Friday, September 2, 2016

When the ‘hammer lane’ was known as the ‘Monfort Lane’

Some of my favorite Land Line articles are about the history of trucking. For instance, I’ve learned about Blue Highways from Dave Sweetman, about the Red Ball Express in World War II from Bill Hudgins, and about the nicknames truckers used back in the day as recounted by Bob Martin.

This past February I was reading remembrances of OOIDA Board Member “Wild Bill” Rode. “He liked to remember the old ways and the old truck companies, and he’d smile about Burma Shave signs, Green Stamps and the Monfort Lane.”

I had seen Burma Shave signs in the ‘50s and had pasted Green Stamps in saver books in the ‘60s. But I’d never heard of Monfort except in connection with the owners of the Colorado Rockies.

As the copy editor for our magazine, I check facts and spelling all day long. So I looked up the Monfort Lane and was caught up in what I read.

The Monfort company began in 1930 with founder Warren H. Monfort’s cattle feedlot north of Greeley, Colo. He was a pioneer in using surplus corn to provide the meatpacking industry with well-fed cattle all year long. His feedlot became one of the largest in the United States.

One of the biggest markets was in New York City, and Monfort Transportation made weekly deliveries there. The goal was reportedly for a driver to make two turns a week between Greeley and New York City. In one forum, a driver claimed that back in the ’70s the trucks would run over 90 mph. 

According to some accounts no one could keep up with the yellow-and-orange Monfort trucks, and they would blow by you in groups so fast you would seem to be standing still and just see the trailer of the last one go by.

And so the passing lane or “hammer lane” became renamed the Monfort Lane. Monfort drivers apparently got so many speeding tickets in Ohio that they were banned from the state. And there is disagreement online about whether it was the company or the drivers who paid those tickets. It is also unclear whether drivers were banned at one point from Iowa.

I’m curious. Do any of you know whether these were the trucks that were called “circus wagons”? Did any of you drive for Monfort or know anyone who did? Do you have any photos of Monfort trucks? If so, leave a comment below. I think one of our Land Line reporters would enjoy writing this story up.