Giant truckload carrier Prime is getting into a new business, and on Wednesday, it took a highly public approach in letting the world — and prospective drivers — know about it.

In a live presentation and question-and-answer session on Prime’s YouTube channel, two leading executives at the company announced that Prime would be adding hopper service to its offerings, with an initial focus on a few cities and routes that will allow drivers to generally be home at nights and on weekends.

Brett VonWiller, Prime’s director of its tanker division, said on the company’s YouTube channel that the idea for a move into the hopper market came at a conference last spring, where VonWiller said he and a colleague had attended “looking for new business.”

“And a majority of those customers that we reached out to asked us if we had hopper trailers as a way to get into the hopper business,” VonWiller said. Some of the queries came from existing customers and others came from new prospects, he added.

“So we came back, huddled up and decided it was something we wanted to look into and get involved with.”

VonWiller said operations began Tuesday with seven loads, all focused in the Indianapolis area. Prime’s new hopper division is starting with 25 trailers “and we’re going to start with our core customers,” he added.

At the helm of the group is Kyle Walk, an 18-year veteran of Prime who was on the video presentation with VonWiller. He had been working in Prime’s tanker group and “[VonWiller] approached me that we’ve got this hopper thing going on, and there’s a lot of potential there.”

 Walk said the hopper business initially will be moving agricultural products like corn, soybeans and meal mixes. “There’s a lot of other commodities out there that we’re interested in,” he said. “We’re just kind of getting our feet wet right now, but there is some potential to move other products.” He cited salt and rocks as areas for possible hopper business expansion. 

Truck hopper traffic is often billed by the bushel or weight, Walk said, though drivers will be paid per mile. Some of the routes the Prime hopper business plan to expand in are longer and those will be billed on a mileage basis, Walk said.

Expansions are set for Tennessee and Maryland, VonWiller said, though drivers for that business are lined up. But that was a prelude to the recruiting part of the call, as VonWiller urged potential drivers interested in joining the Prime hopper team to send an email to Walk, preparing for future growth.

Walk said the initial focus on grain helps to ensure drivers operate a daytime schedule without weekends. Grain elevators do not operate at nights or on weekends, he said, “so the majority of your workload is going to be Monday through Friday.”

“You’re probably going to be sleeping at home every night and have a little bit more home time,” Walk said. 

The seasonal aspect of hauling agricultural products actually isn’t all that extreme, Walk said. Silos, as Walk said Prime has learned, “can hold quite a bit of product.” Harvest season kicks off around August, but there is product being delivered out of the silos into June. “So we think that year-round, we’re going to stay pretty busy,” Walk said. 

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