1985 Mack truck still running as part of Minnesota farm family business – Agweek

WADENA, Minn. — It was 2010 when Randy Becker decided to take his trucking experience and add it to a fledgling farming operation.

When shopping for a truck, he found a 1985 Mack Superliner.

“It had been in a shed for close to 15 years when we bought it,” Randy Becker said.

The 1985 Mack Superliner sat in a shed for about 15 years before becoming the first truck in Becker Transport’s fleet in 2010.

Becker Transport

It was largely disassembled—no seats in the cab, no windshield glass, no lights—but he managed to drive it.

He bought it for just over $7,000, painted it from white to red, and then “experienced the joy of putting the puzzle together.”

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A 1985 Mack Superliner before it was painted red for Becker Transport.

Becker Transport

A decade later, Becker says the ’85 Mack is still racking up the miles as Becker Transport has grown into a regional trucking company hauling cargo such as farm machinery, construction equipment, gravel and grain across the upper Midwest from its home base up north – central Minnesota.

Becker Transport is now a full-time job for Randy’s wife, Jodi, who handles office duties such as scheduling, permits, insurance and payroll.

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Randy and Jody Becker operate Becker Transport and farm near Wadena, MN.

Jeff Beach / Agweek

That workforce has grown significantly as the company now has about a dozen employees, most of them full-time but with part-time and seasonal help.

The company has up to seven trucks, all but one purchased second-hand, has a bulldozer and excavator for earthworks and excavation, has a grader and works on city roads, and even has its own gravel pit.

But it’s still running an ’85 Mac.

“It’s more like I’m the only one driving it. It’s the oldest in the fleet,” Becker said. “I’m addicted to it.”

Becker Transport regularly hauls in the Dakotas and down into Iowa and as far east as Illinois, sometimes moving farm machinery for dealerships. Drivers are usually home every night, but the job isn’t done until the truck is washed.

The Beckers often use high school or college students to wash trucks so the drivers can go home. The Becker family’s daughter, Lauren, is 14, and is now tasked with washing trucks, and their son, Luke, 8, will help polish trucks.

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Randy Becker walks through a shop at his farm in Wadena, Minnesota, where two of his seven trucks are kept.

Jeff Beach / Agweek

Randy says part of the original motivation for buying the semi was to haul his own grain. In 2010, the Beckers moved from a farm in Wright County, west of the Twin Cities, to Wadena County. For a time they farmed in both places about 125 miles apart. And Randy was still making deliveries for other companies in the Twin Cities area.

But 2010 was also the year a tornado hit the town of Wadena. Among the damages is the fertilizer plant. Becker Transport was hired to transport manure between Wadena and another fertilizer plant at nearby New York Mills back as part of the cleanup.

“It was something to get you started,” said Randy Becker, hauling several loads a day.

When the fertilizer hauling gig ended in 2011, he got his first call from another farmer, Larry Rach of Verndale, who needed oats hauled.

“We still carry his grain to this day,” said Randy Becker, adding that he hasn’t changed his rates for Rach as a thank you for helping the business get off the ground.

“It takes time to build your customer base,” said Jodi Becker, who grew up in the Wadena area.

Rach, now 75, calls himself a small farmer and appreciates the fact that Becker Transport will continue to haul for an operation that some might consider too small to handle.

“He said, ‘I’ll always take your stuff to town, so don’t worry about it,'” Rach said of Randy. And Rach wouldn’t have it any other way.

“He keeps his trucks spotless and I’m almost proud to have him haul my stuff around town because it looks so good,” Rach said.

Randy comes from a farming family in Wright County that has been hauling milk for decades. But with the dairy industry in decline, he began driving a truck in the construction industry at the age of 18.

He says they modeled their business after one he worked for, run by Dale and Marlene Sherber. This family ran a dairy farm and hauled sand and gravel with seven trucks.

“When you worked for them, they treated you like extended family,” Randy said.

“You weren’t just a number,” Jody added.

“So I kind of gravitated to working for a family business,” Randy said.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s better to be smaller; you have more of a personal relationship with the guys who work with you and their families.

The Beckers are not dairy farmers, but have about 900 acres of farmland. And instead of starting the business on the edge of a booming metropolis, the Beckers started in a very rural area. Wadena County has about 14,000 people.

Randy Becker said they still have the mindset that they can’t turn down a job.

Randy says another motivation to build their own trucking business was based on the advice of a financial advisor who saw farm families struggle during the farm crisis of the 1980s.

“He said, ‘Diversification is the name of the game,'” Randy said, which also means not only hauling farm trucks, but grain hauling is actually a small part of their business now.

He says they have 11 different trailers, but one of the goals would be to add and update the trailer fleet to give them more towing options to keep hauling.

“The verse of getting up and doing it every day, that’s not hard at all. If you like what you do, it’s not work,” Randy said. “I never plan to retire unless I stop having fun, but that never happens.”

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