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.

40 comments:

  1. Monfort ran many other lanes delivering beef. It was common to see them anywhere in the US. Perhaps you should also check out Carolina Pacific out of High Point NC. In the mid 80's they ran LTL fabric and yarn to the sweatshops in LA. Every truck in the fleet would run 110 mph and a few would do 115. They had 3406 cats turned up to 2500 rpm. Just how fast they made a trip would make a good article and some of those drivers are still alive and well. James H. Vanscoy a.k.a. Concrete Cowboy King of the Concrete Jungle

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  2. Any Monfort drivers still around are either in jail or drug rehab.

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    1. Been in jail but never rehab lol

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    2. My hubby drove for Montfort he is still a truck driver to this day. I've heard stories about Montfort even when my great uncle drove truck.

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    3. Not in jail or rehab. Still pounding the pavement.

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  3. The good old days....When there were real truck drivers..And some company driver had uniforms and HATS and looked like stagecoach drivers or not to confuse some "bus drivers"

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  4. One more thing......The Monfort lane was also known as the going home lane.

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  5. The only company that I heard called "circus wagons" in the '70s were Allied Van Lines, but that was for the design prior to the big 1 route number design.

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  6. The Montfort tks were the circus wagons. I was fortunate enough to know and run with several of them. I worked for a company out of Ohio known as Glen Gullett trucking. Us top 5 drivers had triple digit trucks. As Montfort ruled the left lane of I70 and I80, we were well known along I-40 wear it was done and proudly was part of the route 66 boys. Not having any permits to run California it was easier for us to run the middle where we could run out through the reservations to keep from getting caught. Many nights after delivering Hunt's point market I'd met up with the Montfort boys out in Jersey and we'd make Pennsylvania a flash in the night. Ponytail from Gullett

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  7. I don't know how fast they went, but I do know that as a young, cocky, twenty something truck driver, I was coming east on the Pa. Turnpike one night at 73 mph, as fast as my old cabover Freightshaker would go, and a Monfort truck slowly eased up beside me. I grabbed my cb mike and said to him, "Boy, we are really gettin' it done tonight, ain't we?". He replied, "You think"? As I said yeah, I heard his motor drop about 600 rpm as he grabbed his next gear, and in about 30 seconds he was clean out of sight. Needless to say, I kept my mouth shut after that whenever a Monfort passed me.

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    1. Was a company in NC, hauled furniture, single axle Jimmies. Had the last gear in 10 SPD turned around. They ease up beside you, turn on their interior light, point at the shifter, and you'd hear whop whaaaa, they'd throw it up against the dash and they were gone!

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    2. Was a company in NC, hauled furniture, single axle Jimmies. Had the last gear in 10 SPD turned around. They ease up beside you, turn on their interior light, point at the shifter, and you'd hear whop whaaaa, they'd throw it up against the dash and they were gone!

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  8. Another co was Carolina Western I think they was from Ashville area not sure. There trucks also would run seen across I 40 and I 20 and I 10 Same deal make it to LA in a certain amount of time to get a bonus

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  9. Used to be a trucking company called James Trucking in Statesville,NC back in the 80s that had International Silver Eagles that would do triple digits.They would leave out on Friday nights and run together with 3-5 in a pack.They became known as the JAMES GANG running from NC to Cali.Good looking trucks.They were white with red,blue and silver stripes.Each truck had it's own pinstripes making it difficult to tell them apart..hahaha

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  11. I started out at Curtis Inc out of denver, in the late 70s our o/o trucks and Jack nutters trucks ran every bit as fast as the Montfort boys, there was a bunch of trucks that ran under steinbecker hauled for Montfort, those guys were the real deal too. We ran in packs with swinging into hunts point, Manhatten etc, we also when running West would all sleep at the west winds in green river UT Saturday night and a ton of us would get up early Sunday and haul ass for LA, Willie's grain,curtis,monfort,dlb,steinbecker get your truck washed in Barstow or Vernon. Good times real drivers

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    1. Wow a Willies grain reference that's awesome

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    2. Wow a Willies grain reference that's awesome

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    3. Stienbecker, the God squad.

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    4. Michelle Henry was Curtis trucking out of Denver you refer to run by Carol (Jugs)& Ray (Cannon Ball)Curtis ??? They are & were my Sister & Brother-In-Law.Cannon Ball has passed on but Carrol still lives in Green River Arizona. CannonBall sure could build a Diesel!!!!

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  12. My older brother drove for Montfort in 70s

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  13. I had the pleasure to work with them for years. Best damn company there was. Tickets were paid by the company till the late 70's. And yes, those trucks were called circus wagons. When drivers heard there was a monfort coming they would get out of our way

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    1. total truth I grew up in Greeley and my dad was one of old man Monfort's hunting buddies. I even washed trucks there in late 60's while in Jr. High.

