Driving a large grain truck or semi to deliver feed for livestock has been extremely difficult this winter, said CHS-Tracy driver Greg "Whitey" Zwach, especially with the blowing snow or ice and snow-packed roads.
"It's been miserable, but you got to be nice to our producers, you want to get out there as soon as possible," Zwach said.
There was still one-way traffic on patches of U.S. Highway 14 on Wednesday, the route Zwach drives.
But the job has to get done, said Zwach and CHS-Tracy feed manager Rod Benson, and drivers do take precautions, especially in inclement weather.
Benson said the drivers have 800 tons of feed to deliver.
"Some way, somehow we try to get it delivered in five days," Benson said.
Benson said CHS has seven feed trucks on the road and each driver has a particular route.
"We have a few of them that stretch out 80 miles, and that's one way," Benson said.
Zwach said he goes 126 miles one way. His route takes him west on 14 all the way to Willow Lake, S.D., and back again.
Benson said Zwach has a tough route.
"He's probably driven in the worst of it," Benson said.
Benson said it hasn't been bad delivering feed in years past.
"The last 10 years, delivering during the winter has been a cakewalk," Benson said.
But there have been some tough times on the road this winter, Benson and Zwach said.
"It's been very trying right before Christmas, with four-day weeks, holidays," Benson said. "The only day we did not deliver any feed was last Thursday (Jan. 7) because all the highways were closed."
Even several days after the Christmas snowstorm, the roads were still in bad shape, Benson and Zwach said.
"All you can do is drive slow and drive along..." Benson said.
"I've asked myself, 'what am I doing out here?'" Zwach said. And there are times where Zwach has had to just stop and park because the road conditions were really bad.
"I've been stranded in Tyler before, waiting for a plow," Zwach said.
Then came last week's snowstorm and blowing snow. Zwach said the Friday morning after the storm, it was one-way traffic on 14.
"Two miles west of Balaton, I had to sit and wait for 45 minutes," Zwach said. Traffic had to be redirected on Minnesota Highway 91, he added.
Zwach's route also takes him through Buffalo Ridge, which was completely foggy one recent morning.
"If it ain't one extreme, it's another," Zwach said.
Zwach and Benson credit the producers for making the drive a little easier.
"It takes a lot of communication between us and them," Benson said. "They open up their own yards."
"The big thing you have to worry about is producer's yards," Zwach said. "They're pretty good."
Sometimes the producers will also go as far as to clear out the township roads so drivers can make their deliveries, Benson said.
But in the end, Benson said, the drivers play a pivotal role in getting the feed delivered in bad weather.
"I'm very blessed to have very seasoned, good drivers," Benson said.