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FreightWaves Classics: Oak Harbor Freight Lines has delivered for over 100 years

Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Inc. is a privately owned and operated company headquartered in Auburn, Washington. Auburn is about 25 miles southeast of Seattle.

The company’s founding

Oak Harbor Transfer was the predecessor of Oak Harbor Freight Lines. It was founded in 1916 by Ben Koetje in Oak Harbor, which is about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. At that time Oak Harbor Transfer was a local cartage carrier servicing Whidbey Island. 

This 1938 photo 1938 shows Henry Vander Pol fueling up for a run to Seattle. 
(Photo: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)
This 1938 photo 1938 shows Henry Vander Pol fueling up for a run to Seattle.
(Photo: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)

Twenty years after its founding (in 1936) John and Gus Vander Pol purchased the small island carrier for $600 cash and assumed its debt. The Vander Pol’s younger brother Henry joined the company in 1937. The Vander Pol brothers purchased Oak Harbor Freight Lines, another small carrier in 1942. They merged the two companies’ operations and kept the Oak Harbor Freight Lines name.

Over a period of more than 30 years the brothers developed Oak Harbor Freight Lines into a small less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier serving a number of counties in western Washington. Henry Vander Pol purchased the company in 1974, and his sons Edward and David joined the company.

Deregulation generated growth

The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Carter on July 1, 1980. The act deregulated the trucking industry; for Oak Harbor the new law meant it began an expansion program that continues today. 

Oak Harbor Freight Lines developed into a highly respected regional LTL carrier serving Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. 

One of the company’s trucks was a 1939 Ford cab-over-engine model. (Photo: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)

The company today

Oak Harbor has 37 terminals, more than 1,700 employees, over 850 tractors and 2,400 trailers, and its annual revenues are more than $225 million. Today, the company is a leading premium service carrier in the western United States, providing high-quality services at competitive prices. Oak Harbor Freight Lines serves more points in the Northwest with direct service than any other single carrier.

The company is still family-owned and -operated by the second and third generations (Edward Vander Pol and his sons Mark and Dan, and David Vander Pol and his sons Henry and Eric). 

LTL service

The company’s LTL service extends beyond its direct territory, offering nationwide services to the rest of the United States and Canada. Through strategic partnerships with a network of carriers, Oak Harbor allows many of its customers to single source their transportation needs with the company. 

A hybrid truck helps the company meet environmental goals. (Photo: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)
A hybrid truck helps the company meet environmental goals. (Photo: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)

Truckload services

Oak Harbor Freight Lines offers custom truckload service solutions designed to provide flexibility. Customers get the capacity when and where it is needed. Whether it is short-haul or long-haul, in 48-foot or and 53-foot vans, full truckload, LTL, curtain side, flatbed trailers, refrigerated loads, intermodal or expedited, Oak Harbor can fill the bill.

Warehousing

Oak Harbor’s warehousing service, which is based in Las Vegas, offers storage, a fulfillment center and/or a distribution warehouse. The company has 17,000-square feet of flexible and secure space. In addition, its LTL freight service can provide a combination of warehousing and next-day or second-day LTL coverage in the West.

The company can receive customers’ truckload, container load or LTL and ship orders based on customer specifications. 

Cross-dock services in Las Vegas allow customers a cost-effective and time-efficient way to break West Coast freight from the ports and the East Coast in Las Vegas. It is often less expensive and faster than in the Los Angeles metro area.

Marketing the company's national service offerings. (Image: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)
Marketing the company’s national service offerings. (Image: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)

National service

As noted above, Oak Harbor has partnerships with other carriers in order to offer nationwide service. Using direct loading and expedited sleeper team service, Oak Harbor can offer transit times that are one to three days faster than transcontinental carriers. It has formed dedicated sleeper team lanes that run from key cities in its service territory to key “gateway” cities in its partners’ territories. This generates “maximum efficiency, minimum transit times and freight handling.” Pickups made in the West on a Friday can be delivered in the East as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Over its lifespan, Oak Harbor has won numerous awards for safety and service. During its 100th anniversary year of operation (2016), Oak Harbor Freight Lines was presented with the American Truck Historical Society’s 100-Year Company award.

A logo created to mark the company's 100th anniversary. (Image: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)
A logo created to mark the company’s 100th anniversary. (Image: Oak Harbor Freight Lines)

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Oak Harbor Freight Lines (No. 106).

One Comment

  1. ‘ Pickups made in the West on a Friday can be delivered in the East as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.” If they can really do this at a competitive price, why are there revenues a measly 225 million dollars a year? Not much revenue for a 105 year old company.

Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.