For much of the year, Hawaii indeed is an island paradise with plenty of warm, sunny days, drawing millions of visitors each year. The islands recently weathered heavy rains with severe flooding which washed out roads, and drowned homes under rising water levels.
The idyllic life on Hawaii was interrupted by heavy rains, but the interruption could have been far worse were it not for the dedication and skill of people in a business that few residents or visitors ever give a second thought: the generally mundane business of trucking. The heavy rains shone a spotlight, however briefly, on one of the most essential businesses in Hawaii. Hawaii imports almost every item its residents and visitors eat, drink, wear, drive or use. Thousands of different items needed to sustain life on the islands arrive primarily by sea into Hawaii’s principal port, Honolulu. In the shadow of the city’s soaring skyscraper hotels and office buildings, thousands of 40 ft. containers are unloaded. The containers then are either transferred to barges, which carry the cargo to the other islands, or freight is unloaded directly onto trucks for delivery to all parts of the island of Oahu. Once cargo arrives on the islands of Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Molokai, it also is disassembled and trucked to final destination throughout each of the outer islands.
Reports Kane Mcewen, General Manager at DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, one of the largest local trucking firms on Oahu, with headquarters at portside in Honolulu, “Despite interruptions to our normal schedules due to heavy rains, we were able to maintain regular service to our customers. Our drivers deserve great credit for navigating through flooded highways and streets, washed out roads and massive traffic jams to deliver thousands of items needed by visitors and residents alike.” Now that the Pacific storms have moved on, returning the 49th State to its normally idyllic conditions, it’s worth examining the Hawaiian trucking industry.
Trucking on the Islands is a microcosm of the enormous trucking business on the Mainland but with a number of variations particular to Hawaii. Hawaii basically has two types of trucking operations. One segment is the local operation of the big national trucking organizations like Yellow, Old Dominion, Roadway Express, etc. The other, local trucking companies like DHX-Dependable Hawiian Express, compete vigorously for Hawaiian business.
Mcewen stated, “The Hawaiian branches of the big national trucking companies are here basically to serve their Mainland customers. They do almost no originating business in Hawaii.”
Comprising the other half of the trucking business in Hawaii, and by far its largest segment, are home based trucking firms. Many are small, “mom & pop” companies with a few trucks and drivers. Others, like DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, are Island branches of large Mainland freight organizations that do extensive business in Hawaii. DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, for example, has a substantial fleet of trucks; from bobtails to flatbeds, and employees more than 100 people.
Another variation on the Island trucking scene is the existence of the Hawaiian Public Utility Commission (PUC). While trucking companies on the Mainland compete in a genuinely free market environment with no government oversight, the situation in Hawaii is different. Reflecting a long progressive tradition, Hawaii has an active PUC which requires all trucking rates to be filed and published. “Our rates literally are an open book,” commented Mcewen. “While we offer our customers very competitive tariffs, rates for almost every commodity must be filed with the PUC,” added Mcewen. “Of course, there are no government regulations regarding quality of service. We believe our service reflects part of our name, ‘dependable.’ We are proud of the fact that during the recent heavy rains, all 43 of our trucks were on the road.”
DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express provides what it believes to be a unique feature of its trucking service. Every customer, business or re