ARCHIVED  March 1, 1996

Transport hub spins economy on Front Range

Despite the energy crisis of the 1970s, the de-regulation of the 1980s and the still-booming air-freight and package-delivery industry, America still moves by truck.
And so does the northern Front Range, home to numerous over-the-road carriers.
There are old industry standards such as Yellow Freight, which has end-of-the-line terminals, or “spokes,” in both Greeley and Cheyenne, and a transfer “hub” in Denver.
And there are new industry upstarts such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which operates its own nationwide trucking fleet and operates a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Loveland, a quarter-mile east of Interstate 25.
The close convergence of four interstate highways makes the northern Front Range a convenient place to situate either a hub or spoke operation. And the ever-growing population and business presence means it’s a necessary place as well.
“I’m sure they picked this location for those reasons,´ said Dan Speed, general manager of Wal-Mart’s 5-year-old Loveland distribution center. Supplying 80 of Wal-Mart’s 3,200-plus discount retail stores, loaded tractor trailers leave the Loveland warehouse daily, bound for Wal-Marts in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Speed said the largely automated warehouse, with a vast network of conveyors moving merchandise from storage to the loading dock, pulls about 7,000 cases an hour.
“A case of diapers, a case of motor oil, a TV set in a box — anything you see in the store,” is what moves from the warehouse, to the Wal-Mart tractor-trailer, to point of sale,” he said. “There aren’t nearly the number of forklifts as in a traditional warehouse.”
Purchasing of Wal-Mart’s huge selection of retail sale items is done at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., from suppliers worldwide.
Besides the proximity of Interstates 25, 70, 76 and 80, Speed said, financial incentives arranged by the Loveland Economic Development Council Inc. also helped Sam Walton’s behemoth discount chain choose Loveland.
“Our part in that was that they were going to locate somewhere along I-25 between I-70 and I-80,´ said Executive Director Don Churchwell. “And we helped them with their (development) fee structure.
Also operating distribution centers along the I-25 corridor are McLane Western in Longmont, a distributor of retail merchandise for the region’s ubiquitous convenience stores, Empire Warehouse Inc. in Frederick, which supplies retail stores with candy from various manufacturers, and Kmart Corp., whose Colorado distribution warehouse is in Brighton.
For Yellow Freight, one the nation’s “Big Four” over-the-road trucking companies, Denver is the site of its transfer point, or “hub.” As an “LTL” carrier, which stands for “less than trailer load,” Yellow carries various orders from different customers together in the same tractor-trailer to points across the United States and Canada. As such, loads must be switched and changed at the company’s hubs, then shipped off to a “spoke.”
Unlike Yellow’s spoke operations in Cheyenne and Evans, the Denver terminal receives loads destined for either Denver or one of Denver’s numerous spoke destinations. Spokes to Yellow’s Denver’s hub are in Grand Junction, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Lafayette and Greeley. In Wyoming, spokes are in Rock Springs, Casper and Cheyenne.
“We service from Mead to Fort Collins and north all along the I-25 corridor,´ said Yellow’s Cheyenne terminal manager Bill Dalley. “But we do very little hauling from, say, Fort Collins to Greeley — that’s not our business.”
And, as a spoke of the Denver hub, Cheyenne or thereabouts is the destination of virtually every piece of freight that arrives in Dalley’s terminal.
“When freight comes to Cheyenne, it’s going to Cheyenne,” he said.
Dalley said the Greeley (Evans) terminal is about four times the size of the Cheyenne terminal. Having been with Yellow Freight since 1978, Dalley said he’s seen a lot of changes in the trucking industry.
“There have been a lot of changes since the de-regulation,” he said. “Every day is a new challenge — technology, expedient service, all these things are major players in the industry now. But the major companies are up to it.”
Earning gross revenues of more than $3 billion last year, Yellow Freight ranks as one of the nation’s largest freight haulers, together with other “Big Four” carriers Consolidated Freightways Inc., Roadway Express Inc. and ABF Freight Systems Inc.. Like Yellow, they all maintain hubs and spokes in Northern Colorado.
“They all have a presence here; we’re all vying for the same business,” Dalley said.
“We’re so large that we deal with just about everybody,” he added. “From the smallest companies to the biggest corporations, we consider all businesses here as customers.”

Despite the energy crisis of the 1970s, the de-regulation of the 1980s and the still-booming air-freight and package-delivery industry, America still moves by truck.
And so does the northern Front Range, home to numerous over-the-road carriers.
There are old industry standards such as Yellow Freight, which has end-of-the-line terminals, or “spokes,” in both Greeley and Cheyenne, and a transfer “hub” in Denver.
And there are new industry upstarts such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which operates its own nationwide trucking fleet and operates a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Loveland, a quarter-mile east of Interstate 25.
The close convergence of four…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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