Contact Witte Bros. 800-325-8151 | 575 Witte Industrial Court | Troy, Missouri 63379
Over 60 Years in the Trucking Industry
The Witte Family of Companies started many years ago when Clem Witte purchased the first tractor-trailer in 1946 to haul cattle from Little Rock, Arkansas to his farmstead in Troy, Missouri. Since then, the companies have grown to be a premier provider of transportation and logistics services and is currently managed by its third generation of family members.
In 1946, there were many small farmers feeding livestock in this area, as well as many sale barns. Clem Witte would travel to Little Rock two times per week and purchase several trailer loads of cattle. Using his own trucks, he would ship them back to the St. Louis area to resell to area farmers, sale barns, and restock his own herd of cattle in Troy. Clem would continue this weekly practice until 1949 when he decided to sell his trucks and trailers to his sons, Martin and Jim. Clem would continue buying and selling cattle, but he no longer would operate the transportation side. Jim was still a senior in high school at the time, but managed to run the business with the help of Martin.
In 1952, Jim was called away to serve in the Korean War with the U.S. Marines. While away, Martin would run the small business. Harry Witte, another of Clem’s sons, joined the business in 1953 after a short stint at the University of Missouri. He helped in several facets, including driving a truck, until 1957, when he entered the US Army. During this time, Jim returned from the Korean war and took the reigns back.
With the help of Jim Whalen and William Creech, the Witte’s were able to purchase property on Cherry Street and construct a small office, warehouse, and truck terminal. Harry returned from the Army in late 1959, rejoining the business. Together, they grew the trucking side of the business to run long-haul teams of drivers hauling livestock. The main product was hauling feeder cattle out west, and returning with fat cattle to market. Back then, the trailers were equipped with electric floors that could be adjusted to triple stack pigs and calves, and then be moved to double stack larger cattle.
During the 1960’s, they opened a feed supply business to provide area farmers with chicken, cattle, and hog feed. The trucking lanes during these times were heavily regulated by the government, so they continued to focus on the non-regulated agriculture products. They also expanded their cattle feeding side with the development of a cattle feedlot in southwest Troy. Clem continued to buy and sell cattle, while the boys continued to develop their own business model.
In the 1970’s, the business took a bigger dive into the cattle feedlot business. This would keep the truckline very busy hauling cattle for themselves, while continuing to move livestock for others. Jim took over the role of buying and selling cattle, Harry oversaw the truck line and accounting for the businesses, and Joe Witte joined the company to run the local feedlot operations. They grew the local feedlot operation to 2500 head of cattle, which required two tractor-trailer loads of feed per day, and constant shipping of cattle to and from the facility. Their thirst for cattle exceeded their capacity, so they rented additional facilities in the area, plus facilities in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, and California. They would grow their herd of cattle to exceed 5,000 head at any given time. The size and stature of the cattle breed would dictate which area of the country they would be sent for finishing. Each facility would send their fattened cattle to the local meat packers, according to the consumer’s taste for beef during this time.
The Witte’s would become somewhat infamous for feeding unique feed items to their cattle. They were one of the first people to use a certified nutritionist that would allow them to mix a variety of items into a perfect blend of feed for the cattle. They would purchase left over pasta, bread from industrial bakeries, Frito-Lay corn chips, and breakfast danishes. They would send samples to their nutritionist and receive a recipe to mix with other feed to get the perfect blend of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to feed. They were able to purchase many items well below market value, which helped them maintain margins in the volatile livestock market.
While the 1970’s were more focused on cattle, the government deregulation of the trucking industry in the 1980’s would change that. With the ever changing prices of beef and cattle futures and the unpredictable outcomes of live animals, the brothers decided it was time to reduce their reliance on cattle. They sold 95% of their cattle holdings and took the proceeds to expand their truck fleet into the now, wide open world of trucking. They purchased new refrigerated trailers, and used trucks, converted the original feed store into dispatch offices, and built a new shop for maintenance. They transported many items, including fresh produce from California, frozen goods out of St. Louis, coffee out of Houston, TX, and consumer goods for Proctor and Gamble. The business continued to grow during the 80’s, despite extremely high interest rates in excess of 20%. In 1986, Jim was diagnosed with cancer and succumbed to the disease in 1989. After Jim’s passing, Harry was the sole owner of the companies. The company focused on customer service and continued to prosper with the help of a dedicated staff.
The 90’s brought more changes. As the truckload market became saturated with competition from many carriers, an opportunity to begin a new service appeared. Witte partnered with a St. Louis-based cold storage facility to offer frozen and refrigerated less-than-truckload (LTL) service to the 48 states nationwide. During this time, Harry’s children Brent, Chad, and Lila joined the company. This small niche would continue to grow to become a major part of the business and enable them to separate from their partner.
The continued growth required more land and facilities. In 1999, Witte purchased 30 acres west of Troy, and started a building expansion that continues through today. During the 2000’s, an expanded maintenance facility was erected, and 2-story office building constructed, and a temperature-controlled 33-door crossdock facility was built.
Today, the company sits on 80 acres, operates 200 tractors, 275 trailers, a 20,000 pallet-position cold storage facility with expansion in the near future, and employs over 300 persons. They offer nationwide truckload, LTL, logistics, and cold storage options for customers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to small start-ups. The concentration is in the perishable food supply chain. We continue to focus on customer service and strive to offer a great place for employees to call home. The company is still led by family, with Brent Witte, Chad Witte, and Vaughn McDowell at the helm. With projected steady growth into the future, they are poised for the fourth generation to join the ranks to push the horizons further.