Guy standing in front of CHS semi

Same job, different roads

June 03, 2020 8:18 a.m.

The strength and collaboration of CHS was evident across the country as drivers from CHS Transportation filled a critical need in CHS Country Operations and CHS Agronomy during the busy spring season.

During COVID-19, energy demand has decreased as many people parked their cars with stay-at-home orders across most states. This meant CHS Transportation drivers were making fewer trips. But just as that demand dropped off, spring ramped up, which had farmers and cooperatives looking for crop protection and crop nutrient products. CHS Country Operations and CHS Agronomy deliver those products to farmers and cooperatives, and they are constantly looking for qualified drivers, especially during spring. 

What began as a conversation of “what if” became a fully formed plan as CHS Country Operations and CHS Agronomy reached out to CHS Transportation for collaboration. CHS Transportation drivers have been stepping in at CHS locations from North Dakota to Kansas to Montana to fill an unmet need to get agronomy products out to farmers’ fields.

“I’m happy to have CHS Transportation drivers stepping in to fill the gap as we are often short qualified CDL drivers,” says Jason Hovey, general manager, CHS AIP, a CHS Country Operations agronomy partnership in northeastern Colorado. “The transition has been easy as these drivers fit right in with our current operations, delivering product between locations and to our customers.” 

“Recruiting drivers is a constant challenge,” says Denny Austin, warehouse manager, for the CHS Agronomy location in Grinnell, Iowa, who had two CHS Transportation drivers help fill the gap in his area. “Using CHS Transportation drivers has allowed product to continue to move seamlessly. With those two drivers helping us, our regular over-the-road drivers could use their semis for local deliveries while these drivers hauled product between states for us.” 

Some of these drivers are filling a need locally so they are returning to their own homes at night. In Colorado, CHS Transportation drivers who typically haul crude oil out of Kansas are helping CHS AIP in two-week rotations. As keeping the drivers safe was a top priority, Hovey developed a plan to safely house and feed those drivers at a hotel in Fort Morgan.  

“This is a great opportunity to work together and this collaboration makes sense,” says Jeff Kahle, general manager for CHS Country Operations locations in western Kansas, who has been using local CHS Transportation drivers. “If I couldn’t use these drivers, I would have to hire outside the company. This has been a way to work across CHS businesses and I hope this collaboration will continue into the future.”  

CHS Transportation drivers from Oilmont, Mont., traveled to CHS (Herman) in Minnesota during spring work, staying locally in housing arranged by the business unit. Other drivers from Oilmont also helped CHS Big Sky in Montana and continue helping there as needed. 

“If there is any silver lining in this new normal, given the severe fall off in demand for refined fuels as workloads shrank, we had the capacity to help out in other parts of the company where they were looking for part-time drivers,” says Doug Swanger, director of operations for CHS Transportation. “It’s worked really well.” 

Work is beginning to pick up across CHS Transportation so most drivers have returned to their regular jobs, but in a few pockets of the company, drivers will continue to help in CHS Country Operations and CHS Agronomy on an as-needed basis. 

“We really appreciate having access to these drivers,” Austin says. “It’s kept us moving, serving our customers without delays.”