Windsor family stays at wheel of trucking fleet

ALL IN THE FAMILY

February 17, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Rebecca Hahn Windsor was 17 years old, fresh out of high school and three weeks into her new job working as a secretary in Washington when a new opportunity arose.

Her father needed a bookkeeper for his trucking company back home in New Market, near Frederick.

With only the experience of a high school accounting course, she accepted the job for $10 a week.

Now nearly 50 years later, she is head of Hahn Transportation Inc., a company that employs 196 workers in Maryland and Virginia, operates 150 tractors and last year posted revenues of $14 million.

"I would not have done a thing different," Mrs. Windsor said. "I've always enjoyed each era I was in."

Hahn has operations in Dayton and Front Royal, both in Virginia, as well as New Market and Union Bridge in Carroll County. Its trucks haul products as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Georgia, although its primary market is in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. Last year Hahn trucks logged almost 9.5 million miles, hauled almost 2 million tons of goods and consumed 1.6 million gallons of fuel.

"They are what I consider a class operation," said Don Mallonee, manager of transportation services for Genstar Stone Products Inc., which hires Hahn to transport cement and limestone. "Their service is superior. The people who manage the company, from Becky on down, are very oriented to their customers," he said.

"If it wasn't for Becky, the company wouldn't be successful," said Gordon Westcamp, president of Baltimore Tank Lines and a Hahn competitor for 40 years.

That is not to say that the company has not experienced its share of troubles. The recession, tighter environmental and safety regulations, a shortage of qualified drivers, drug and alcohol testing and higher taxes has made business increasingly difficult and the industry far different from the one Mrs. Windsor's father entered in 1933.

"Now it takes a lot more brains than brawn," said Mrs. Windsor, who has never driven a tractor-trailer.

Hahn hauls mainly petroleum and dry bulk cement, and the recession that hit the building industry last year reduced customers' demands for the cement and cut into Hahn's profits.

"I think last year has been the most difficult since I've been in the business," Mrs. Windsor said. Sales dropped 12.5 percent and the company had to lay off 13 of its 158 drivers.

She also is worried that pending environmental regulations to control tank spillage and storm water runoff -- spilled fuel becomes runoff -- will make it more difficult to make a profit.

Besides environmental regulations, the trucking industry also faces new safety regulations. In compliance with federal interstate trucking laws, Hahn randomly tests its drivers for drug use. Legislation pending before Congress would expand that testing to alcohol.

Mrs. Windsor said Hahn has tried for years to impress upon its workers the need for safety. About 15 years ago, the company hired a safety engineer.

In the past the company gave free trips to workers with good driving records and now gives cash bonuses to drivers who maintain good safety records.

At times, she said, the company has had trouble finding good drivers, and it offers drivers cash rewards for finding new drivers.

The deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980 has done little to improve Hahn's operations, Mrs. Windsor said. The deregulation gave rise to some new competitors, but otherwise had little effect on business, she said.

With all of the changes, the business has come a long way from the days when her father drove one truck and kept all of his records in a little notebook tucked in his shirt pocket.

Her father, James Russell Hahn, started the business after taking over the milk route his father operated. At first, Mr. Hahn carried milk from local dairies to a creamery in Mount Airy, and soon expanded the operation to hauling grain. To that business, he added coal transportation.

Mrs. Windsor said her father had one truck at the time. He got up early in the mornings to pick up the milk and take it to the creamery, and then drove to Pennsylvania to fetch a load of coal. When he returned to Maryland, he would unload the coal, wash the truck and go back to the farms to pick up the evening's milking.

"He worked very, very hard," she said.

During the 1940s, the federal government inaugurated a transportation tax and a number of employment regulations. With a sixth-grade education, Mr. Hahn found it difficult to keep up with the paperwork, and he asked Mrs. Windsor, his oldest daughter, to help.

Mrs. Windsor found she loved the work. A fanatic about details, she enjoyed working with the numbers, and she continues today to monitor expense statements and scrutinize charges. "I'd say I'm rather a hands-on manager," Mrs. Windsor said. "I'm not very good at delegating."

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