.

Hanson prides himself on hiring quality drivers and working with local businesses.

“Some of the contractors we have I’ve known for as long as 30 years,” he said. “We like to think that we have the 13 best professionals in the business.”

Hanson Truck Lines carries for local businesses such as Albert Lea Seed House, Ventura Foods and Bauer Built Tire. They also carry to Boston for a company in Hastings and spend time in the South.

“We’re small enough for personalized service, but big enough to get the job done,” Hanson said. “We cater to the smaller places that do 15-20 loads a week.”

“People know us through word of mouth and our trucks running up and down the road,” he added. “I’ve talked to people in Texas that have said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve seen your trucks.’”

Despite his success and perseverance through the recession, Hanson is still modest about his future.

“I’m not out to be the biggest carrier in Minnesota,” he said. “I just want to be able to keep 15-25 people happy doing what they’re doing.”