Lynden, which operates in the wilds of Alaska, the Yukon Territory and Hawaii has a multi modal solution for all freight to all addresses no matter how remote.

Little known outside the freight transportation world, Lynden has grown from a small-town horse and wagon delivery business - hauling goods from the railroad station to local merchants - into a  logistics powerhouse that has built a solid reputation for quietly and reliably caring for far-flung customers with make-it-happen service.

While it describes itself in a low-key manner as a “family of companies,” there was no patriarchal founder named Lynden in its heritage. The horse and wagon “assets” of the business launched in 1906 plied the dusty streets of tiny Lynden in Northwest Washington where Lynden Transfer delivered everything from furniture to fruits and vegetables to pulling the hearse for local funerals.  Lynden has never veered from this early philosophy of finding innovative transportation solutions to solve problems for their customers.

In 1921, founder Ed Austin put his horses out to pasture and bought a two-and-half ton Mack truck to haul eggs and milk to Seattle. In 1954 the company began regular truck service between Washington State and Alaska on the newly formed Alcan Highway. The rest, as they say, is history.

Alex McKallor, chief operating officer of Lynden, has been there for 39 years, is an example of the many long-time Lynden employees dedicated to the company and their customers. Today, he is the COO of a multi-modal Alaska-based company that owns fleets of nearly every freight hauling transport vehicle imaginable plus an international freight forwarding  and logistics solutions provider.

Yet Lynden hasn’t forgotten its small-town roots. Among its key markets, the company virtually blankets  the freight delivery business in Alaska where it  serves hundreds of towns and villages statewide. No address in the rugged  50th state is too remote for Lynden’s reach with its fleets of  trucks, planes, barges, hovercraft and even snowcats. But Lynden’s family of companies circa 2024 is more than a collection of transport assets.  The company’s philosophy has evolved to meet the demands of savvy shippers. Says Mc Kallor: “We believe in providing transportation options that offer the best balance of time and modes as needed. We call this supply chain flexibility. With our Dynamic Routing program, you only pay for the speed you need.”

The Lynden family of companies is now 2,500 people strong and diverse. Its capabilities include marine, air, and truck, along with specialized transportation modes. The company has a strong focus on Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest, but provides services in locations throughout the US and around the world. 

Lynden’s transportation expertise cuts across a wide spectrum of industries and specialized businesses.  For example, it frequently handles complex project cargo destined for the energy, mining,  and construction industries in Alaska. Shipments can move in their 53-foot containers that handle  60.000 pound payloads, says McKallor. Or the oversized, heavy haul cargoes could move by barge and then by truck for final delivery.

The logistical challenge, he says, is to arrive at that “efficient end-to-end system with the maximum or optimum amount of cube or weight that translates into a savings for our customer,” the Lynden COO tells American Journal of Transportation.

 That takes more than just physically loading freight, “Our goal is to deliver the best customer service and that takes an extensive amount of energy, training, coaching and systems that monitor our effectiveness,” says McKallor.  “So when a customer calls up and says ‘can you do it for me? What is it going to cost and when am I going to get it,’  it may be complicated operationally depending on the move, but we give the customer a precise answer to that simple question. That’s how we become their trusted logistical advisor.”

 But Lynden prides itself on providing more than just one ultimate answer, McKallor contends. It will give the customer a trucking option, an air freight option and a marine option to find what really works for them, along with the one thing the customer wants most of all today—reliability.

Physical logistics planning can be challenging when there are harsh weather and remote locations as elements of the move or construction is behind schedule,  says the Lynden executive. “We monitor and adjust the routing  as needed. We have to be agile and flexible.”

To cement customer relationships, Lynden  is continually looking for ways to  streamline the logistics strategy even before the customer asks. McKallor tells the story of a customer, an auto parts manufacturer shipping to Alaska dealerships by pure air. Lynden studied buyer and sales behavior in a typical week and created a program where it would air freight the auto parts to dealers and repair shops on certain days. Then, on Fridays, it would use its team-driver ground service called Quick Trans that would deliver the auto parts from Seattle to Alaska  by Monday morning before the dealerships and repair shops opened for business.

“It is a blended solution,” says McKallor. “The customer gets the speed of air and the economy of truck. It also gives the customer extra reliability because as an asset-based carrier, we control the truck. We do not have to go out and find a truck.” Lynden, he adds, owns 700 truck tractors.

Lynden seems to tailor its transport assets to its customers’ requirements. Because of its expertise in moving oversized project cargos and construction equipment, often into rugged and remote locations, it owns a fleet of Lockheed Hercules L-382 turboprop air freighters based in Anchorage for scheduled and charter flights. McKallor says the “Hercs’ have a 48,000 pound payload and 40 pallet positions.

Lynden is not reluctant to invest in transportation assets in uncertain times. The company just recently launched a new 438-foot long and 105-foot wide ocean going barge. McKallor says the company is continuing to add to its truck and container capacity companywide.

While Lynden puts money into its hard assets, it also invests into what can be called “soft assets” –people. “We have great employee relations and employee retention programs and it has been critical to our success,” says the executive who is entering his fortieth year with the company.  Recruiting drivers and mechanics today has been tough for all transportation companies—and employers in general—since the COVID pandemic. But Lynden has a “Dock to Driver” program which essentially is a “cross dock” training program. Lynden helps fund the cost of truck driver school for program participants.  

In brief, Lynden’s multi-model razor-sharp, selective focus on logistical niches in the global transportation world and its willingness to take on the toughest and least glamorous challenges—for example it handles door deliveries   in Alaska’s remote towns and villages far beyond the main road system for a leading package shipping company —has engendered loyalty among shippers and staffers alike.

During COVID, it took on the role of delivering life-saving vaccines to remote locations in Western Alaska, as well as personal protective equipment to people administrating the shots. 

Innovation continues to be prized at the company.  In maintaining the safety and seaworthiness of its 32 Alaska Marine Lines ocean barges that often require steel and mechanical repairs plus a fresh coat of paint during a 27 day-long internal structural inspection by the Coast Guard, Lynden’s port engineering team came up with a double dry-docking of two barges at once which was deemed “extremely time efficient.” 

 In the healthcare sector, on-time and intact delivery of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals is crucial.  The Lynden International Logistics team introduced a closed loop reusable packaging system for temp-controlled pharmaceuticals in Canada with two-times the capacity of traditional packaging. It decreased the number of packages used and transported, which cut  emissions in the vehicles and in the refrigerated equipment to keep the packages cool.

Bottom line? Lynden’s logistical solution reduced more than three million pounds of waste packaging in a single year, the company says. 

Plus, the reusable packaging was qualified for use up to 96 hours which provides increased temperature stability, compared with single-use versions which are only rated for 48 hours.