By Nick Worth
When the Catalyst Paper officials announced the firm’s Snowflake mill would be closing at the end of Sep-tember, one of the local businesses most directly affected by the news was C.R. Smith Trucking. At the time of the announcement, owner Charley Smith told The Tribune-News he may have to shut down when the mill business is gone.
Smith said on Monday he’s already starting to see a slow-down in the number of loads his trucks are haul-ing from the mill.
“People are starting to get their paper elsewhere,” Smith said. “As long as Catalyst runs, we’re there. We’ll still be hauling from the mill through the end of September and maybe a few loads in the beginning of Octo-ber.”
Smith said he has been working on developing new routes for his drivers.
“We have feelers out and things we think will happen,” he said. “The problem is, fuel costs keep going higher and higher.”
Smith said his trucks won’t all be idle. Since the 1970s his company has been hauling two loads of clay per day from Phoenix to a manufacturer of sewer pipes, and he also has trucks hauling copper from the Arizona mines to Texas.
Those contracts won’t, however, take the place of the 30 loads of paper per day C.R. Smith Trucking has hauled out of the paper mill since the mid-1980s. Smith said there are lots of loads his trucks can haul back from Los Angeles, such as beer and water, but finding loads destined for LA is harder.
“We’ll probably slow down some until I can put something together,” Smith said. He said his drivers were used to making shorter runs and being able to have weekends at home with their families, in some cases, but that they may have to drive longer routes once the mill closes.
Jason Rodriguez, operations manager for TCI, which provides a spotting service for semi-trailers at the paper mill, said his company is placing the five TCI drivers who were working at the Snowflake mill in other facilities around the country where the company has accounts.
“We have the account for the Snowflake pig farm now, so we’re able to place some of our drivers there,” said Rodriguez. “The drivers who want to stay living up here will be able to do so.”
Rodriguez said the four TCI employees who work in the scale house at the mill will be harder to place in other positions in the company and will likely lose their jobs.
Slow-downs, shut-downs, and scrambling for accounts and loads is nothing new for Smith.
“I’ve gone through this for most of my life,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m ready to slow down a little.
“I feel bad for the drivers, though,” Smith said. “We have some really good people here. The drivers and the shop were all running smoothly.”
He said that while the business may slow down, he won’t be closing its doors and will still have jobs for some drivers.
“The good Lord always finds us something,” Smith said.
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By Nick Worth