Truckers exceptionally busy delivering what's under your tree

While trucking companies are constantly busy, the holiday season brings a strong demand to deliver products as companies work to haul extra freight.

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Traffic began to flow through Wadena's main artery, Hwy 71, Tuesday, Aug. 25, as MnDOT reopened the intersection in the afternoon. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

It takes more than magic and eight tiny reindeer to make sure your Christmas list gets checked off this Christmas season.

The sleighs of trucks, trains, airplanes and vehicles are busy delivering all types of products through the winter months. Holiday products are not every carrier’s market but the trucking industry and post offices face staffing and service capacity challenges.

While trucking companies are constantly busy, the holiday season brings a strong demand to deliver products as companies work to haul extra freight.

“Due to the driver shortage, a lot of carriers have had to close their doors and the industry has to rely on the carriers that still exist out there to take on the extra freight,” said Lonna Polman, Polman Transfer safety and compliance director. “Everybody in the industry is having difficulty finding somebody who has that knack to want to live the lifestyle and be a truck driver.”

The holiday season’s busy levels usually lasts from November to the beginning of February for Tony’s Transfer, but the busyness remained in 2020 and 2021. With supply chain impacts nationwide and globally including ships waiting at ports, safety director James Weaver said they've been “swamped, busy.”


“This year is exceptionally different because of the number of shipping delays and stuff out of California, so it’s kind of changed where we’re at as far as load availability,” said Tony Rousslang, Tony’s Transfer operations manager. At the beginning of December, a new load leaving Wadena would be booked out a week. “There is a higher demand for equipment out there.”

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Tony's Transfer delivers regionally with routes to and from Wadena. Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

The “limited staff” keep the continuous freight loads moving, since loads don’t stop, as Lonna and owner/general manager Pat Hunke noted. As an auto parts transporter, Hunkes Transfer hits the busy rush with the cold weather. Hunke said there’s a “huge uptick in the automotive industry” as people need items such as battery starters.

“Our season would be more cold and hot. If we get a cold spell, things get real busy,” Hunke said. “I’m sure our trucks are acting like Santa’s sleigh in some instances but it’s not like a Walmart truck.”

With regional routes, Tony’s Transfer can take on loads that other companies might typically manage but are now hauling round trip trailers across the country for Fedex, UPS and the United States Postal Service or transferring products from St. Cloud to Seattle. Polman delivers nationwide and in Wadena, Perham and Park Rapids.

As a truck driver, it’s “long days, long hours” and more of a “lifestyle” that drivers need to be willing to have rather than just a position, as Polman Transfer president Nick Polman and Lonna Polman said. Local trucking companies said their drivers have been driving for 10, 30, 45 years. While all have short-term drivers too, Hunkes’ drivers average 10 years, Polman’s drivers average 22 years of experience and Tony’s drivers have worked with the company for around 20 years.

“Polman has a core group of drivers, that every Christmas season, they step up to the plate to work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day to ensure delivery timeframes are met – we take pride in our 99% on time delivery percentage and work all year to ensure we stay at that level,” Lonna said in an email.


The long-committed truck drivers will soon reach retirement and a younger workforce will need to receive training and transport the world’s products—but it’s not something local companies have seen happen. The average age of drivers at Polman’s is 57 years old, similar to the national average.

“Part of the problem is, I feel, it’s harder for the younger people to get into trucking and the people that are like back in my generation are all retiring. The ones that were locked into it for basically for a lifetime career and they’re retiring, they’re getting out of it. And the younger people don’t want to do it,” Weaver said. “The regulations it makes it hard because you got to go to a training to school now to do it but the insurance company won’t let you hire somebody that’s straight out of school because they don’t have any experience.”

Training programs are often offered at larger trucking companies or outside schools. With a new requirement beginning in February 2022, Hunkes Transfer will have their own training classroom while also partnering with M State.

“You have a lot of short time with your family … just to make sure the world keeps turning,” Nick said. He said it takes “special” people for the industry to work. “It’s hard on drivers, especially during the holiday season, everybody wants their toys and their gifts underneath their tree and the drivers are the ones that are bringing them,” Lonna added.

Hunke said they have enough drivers but “it’s a battle,” much like every industry’s difficulty in finding employees. The government subsidies and people choosing to stay home “hurt us somewhat,” though he added truck drivers’ pay is higher than unemployment insurance benefits.

While Weaver knows change must come, he doesn’t know when that will happen and if industries will ever truly have workers fully return.

“We have actually sold trucks because we can’t find drivers. Because you just can’t sit and make $3,000 a month payments on trucks and just have them sitting over. You just can’t do that. We’ve downsized because of it,” Weaver said.

Truck companies also take on Santa Claus’ giving spirit with charity deliveries like Toys for Tots and quilts for Lutheran World Relief . Polman collects quilts from area churches and hauls them to the Twin Cities for free in June and December each year.


“Remember, everything under your Christmas tree a truck brought,” Nick said.

The shipping and delivering season is at its peak from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day at post offices with 850-950 million and over 12 billion cards, letters and packages expected nationally. While there are lots of delivery options, USPS delivers more packages and cards to homes than any other shipper, according to a news release. Wadena postmaster Cindy Havnes said the busiest mailing week of the year is Dec. 13-18, and it’s one they prepare for all year long.

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The busiest mailing week of the year is Dec. 13-18, 2021. Pioneer Journal file photo

“It is the busiest time of the year. We always say that it’s our time, the holiday season,” Havnes said. “It’s crazy coming into the post office and we have so many packages and so much equipment with the packages.”

As the North Pole elves joyously produce mounds of toys for the world, the post office is fun and exciting—and a lot of work, as Havnes said. The staff keeps up with lots of communication, including safety talks daily, to help deliver the mail efficiently, safely and quickly as a team. She said it’s “amazing” to see the staff work together during this busy season.

With the large amount of mail, you can expect your mail to be delivered later in the day, according to Havnes. Packages are aimed for the morning and again with the mail in the afternoon. The pandemic has also increased online ordering, which aided a 30% volume increase in packages in spring 2020.

“Sometimes with that online ordering when people realize how easy it is and how much more convenient it is for them, they continue doing it and then you add … our peak season on top of all of that, it’s a lot. And it’s a challenge but we’re up for it,” Havnes said. “Sometimes you think oh my goodness, how are we going to get this done? And you do it, you just do it.”


If you’re looking to mail packages through the post office and receive them by Christmas, make sure to follow these deadlines:

  • Ground mail by Dec. 15

  • Military priority mail express by Dec. 16

  • Priority by Dec. 18

  • Domestic priority mail express remains next day

“It’s always good to place a card inside the package with the delivery and return address just in case something should happen if a label would fall off the package or it would become damaged, and then we can still get it to where it needs to go,” Havnes said.
The Wadena Post Office has rural carrier associate positions open as well as a postal support employee position for the Hewitt office. You can apply for the positions at .

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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