Moving Onions Across America: Get to Know Gills Freight

Our job is to get millions  of pounds of the highest quality onions from our fields to America’s tables, but we can’t do it alone. That’s where our wonderful team at Gills Freight comes in to save the day. 

Gills Freight drivers move our raw onion products from the fields to our state-of-the-art processing facility. They also make sure necessary equipment makes it to the right fields at the right time throughout the onion growing process. It’s a very complicated – and essential – part of what we do. 

Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a Gills Freight driver. 

Organization: The Key to Success

Ron Perry, a 30+ year employee of Gills Onions, is currently the head of Gills Freight. He manages the teams of drivers that transport raw onions from the fields and the teams that carry products to cross docks where it is loaded and shipped through the U.S. and Canada. 

By the time most of us are snoozing our alarm clocks, Ron has been up making things happen for hours. His day starts about 4:30 a.m. with the dispatch board. The board tells every driver what they are doing for the day and where they are driving. It’s Ron’s job to make sure the board is always up to date and that onions and equipment are being picked up and delivered on schedule. He’ll also look ahead at the rest of the week to determine how many loads will need to be hauled in the coming days. Drivers will typically know exactly what they will be doing from Monday through Saturday. Planning is everything, and Ron is the first line of defense.

About 6 a.m. it’s time to head to the shipping office and review invoicing and paperwork for the loads that went out the night before and for the loads of onion products that will be moved that day. It doesn’t matter how many onions are moved if there isn’t accurate documentation. Ron determines the freight costs for every order that takes place. 

The rest of the day is filled with supporting drivers. Ron responds to any problems that arise, coordinates scheduled maintenance, and tracks and communicates estimated arrival times for each truck. It’s a demanding job, but Ron makes it look easy.  

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Gills Freight drivers are where the rubber meets the road. They operate powerful machinery with unmatched safety and reliability. Different drivers operate different routes depending on the time of year, but in the spring they typically pull out of Bakersfield. That means the day starts at base at 3:30 in the morning. 

The drivers arrive in Bakersfield at about 6 a.m. and load up. At minimum, one truck can transport 52,000 pounds of the world’s best onions. They fill out their paperwork – remember, that paper trail is super important – and hit the road again. Drivers usually arrive back at the Oxnard facility around 10 a.m. The day is just starting for many Gills Onions employees, but it’s a wrap for our drivers. They’ll check the almighty dispatch board to see what their next day of hauling looks like before heading home to get some rest. 

But that’s a short haul. 

Sometimes drivers have a long haul that requires stopping and sleeping overnight then continuing to drive the next day. During these trips, drivers can drive 250, 450, and even 520 miles a day. Over the course of a year, our freight drivers typically travel 100 to 150 thousand miles. 

That’s why reliability and safe driving skills are essential qualities of a Gills Onions Freight driver. We’re lucky to have members of our team that have been with us for over 15 years and know their jobs like the back of their hand. Three of our drivers have even won Ryder’s Truck Driver of the Year. 

Bringing Our Onions to You

The biggest challenge of working in Gills Freight is also the thing that our team enjoys the most: No day is ever the same as the last. Transport needs are always changing, and it keeps things interesting. 

We couldn’t be prouder of our Gills Freight team. They keep us up and running and make sure that our onions get to where they need to be – and ultimately, to you. 

So, the next time you open up a bag of Gills Onions, remember what it took to get those delicious vegetables into your hands, and send up a little thank you to drivers that made it possible. 

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.

Gills Onions’ Commitment to Employee Health and Safety

Here at Gills Onions, the health and safety of our employees is our top priority. We are an equal opportunity employer with a diverse workforce and try our best to always put our employees first. As our safety coordinator, Frank Garcia, puts it, “Safety first, safety always.”

We have a dedicated health and safety team of fifteen employees working their very hardest to ensure the well-being of our farm workers and plant employees, especially during these turbulent times. Our staff works to stay within compliance at all times, making our social responsibility program a reliable resource for employees.

Our Response to COVID-19

Since the onslaught of COVID-19, Gills Onions has made adjustments just like the rest of the world. Each day, plant employees and farm workers must have their temperature taken and dress in required personal protective equipment (PPE). We provide complimentary masks, latex gloves, and hand sanitizer so employees have no reason to be without these essential supplies. 

In an effort to increase social distancing, we have also modified break times and meal times, installed additional benches, and provided extra training. In the fields, dividers keep farm workers at a safe distance, and we have made sure that all the water we provide them is in individual handheld containers to eliminate cross-contamination. 

According to county guidelines, if anyone becomes sick or begins showing symptoms of COVID-19, they must report to their supervisors immediately in order to decrease the risk of spreading the disease. Employees are able to get treatment and testing for COVID without any risk of losing employment, and we provide up to 80 hours of compensation for COVID-related absences. This includes dealing with childcare issues, hospital visits, and caring for friends and family members struggling with the disease. We cherish our employees and truly want the best for them and their loved ones.

Going the Extra Mile for Employee Wellness

Aside from COVID-19 protocols, we provide health and wellness benefits to employees on a regular basis. During a typical year, we provide on-site annual checkups and bring in qualified technicians to administer flu shots. Due to COVID-19, this year employees are encouraged to visit clinics individually for these services. And for those enrolled in our benefits, telemedicine is available as well. 

We also offer a wonderful Mom-to-Be program through Western Growers. Applicants who register in this program within 16 weeks of pregnancy receive a $500 gift card to Target and a complimentary car seat for their future child.

A Continuing Commitment to Safety

As we move forward, we hope to continue improving our workplace environment in order to keep employees safe and healthy. One change to look forward to in the near future is the implementation of new machinery that will further improve social distancing.

As always, we will continue to notify our teams of updates to policy and ensure that everyone is following procedure and is aware of best practices. We pride ourselves in being thorough—especially when training our employees—and are optimistic about the future. 

To everyone struggling in these unprecedented times, we want you to feel confident in Gills Onions. We are doing everything we can to take care of our employees, so that we can continue to provide the best value-add onion products in the nation. 

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department