Peninsula Truck Lines invests in Tri-City growth

Peninsula Truck Lines is based in western Washington, but the Northwest carrier is making inroads in the Tri-Cities.

In 2021, Peninsula marked its 70th anniversary as a company. It expanded its Kennewick terminal on East Bruneau Street when it paid nearly $500,000 for a one-acre site next door. It demolished several residential structures and installed a shop to support its own operations.

In 2022, it celebrated again when it was ranked the top carrier in its class in a prestigious survey of 1,700 shippers by Mastio and Co. and reported in the American Journal of Transportation. It has won the award two out of three years, a point of pride for the company, according to Craig Testerman, Kennewick terminal manager.

Federal Way-based Peninsula employs about 700, with 24 in Kennewick. That’s up from 17 four years ago, Testerman said.

Peninsula is classified as a LTL, or “Less Than Load” carrier, which means it consolidates shipments from various customers into a single load and specializes in next day delivery. It hauls bags of cement mix, construction materials, agricultural products, wine, consumer products and anything else that travels by road.

It also operates a last-mile delivery service for oversized consumer products that flood the delivery market when they go on sale online – televisions, treadmills, patio furniture and so forth.

Testerman calls it the “Amazon effect,” and it is a growing part of the Peninsula business, representing about 15% of its total volume.

Testerman is a Yakima Valley native who drove for 18 years. He first came to the Tri-Cities to attend Columbia Basin College on a baseball scholarship, working his way through school on loading docks and stayed in the business.

He returned to lead the Kennewick terminal about four years ago. As a manager, he no longer drives – one of the rules of being a union shop. Teamsters Local Union No. 839 represents its drivers.

His background gives him a leg up on one of the thorniest challenges facing the industry, finding drivers. Testerman said it helps to be able to walk the walk and offer a family-friendly atmosphere. While it advertises on Indeed, he said the best recruits come from drivers and from the union.

“It’s a struggle,” he said. “Freight is a hard job.”

He said Peninsula competes against national and global freight carriers by retaining a laser-like focus on its niche: Overnight deliveries across the Northwest.

Drivers leave Kennewick at about
8 p.m. to haul loads to Seattle, Portland, Spokane and elsewhere. They bring products headed to the Tri-Cities on the return trip.

If a product is sold in the region, Peninsula and its drivers have hauled it. While Testerman said he couldn’t identify clients by name, construction materials and hardware are an important business. So is agriculture and viticulture.

“We have a lot of wine and agriculture too,” he said.

The last-mile delivery service offers a unique insight into what people are buying and when. If something goes on sale on Amazon or at Costco or some other retailer, the numbers tick up.

At New Year’s, when treadmills are marketed to people resolving to get fit, its trucks are full of them. At Christmas, it is TV sets.

“It’s never a dull day in freight,” he said.

Testerman said supply chain issues are real and have changed the way customers ship, including leading to smaller orders. That said, the space in its trailers is at a premium, he said, crediting a booming construction industry for filling its trucks.

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