September 29, 2015
It all started with one man and a milk route
Now there are two companies and four owners with the same last name.
They occupy the same building, and the four owners have the same last name, but they are two, separate companies. The two companies are Jerry Ottery Milk Trucking Inc. and Ottery Carriers Incs, both located at W736 County Trunk B in the community of Armstrong. Both companies were founded by Jerry Ottery, the father of the current owners.
“I was employed as a driver by Gordon Poch, when I heard he wanted to sell a milk route, ” said Jerry.
Jerry leased the route and a 5,000-gallon tank truck in 1969, and he started out in his own business. He purchased the route and truck a year later.
On that first milk-hauling route, he picked up milk from local farmers and delivered it to Kewaskum. His business grew after that.
Francis Baker, from Baker Cheese, another family-owned local company, asked Jerry to haul his milk. He bought Baker’s routes. “As their business grew, so did ours”, Jerry said.
Tri-State Co-op of West Salem, Wis., came to Jerry in 1983. “They wanted to start a high-protein route and wanted to know if I would haul for them, ” Jerry said. By that time, his sons Pat and Herb were working for their dad.
A big change occurred in 1988 in the business. Agmark, a company from Nashville, Tenn., asked Jerry to haul for them, but Agmark’s business was out of state and a bit different. “It was really two different businesses,” said Herb, who explained the reason for the start of the second company, Ottery Carriers, Inc.
Agmark’s business involved hauling the company’s inter-model tank carriers from rail yards with tractors and hauling orange juice from Florida in tankers that were tractor-trailers.
There was also an issue of interstate licensing and insurance for the trucks. In 1990, Pat and Herb bought three trucks and the Agmark business from their dad and incorporated Ottery Carriers. Their brother, Dick, who had been working for their dad since 1988, bought his own truck and leased it to his brothers in 1992.
Today, Pat and Herb own 21 semitrailers, including three that are in Florida on a permanent basis. The tractors cost more than $80,000 each, and the tank trailers run around $50,000, Herb said. The tanker trailers hold 6,800 gallons. They carry orange juice, apple juice, milk, whey, vinegar, a soybean oil – all food-grade items.
These tanker trailers, and all the milk trucks, of course, are state-inspected and approved. The inside of the tanker trailers must be carefully cleaned in between trips so one food item does not contaminate the next load.
When Herb and Pat incorporated Ottery Carriers, 100 percent of their business was for Agmark. Today, they are contract carriers for a number of companies, and Agmark, while it has given them more business each year, is only about 20 to 25 percent of all their jobs. The company has 21 full-time drivers and four people who work in the office.
Meanwhile, things were happening with Ottery Milk Trucking, too. In 1996, Swiss Valley Farms merged with Tri-State, so the company picked up even more routes. It started in haul in 1997 for Dean’s Foods, which has its headquarters in Franklin Park, Ill. Now the company was taking milk to Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky besides Wisconsin. Dick sold this tractor-trailer to his brothers and joined his dad’s milk-hauling company to lend him a hand.
A fourth brother joined the story as well. Steve had bought his own truck and was working for himself hauling milk. In 1999, Steve sold his two trucks and his Verifine Dairy routes to his father and went to work for him.
On April 1, 2000, Steve and Dick bought Jerry Ottery Milk Trucking from their dad, but Jerry and his wife, Louise, stayed on as full-time employees of Steve and Dick. Their daughter, Colleen Ruplinger, also works there, but for Pat and Herb.
There are seven family members who work at the building in Armstrong. Jerry and Louise have two other children, however, who are not in either of two businesses.
The Jerry Ottery Company picks up milk from 163 dairy farms. It owns 18 tanker trucks. They carry more thank 1 million pounds of milk a day. Since milk weighs 8.6 pounds a gallon, that’s the equivalent of 116,279 gallons of milk a day. A milk truck has a 6,200-gallon tank and costs about the same as one of the tractor-trailer tankers, according to Jerry. Almost all the tanker trucks owned by both companies were built by Brenner Tank of Fond du Lac, he said.
The milk trucking company has 18 full-time drivers, three office workers, and two mechanics. The mechanics will do work for Ottery Carriers and then bill the company. It seems improbable that two companies with different owners could share the same facilities. Everyone being in the same family probably helps.
Then building and eight acres of land are owned by Jerry. The two companies lease space from him on a proportional basis. Louise works in the office and Jerry hauls milk and does the payroll.
“Dad’s got it made now,” Herb said.
Herb said his dad doesn’t have to worry about all the problems anymore. He just tells someone else about them and does his route. Jerry protested and said it was a bit more complicated than that. Whoever is right, it seems like all the trucking Otterys in Armstrong are one, big, happy family.
Jerry wanted to make sure that one other aspect was crystal clear. These two companies have nothing to do with Tom Ottery Transit Inc. That milk-hauling truck company was founded by his brother.
Credits: The Reporter, January 29, 2001