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    2. One item people forget is that Monfort also had the Gov. contract to supply beef to the Navy, thus being ships may only be in port a short time and that beef had to be there. that was a major reason for the Company to pay all tickets up till '76 and the oil embargo.

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  14. I actually talked to an old driver a few months ago. He said he drove for Montfort and the owner paid the speeding tickets

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  15. I was pulling a Monfort trailer chasing another one on Indiana turnpike one night & we both got pulled. Young cop was so excited saying "I got one, I got one" when he realized I was one too, "I GOT TWO" he said really excited. What are you talking about I said, & he told me "around here you aren't sh#@ till you've got a Monfort & I GOT TWO!!!!". Made his career I guess.

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  16. That ws the sme time Freymiller was runnin double loads of produce out of Calif.
    I hauled swingin for Best out of Omaha going east, remember the Iowa State Police sending company a letter warning us not to convoy, more than 2 trucks together could end up on a hook, drivers in car. And we only had 90 mph trucks.
    Any body remember "Silver Bullit" in Iowa?

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    1. Silver Bullet was a state trooper in Iowa. Met him a couple times unfortunately.

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    2. Yup! We lived in Wilton Iowa and he lived in Tipton just a few miles to the north. He's still around enjoying retirement in West Branch Iowa. Sometime back he was running for mayor of West Branch.

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  17. Anybody remember Southern Shaker from Gant Trucking in S.C.
    The two things I remember when I started trucking was Monfort and Him.
    I had the privilege of meeting him. too young for Monfort.
    Signed part of the LEFT LANE GANG....

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    1. Yes I remember Southern Shaker.. him and that damn KW!he was a legend along with the Monfort boys.. I actually owned an old Pete they had..miss that truck, but not the tickets I got lol

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  18. Worked for Raymond bros. When I first started driving. We were leased to stienbeckers and we ran the older monfort w900 kw's.Never drove anthimg like it since.

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  19. Shaker was still alive a few years ago. He called into a radio show I was listening too. He was infamous for his speeding ticket in Arizona. He was eastbound with two tatted up recreational reptiles on board with a load of produce. The trooper clocked him at 140 mph and could not catch him so they put up a roadblock on I-10 at the eastbound scale. They took all 3 of them to jail. The recreational reptiles were released the next day and put on a bus back to LA. The truck was impounded and taken to a Tucson rail yard where it was put on a train to El Paso. They kept Shaker locked up for 10 days. As you might expect he was told to never return to Arizona. When he finally got to El Paso the reefer had long since ran out of fuel giving new meaning to the word garbage hauler. Concrete Cowboy King of the Concrete Jungle

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    1. Eddie Gantt died a couple weeks ago.
      The truck was never put on a train and shipped out of Az.
      Nice touch adding the lot lizzards to a all ready tall tail.

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  20. Southland Corp. (7-11) drivers went by the moniker in the 70's & 80's of "Super Psychedelic Coffe Sippin' Circus Wagons" and had the "Hot to Go" slogan of 7-11 on the side of the trailer. The drove old Transstar II cab overs. The drivers called them circus wagons because of their three tone orange with a little green (7-11) color scheme. Likely an older moniker they picked up because it fit well. Here's a link to a photo of them. I couldn't past one in here.
    http://www.hankstruckpictures.com/pix/trucks/macneil/2005/oct06/southland-7-11.html

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  21. I drove for Scott Truck Lines out of Denver hauling swinging meat from 1977 to the early 80's when the left lane was called the Monfort Lane, additionally the "circus wagon" nickname was indeed the nickname of the Monfort trucks due to their bright yellow and orange paint. When Scott closed their doors we were Best Refrigerated Express which was out of Council Bluffs Iowa. George Schueman owned both companies, Scott and Best. I ran with a lot of Monfort's every week to NYC and the East Coast as that where most meat haulers went. Keeping up with a Monfort truck was a tough job as those trucks RAN, not to many trucks could pass a Monfort!

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  22. Back in the day it was a good job to have 2 days to New York back home

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  23. have no idea how we stayed alive, rag drives, radial steers, run outs on the trailers, if it don't do triple digits pull it in the shop & find out why, had a 73 w900 5th over & a 4, KTA 600 w/ 370s pure triple digit, thats when trucking was fun

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  24. In the late '60s untill '74 I hauled hogs. Used to run with Monforts all the time. We had some hellof good runs. I had a 1673 T/A in a Cabin over KW. You had to be a driver then. No steering wheel holders. I've enjoyed some of these stories Most of them are lies I told when I stated driving. Glad things haven't changed. I had a couple of 0092s that would run with them too.

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  25. My Dad drove for Shoop Bros and Stienbrecker. He says the Monfort trucks were the original circus wagons. They'd run teams to do the east coast turn around. He said the Shoops would set up the Monfort trucks for them.
    Before that he was a cowboy at the Monfort Feedlot in Greeley.

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