Bellerud Transport Inc.: Carrying on a Legacy of Loyalty

Dick Bellerud started trucking at the ripe age of 17 while equipped with only an ingrained drive to succeed and $1,000 borrowed from his grandmother. Dick’s natural sharp-shooting charm quickly made him a well-known character in the trucking industry, so much so that other drivers would often call him looking for loads. His popularity allowed Dick to establish Bellerud Transport Inc. (BTI) in 1955. By the 1970s BTI became both a brokerage and trucking firm. Over 55 years later, BTI carries on Dick’s legacy by maintaining the relationships he worked so hard to establish, keeping communication lines open so deliveries arrive on time and drivers stay safe.

“We have always been a go-getter company and I believe our clients truly appreciate the fact that we have been around for as long as we have,” adds Larry Bellerud, Dick’s son and the current president of BTI. Larry joined the company officially in 1982 after graduating from the University of North Dakota, though he would often tag along with his father as a child. Larry witnessed the company’s growth firsthand as BTI relocated from the family home in Grafton, N.D., to its current headquarters in Fargo, N.D.

In the 1990s BTI grew significantly, expanding its fleet from 20 to 50 commercial vehicles, and at one point in the late 2000s BTI had roughly 80 vehicles on the road. BTI scaled back, though. in recent years, and today the fleet consists of roughly 40 vehicles, all of which carry refrigerated trailers. Having grown up in the business, Larry understands the importance of investing in a quality fleet and BTI’s fleet consists of a mix of Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks and all Carrier and Thermo King Trailers with air ride suspension.

Building a Team

BTI regularly inspects and maintains its fleet to ensure it remains top of the line. Though all of its vehicles are recent models, the newest addition holds particular weight for the BTI team. “My dad passed away in 2011 and we recently bought a brand new Peterbilt and had it done up as a tribute to him,” beams Larry. Paul Shereck, head of operations at BTI, worked closely with the local Peterbilt dealership for close to 40 years, back when many people knew Dick by his citizen band-radio call sign, Dakota Kid.

It was only fitting that Peterbilt would play a major role in designing a truck with BTI that would effectively pay tribute to the company’s founder. The team had the phrase “I was born free, I celebrate God’s grace on me” inscribed on top of the sleeper unit along with an American flag, as the Kid Rock song simply resonated with Larry and the BTI team.

Aside from the truck, BTI continues to pay tribute to its founder by investing in the safety of its employees. BTI’s fleet has been outfitted with electronic on-board recording (EOBR) system to take the hassle out of keeping driving logs. Larry admits that EOBRs might not have been his dad’s particular cup of tea, but keeping drivers safe and well rested has always been a top priority, as BTI insists on only hiring the finest drivers.

As an added bonus, the EOBR systems provide total transparency, allowing BTI to better ensure the fleet remains in compliance with the multitude of industry regulations in place today. The company can check the electronic driving logs to ensure drivers are taking enough breaks to stay alert and that trucks are achieving maximum fuel efficiency.

BTI drivers constantly traverse the country, connecting all corners of the lower 48 states and parts of Canada. BTI’s main freight lines include connecting North Dakota, Minnesota and Florida to all points between California, Washington and into the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Many of BTI’s clients have been with the company for decades, especially because Dick was always ready to do the competition one better for a client in need.

In It for the Long Haul

“We used to joke and call him the Archie Bunker of the family, because he just had a way of reading people and he believed in being totally upfront with people,” recalls Larry. BTI’s longtime clients include Tropicana, which Larry estimates has been with the company since at least the 1980s. BTI also established a strong relationship with Silver Springs Citrus, located just north of Orlando, Fla., in prime citrus-growing country. Those relationships have strengthened so significantly that BTI established a secondary outpost in Tampa, Fla., so shipments of asparagus and flowers destined for Canadian markets could be coordinated a bit more closely.

Larry hopes to see the company grow both gradually and sustainably in the next few years. BTI was thrown for a bit of a loop when 2009 and the economic downturn hit, coupled by highly volatile fuel prices. Even now that business is on the rise again, the BTI team wants to ensure the company is positioned to take on any kind of economic climate. “We’re not looking for anything as crazy as when we were running 80 trucks in the early 2000s, but I’d like to increase our fleet to 50 trucks so that if the economy does pick up again, we’re prepared,” adds Larry.

In the meantime, BTI employees will carry on the company’s legacy in other ways, especially by giving back to the community. Dick was an active supporter of athletics for both adults and youths, supporting local hockey and softball leagues. He was also a particular fan of racing and helped Fargo-native Donny Schatz get started. “He helped Donny Schatz get started and BTI continues to be a strong supporter of the Donny Schatz racing team,” says Larry proudly.

The BTI team will continue to give back to the community, guaranteeing Dick Bellerud’s legacy will serve as an inspiration for drivers, athletes and entrepreneurs of all kinds. In the process, Bellerud Transport Inc. will cement a place as an anchor of the community.