In 1972, need necessitated a change in the life of Anthony Luurtsema. His employer of twelve years, a produce trucking firm in Hudsonville, Michigan, was disbanded, leaving Luurtsema unemployed. With the tenacity of an entrepreneur, Anthony mortgaged his home and purchased enough equipment from his former employer to begin his own business – A. Luurtsema Produce, Inc.
Anthony hired his son Ross and another driver, Andrew Feenstra, to truck produce from Hudsonville to the Chicago Market. Family participation grew when Anthony’s and Ross’s wives began handling the books and answering phones at their make-shift office in a Hudsonville garage bay.
As a young company, A. Luurtsema Produce began modestly with several semis, one refrigerated trailer, and a van trailer that was cooled by 300-pound blocks of ice. Overnight runs to Chicago were complicated by having to unload the semis onto straight trucks at local lots because the logistics in the South Water Market (built in 1925) made direct delivery impossible. By taking its own straight trucks to Chicago and avoiding the fees, A. Luurtsema Produce made the first of many innovative moves to save the company, and its customers, time as well as money.
Deregulation increased the company’s opportunity for expansion and, in 1980, A. Luurtsema Produce was granted authority to become a common and contract carrier and, eventually, an interstate carrier for selected commodities. It was a momentous way to start a new decade of growth. The company was able to effectively coordinate outbound runs with return hauls, minimizing deadhead miles and its associated costs.
ALTL continued to excel with speed of delivery and reliable performance in both the produce and food service markets. As consolidation of shipments became increasingly important, the next logical step for ALTL was to offer warehousing and distribution services to customers. In 1986, ALTL completed its new corporate headquarters and, by the end of the decade, was operating warehouses in West Michigan with services including transportation, traffic management, distribution, and freight consolidation.
As A. Luurtsema Produce grew via savvy problem-solving skills and dedicated customer service, a name change became necessary. Not only was the company hauling produce, it was also delivering canned and frozen goods for the food service industry. In 1982 the company formally changed its name to A. Luurtsema Truck Lines, Inc., known today as ALTL, Inc.
In 1991, Anthony retired, and Ross took over, buying the company from his Dad. The company continued to grow strong and steady by staying in step with the customers’ needs. ALTL was now a full-service carrier for office furniture, high-value products, retail, general merchandise, and foodservice customers. From the very beginning, Anthony and Ross were determined to put family and employees first, firmly believing that when those who operate the company are satisfied, the customers will be, too. This was a value that Ross would continue to support and apply during his ownership.
The next decade also brought in a new generation of Luurtsema family into the business. Ross’s three sons, Ryan, Nate and Lance began their career at ALTL ranging in various tasks from washing trucks, getting a CDL license, driving a forklift at the warehouse, dispatching drivers and customer service. They continue to be an integrated part of the business today.
In 1997, ALTL, Inc built their 100,000 sq foot warehouse that is located in Holland. This beautiful facility was initially used as a cross-dock for the local and OTR fleets. It was equipped with large, classroom space that was used for in-house training and became a great terminal location for parking trailers and storing loading equipment. As the need arose, the facility quickly began to transition into a multi-client, full-service logistics center.
The turn of the century brought along some new challenges for ALTL. New DOT regulations regarding hours of service, electronic logs, and new emissions standards were the future trials for all trucking companies. Fuel cost uncertainties were also an ongoing concern and factor. All these things combined with the recession created a different environment for the trucking industry. Ross was committed to staying ahead of the changes and believed in the importance of the environment, DOT compliance and the integrity of doing the right thing.
In 2007, ALTL became one of the first SmartWay Partners in an effort to reduce emissions and air pollutants. In 2012, E-logs were enforced and installed in all the tractors. ALTL embraced GPS technology and the amount of paper and calls into dispatch greatly reduced creating more efficiency within the company. In 2013, the company believed in using its resources to support the event, Sea to Sea-Cycling To End Poverty. Plans were initiated to create and haul a kitchen trailer that would follow and feed over 150 road bikers and volunteers that traveled from the West Coast of the USA to the East Coast.
The company’s strong foundation and values has led to natural loyalty on the part of employees and customers alike. ALTL’s impressive list of accounts and the accompanying longevity of those relationships tell the story of a company that, through hard work and genuine innovation, has paved the way to many years of success.