Dec. 10–Some folks take the phrase “Keep on Truckin’ ” literally.
Augusta’s business history has seen a lot of moving, transfer and storage companies. But one has lasted longer than the rest. H&S Transfer Co., on Gordon Park Road, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
H&S President and CEO Ken Heyman has been with the company for 44 years, in a profession he said wasn’t his first choice.
“I had gotten a degree from Georgia State (University) in urban economics,” he said. “I was thinking about working for a city planner or something like that.”
Explaining how Heyman got to H&S requires a brief history of the business.
H&S Transfer started in July 1942, incorporated by Bertie Harrison, her son Fred Harrison Jr., and Ray Swann.
Bertie Harrison was the widow of Fred Harrison Sr., who until his death in 1940 ran his own moving company, Reliable Transfer, and was a partner in Augusta’s T.R. Maxwell Furniture Co.
But the H and the S in H&S didn’t stay together very long. Fred Jr. enlisted in the Army, and when he returned from World War II in 1946 he became more involved in the family’s furniture business.
Also, “from what I understand Mr. Harrison and Mr. Swann didn’t get along,” Heyman said.
So by 1951 Swann had his own business — Swann Transfer and Storage — and the partners in H&S had been bought out by Augustan Nathan Moog, who ran the business for the next 25 years.
Heyman, fresh out of college in 1973, was married to Moog’s niece. And Moog — who lost his only son in the Vietnam War in 1966 — was looking for someone with family ties to bring into the business.
“He asked me if I wanted to come work,” Heyman recalled. “I wasn’t crazy about it, but here I am, 44 years later.”
Besides the company’s name, there is one remaining vestige of the original H&S ownership. When Swann started his own company, he was the registered agent for Mayflower Transit, the moving company long known for its iconic sailing-ship logo.
When Swann went out of business in 1974, Mayflower came calling to H&S. Moving and storage companies typically act as local agents for national companies.
“Before that we were hooked up for years with a company called Burnham Van Service. Mr. Moog and Mr. Burnham were good friends, and that’s why he represented Burnham for years,” Heyman said. “When Mayflower came to us at the time we were representing American Red Ball. Mr. Moog was reluctant. He said, ‘Why do you want to do it? I said, ‘Why don’t you want to do it? Mayflower is the No. 1 recognized name in the moving business.”
H&S still represents Mayflower today. While H&S also handles office moves, hotel/motel installations and even a tiny bit of record storage, the vast majority of its business is in household moving. And the households that do the most moving in the Augusta area, as it has been for decades, are military households.
“Primarily military, especially with the Cyber Center, there’s a lot of stuff coming in,” Heyman said. Much of the H&S 20,000-square-foot warehouse contains items attached to people attached to Fort Gordon, which will be home to the U.S. Army Cyber Command by 2020.
The military impact on H&S hasn’t changed over the years. But other parts of the business have changed.
In the early 1980s, the federal government deregulated the trucking industry, eliminating tariffs that had transfer companies charging essentially the same rates.
Also, “Household-goods moving has always been based on the weight, and it’s just a guessing game,” Heyman said. “Then all of a sudden, I guess in the early ’80s, we were allowed to make binding estimates. So we’d guess at the weight but we’d guarantee it wouldn’t weight any more, to protect the consumer.”
Another huge change will hit the trucking world Dec. 18. On that date, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will require electronic logging devices for all trucks model-year 2000 or newer engaged in interstate commerce.
Before, truckers recorded their mileage on paper. But citing safety and a need to make sure drivers are well-rested, the new ELDs on long-haul trucks restrict drivers to only 11 hours of travel a day — whether drivers want to or not.
“Actually once they reach a limit, there’s no fudging. It shuts that truck down,” Heyman said. “I’ve heard horror stories already with some of the guys who have those electronic logs.”
And those guys are part of a dwindling breed. Help-wanted sections are filled with ads seeking drivers. The shortage of qualified truck drivers is projected to hit an all-time high of 50,000 by the end of 2017, according to Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations.
“It’s not a fun job,” Heyman said. “Younger people don’t want to drive. They’re away from home weeks, sometimes a month at a time. It can be very lucrative. And in our business it’s not just driving. It’s loading and unloading furniture. They money’s there, but the younger people don’t want to be away from home.”
Heyman was one of those younger people when he started out. He’s now 66, having bought the company in 1979. Moog died in 1976.
Any signs of rolling to a stop?
“No,” Heyman said. “What else would I do? Business has been good to me.”
Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543
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