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Mulder Holding Co., based at 1936 Transport Lane in Holland. Mulder Holding Co., based at 1936 Transport Lane in Holland. COURTESY OF GREG MULDER

West Michigan trucking operation to shut down, sell fleet

BY Rachel Watson, Crain’s Detroit Business Tuesday, January 17, 2023 05:54pm

Amid rising costs and a national decline in freight volume, a family-owned business in West Michigan is closing its trucking division and selling its fleet.

Holland-based Mulder Holding Co. said Tuesday it will hold a one-day online auction Jan. 24 to sell 145 inventory items, including semi-trucks, dry van trailers, refrigerated trailers, and other shop- and trucking-related equipment.

The auction comes after the company, which primarily serves customers in the food industry, closed its division Art Mulder & Sons Trucking on Nov. 25, laying off 50 employees.

Art Mulder & Sons Trucking was founded by Art Mulder in 1971 and passed to his sons, Hanz, Peter and Philip, in the 1980s and ‘90s. The second generation gradually expanded the business to include brokerage and leasing under the banner Mulder Holding Co.

The current owners are Art Mulder’s son, Hanz Mulder, and grandsons, Chad and Greg Mulder.

According to Greg Mulder, who is COO, the company will retain its remaining 34 employees split across the two divisions that are left: Mulder Brothers Brokerage, which provides logistics services in all 48 contiguous United States, and Mulder Fleet Services, which offers truck and trailer maintenance and repair services.

Greg Mulder described the current trucking landscape as a “teeter-totter” out of balance.

“The last six months of 2022 were very difficult in the trucking industry economy, with the continued increasing costs — fuel, wages, insurance — and rates throughout that same timeframe were continuing to get depressed, with freight volume and rates both going down through that same period,” he said.

He said during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as recently as the first half of 2022, there weren’t enough trucks operating to handle the volume of freight that needed hauling. But in the second half of 2022, those market conditions flipped, leaving a glut of trucks competing for less freight, which then lowered the rates per haul.

An October Transport Dive report said U.S. truck freight volume contracted 2.6 percent from the second to the third quarter of 2022, which was the steepest quarterly drop since Q1 2021. In that report, American Trucking Associations’ Chief Economist Bob Costello attributed the decline to inflation, consumer spending changes and weaker home construction activity.

With overhead costs continuing to rise while volumes plummeted, Greg Mulder said his company could no longer make the math work.

Mulder’s trucking division — including fleet maintenance — formerly accounted for about 40 percent of the company's overall revenue, he said, with about 60 percent generated on the brokerage side.

The Art Mulder & Sons brand will “go dormant for now,” Mulder said, while the company focuses on bolstering its logistics division, which helps broker third-party truck transport for customers’ inbound and outbound freight shipping needs.

“We plan on continuing to serve as a legit full-service logistics company and continue to provide good service for our customers,” Greg Mulder said. “We worked very hard to make the transition seamless to our current customers, as far as providing logistics services. Essentially, we moved the activity that was being done on the fleet into the brokerage (to) provide a continuous service for our customers. So we plan on continuing to do that through Mulder Brothers Brokerage and continue to build Mulder Holding into a strong logistics service provider in the years to come.”

From Crain’s Detroit Business.

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