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Valley Farm Transport: A California Leader in Agriculture Transportation Services

June 10, 2024


Company Utilizes Leased Trucks Through PacLease to Streamline Operations at Select Terminals

If you’re in the agricultural industry in California, odds are you’ve heard of Valley Farm Transport (VFT). VFT, a Dixon, California-based company, was founded by Bob Nickum in 1963 -- he started the business as an owner-operator, hauling mostly grain in California. The company is now in its second generation of ownership and has diversified its operation into a leading bulk agricultural carrier in the Golden State. Operations have expanded into bordering states, including Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.

In California, crops are grown year-round. From transporting carrots, garlic, and onions early in the year to tomatoes, almonds, pistachios, and rice later in the fall, VFT works with a wide variety of farms and processing factories in the state and elsewhere.

To transport crops from their harvest sites to processing facilities, VFT relies on its fleet of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. To improve efficiency, the company augments its owned fleet with leased Kenworth and Peterbilt equipment from PacLease. The company operates more than 315 trucks – mostly Kenworth T880 and Peterbilt 579 models and has 2,100 trailers – a mix of hoppers and flatbeds. VFT operates out of six terminal locations in California, including its main terminal in Dixon. Other sites include Orland, Arbuckle, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Firebaugh. 


Throughout VFT’s history, the company has been proactive in growing its business – organically and through acquisitions. In the past decade, VFT has added four terminal locations to accommodate its growing customer needs and new business opportunities. Two of those locations, Bakersfield and Firebaugh, make it easier for VFT to provide service to its customers located in Southern California, a fertile region near the California and Mexico border.

At these terminal locations, VFT relies on its Kenworth T880s and Peterbilt 579 trucks leased through PacLease. According to David Nickum, current owner and president of VFT since 2009, leasing at these terminals makes it easier for the company to manage truck maintenance and simplify operating costs.

“At our other terminals, we staff our own maintenance facilities and truck technicians to front-load service for our vehicles,” said Nickum. “When we added locations Bakersfield and Firebaugh, we realized it would be challenging to manage maintenance ourselves since trucks at these locations travel longer distances. Leasing through PacLease alleviates that issue and helps us better manage the operating costs associated with those trucks. We’ve always run PACCAR products, which are a part of our company brand, and we wanted to keep the trucks the same, so leasing through PacLease made perfect sense.”

According to Nickum, the company’s leased units make up slightly more than 50% of the VFT fleet. Through PacLease, VFT custom specs its trucks to match the company’s owned vehicles, which consist of T880 and 579 two-axle day cabs equipped with PACCAR MX-11 engines rated at 435 hp and PACCAR TX-12 automated transmissions. To further reduce weight, VFT specs its trucks with weight-saving components, including shorter wheelbases and smaller fuel tanks that best match the distance requirements of their loads.


“With PacLease, we can give them the exact specs we use when we purchase our trucks so that our leased trucks are consistent with the rest of the fleet,” said Nickum. “We’re typically paid by the net weight of our load, so we spec our trucks as light as we can while maintaining the power and durability we need for our operation.”

Since the harvest season begins earlier in the Imperial Valley due to the warmer weather, VFT works with food processors in this part of the state before trucks operating out of the Bakersfield and Firebaugh terminals switch to transporting crops grown closer to its terminals later in the spring and summer.

“Drivers dispatched to the Imperial Valley typically travel 600-780 miles roundtrip and make a single delivery to a processing factory upon their return,” said Nickum. “Later in the harvest season, our priorities change, and we focus on supporting processors closer to our facilities in Central California, which allows us to make several deliveries from the grower locations to the food processors per day.”

According to Nickum, truck reliability and durability are essential for the company since its trucks are often driven in a variety of road conditions, including off-road at farms. “PACCAR produces well-built, durable trucks that perform well in our operation,” said Nickum. “We’ve been pleased with the reliability of our Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks over the years, and when we do have a truck in need of service, PacLease is quick to get us a replacement vehicle, so we don’t miss a beat.”

For VFT, offering both Peterbilt and Kenworth’s is a big hit with drivers. “While the two vehicle makes are very similar, our drivers have their own preferences of which brand they favor and like to drive,” said Nickum. “Our drivers appreciate that we have both. I believe operating premium trucks enhances the overall driver experience on the road and helps with retention. We take pride in the trucks we operate, and PACCAR has long been associated with our company. Their reputation for building high-quality trucks aligns with our brand, and operating top-of-the-line equipment helps us deliver on our mission to provide the best services to our customers.”


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