Driving Iowa’s Economy: Truckers on MaxYield’s All-Star Team Lead by Example
By Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
WEST BEND-If there’s any industry that Americans take for granted, it’s transportation. Consider what would happen if every truck were pulled off the road. Food would stop arriving at the local grocery store, fuel wouldn’t be delivered to the local convenience store and the challenges wouldn’t stop there.
“Nearly everything we use in our daily lives is delivered by trucks,” said Chad Besch, MaxYield Cooperative’s energy team leader who works closely with truck drivers throughout the company. “Transportation is critical, and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to support this essential industry.”
No one understands this better than the truckers on MaxYield’s All-Star team who deliver grain, fuel and other products. These leaders also know there are no traffic jams on the extra mile. Just ask Jim Klepper, who delivers professionalism and good humor along with grain, fertilizer, liquid propane (LP), rock and more through the company.
“I’m a commodity relocation specialist-a CRS,” said Klepper, who has been with the co-op for 22 years. “It’s fun-that’s the best part of it.”
Klepper, a trustworthy self-starter known for his upbeat personality, was named MaxYield’s 2015 Solutions Provider of the Year. Team members are nominated for this award by their peers within the cooperative. “I enjoy my work,” Klepper said. “I just try to be positive and help out where I can.”
This spirit of cooperation is widespread throughout MaxYield, where Klepper values the support of his fellow truck drivers, along with the mechanics who keep everything running. “It’s all about teamwork here,” Klepper said. “These are good, hard-working people I can count on. They know the little things aren’t little at all when it comes to serving MaxYield’s clients.”
Good communication is the key to success
Klepper credits his parents for teaching him life skills that have served him well. “My dad was a hard worker, and my mom tried to get along with everyone,” said Klepper, who was also selected for MaxYield’s 2013 and 2014 All-Star Teams, which honor outstanding leaders in the cooperative. “They set a good example.”
A former over-the-road truck driver, Klepper appreciates the flexibility of his job at MaxYield. “I like how every day is different, depending on the season. I also like the freedom I have to get the job done. Since I can set my schedule and figure out my own route, it’s like being my own boss.”
Klepper covers MaxYield’s west area for grain and fertilizer. He also travels throughout MaxYield’s trade territory as he hauls LP. Working in rural Iowa suits this 1983 graduate of West Bend-Mallard High School just fine. “If I pull up to a corner in town and have to wait for three cars, it seems like a long time,” said Klepper, who also likes working directly with farmers when he picks up grain from their farms in the fall.
Klepper looks forward to serving new clients since MaxYield has acquired seven grain and agronomy locations in northwest Iowa. “Good communication is a key to success,” he said. “It’s all about teamwork here.”
Whether he’s working regular hours or putting in long days, Klepper remains positive and friendly, said Keith Heim, MaxYield’s CEO. “His humble, unassuming personality reflects who he is. It’s great to have Jim on the team, because he makes all of us at MaxYield better every day.”
Steve Leman delivers energy solutions
Fuel transport drivers like Steve Leman also make MaxYield better every day. The first rule of fuel hauling? There is no plan, since everything can change so fast.
“I’m always working about three days ahead in my head of where we need to be,” said Leman, a three-time MaxYield All-Star Team member who has been a fuel transport driver at the cooperative for seven years. “You have to learn to adapt, since things can change 180 degrees.”
That’s just how it goes in the fuel business, depending on fuel demand, supplies at the terminal and the number of trucks available to haul. It has been a big plus that MaxYield’s recently acquired locations are located near the Milford fuel terminal, said Leman, who hauls gasoline and diesel fuel in MaxYield’s central and west regions.
“This has worked out really well. MaxYield’s new locations and team members allow us to do longer runs and fill in the gaps with shorter runs.”
Leman delivers fuel to MaxYield locations and direct ships to clients who purchase full transport loads, which total 7,300 gallons for diesel and 8,300 gallons for gasoline. “We ramp up a few weeks before harvest to make sure we have enough fuel on hand,” said Leman, a 1997 graduate of West Bend-Mallard High School. “We also encourage our clients to fill up in the summer or early fall so they have less risk of running out of fuel at harvest.”
Adequate supplies at the terminals are essential to provide the energy solutions MaxYield clients need. That’s why Leman often prefers to start his day around 4:30 a.m. “You can beat the lines at the terminal. If they are running low, you can also pick up a few extra loads and save a lot of hassle later.”
No matter what jobs he has lined up for the day, Leman always makes MaxYield clients a priority. “MaxYield gives me flexibility to get the job done in the most efficient way I can,” he said.
Leman excels at seeing what needs to be done and taking leadership of his area, Heim said. “If he knows there’s going to be a price increase at the terminal, he’ll take the initiative to pull an extra load. He’s a positive self-starter who doesn’t shy away from hard work. Steve just takes care of it.”
Seeing the big picture
For Leman, truck driving is a family affair. Leman’s father, Dale, who worked at the co-op’s tire station for a number of years, was also an over-the-road truck driver. “I always wanted to be a trucker, too,” said Leman, who worked in the swine industry for several years after college before changing his career path.
After completing the truck driving course at Iowa Central in Fort Dodge, Leman worked as an over-the-road trucker for six years with Decker Truck Line. “While I loved waking up in new places and seeing a lot of the country, you miss out on a lot of family stuff when you’re on the road,” said, Leman, who has five children.
In 2010 he couldn’t pass up the chance to join MaxYield, where he can be home every night, have access to modern equipment and benefit from a strong team. “Everyone here is willing to help me out when I need it, and it’s a fun environment to work in.”
Leman’s leadership on the team and his ability to understand the big picture are big assets, Besch said. “Since Steve knows how the energy markets and pricing work, he sees when it’s advantageous for us to haul a lot of fuel and when it’s not. He’s always asking what more he can do. These are the things that make him an All-Star and sets the standard for how MaxYield provides the solutions our clients need.”
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