A young, 20-year-old Peter K. (“PK”) Penner launched Penners Transfer with a single truck (a Model-T Ford), hauling freight between Winnipeg and Steinbach, Manitoba. The road to Steinbach was the Dawson Trail, a road originally built to move troops, weapons and supplies from the Lakehead to Winnipeg during the days of the North-West Rebellion in the 1880s, which became a “trail” over local farmland to Steinbach. Farmers in the area set up a toll gate at the entrance to the Ste. Anne river lots, allowing access across their land to the road. During the tough winter months, several Steinbach residents pooled their resources to keep a winter road open on the “trail” from an area North of Steinbach to the Dawson Trail. During periods when this road was impassable, PK used horses and a sleigh to move freight. Steinbach-destined freight was also moved by CNR (non-Winnipeg points) to the railway station in Giroux, MB, a small town located 12 kilometers to the northeast of Steinbach, which also needed to be delivered to Steinbach and area. Penners’ ”backhaul” consisted of milk cans from local dairy farms driven into Winnipeg.
The Province of Manitoba legislates trucking regulation and the Manitoba Transport Board is established. All carriers now needed an intra-Manitoba freight authority permit.
When winter freight hauling was slower, part of the company's work included hauling pulpwood with caterpillars and “sleigh trains” over the bush trails and lakes into Hudson, Ontario. In the mid 1940s, the lumber mill moved its operations to Hudson Bay Junction in Saskatchewan, and its pulp logs were then hauled to the railway. Other war-time work included bush clearing, winter road construction and a summer extension of the Dawson Trail road from St Anne to Richer — in case troops and supplies needed to be moved during the Second World War. When tires and gasoline were rationed, Penners Transfer also ran a passenger service for local area residents who did not have gasoline for their vehicles. As the workload increased, PK could no longer handle everything by himself and started hiring additional drivers. By the late 1940s, Penners Transfer was becoming an important part of the Southeastern Manitoba trucking scene.
In 1951, PK’s son Milton joined the company, which by now ran four trucks. A year or so after Milton was onboard, Penners Transfer scored a major contract hauling Ford Motor Co. parts west from Windsor, Ontario — first to Winnipeg, then to Regina and Calgary. This “handshake” contract also led to growth opportunities in other areas, and Penners Transfer now became a long-distance trucking company.
By this decade, Penners Transfer had established itself as not only a local carrier but also a long-distance trucking company, both in Canada and internationally. With the opening of Roger’s Pass to Vancouver, the Ford Motor Co. began moving their parts from Windsor, ON, to Vancouver, BC, by truck. Servicing this additional route almost doubled the size of the company.
Penners Transfer continued to grow with the Ford Motor Company and was soon hauling automotive parts from the Ford Motor Company’s new warehouse facility in Toronto to Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. When the Ford Motor Company started to use Penners Transfer to ship to Vancouver, it marked the first time all parts shipped into Western Canada were being transported by truck. In 1975, Penners Transfer sold their local Steinbach/Winnipeg freight authority. This allowed the company to concentrate on a growing relationship with a US trucking company, Stordahl Truck Lines, and they formed an agreement to switch trailers of LTL and TL freight at the Canada/US border. A third generation joined the organization when young Allan Penner (Milton’s son) started working part time as a dock worker and driver assistant while going to school.
The Penner family has also been active with several provincial and national trucking associations over the course of six decades. Milton was President of the Manitoba Trucking Association in 1977-1978, and Allan followed in 1998-1999. Both have been actively involved in the Canadian Trucking Alliance over the past 40 years.
The deregulation of the trucking industry in USA/Canada during the 1980s allowed for further expansion of Penners Transfer and, in 1983, Stordahl Truck Lines was purchased by Penners, which by now had terminals in Minneapolis, Roseau and Thief River Falls, MN. Over the next few months, Milton reorganized the company and opened locations in Fargo and Grand Forks, ND. In 1984, the company name is changed to Penner International Inc. The now-familiar red-white-and-blue logo was launched, reflecting the company’s position in the industry as an international carrier.
With Milton at the helm, two of his sons — Allan and Keith — were beginning to assume more responsibilities in running the company. At this time, the company employed the equivalent of about 500 people in Canada and the USA and controlled approximately 800 pieces of equipment. By 1998 the Penner family celebrated a milestone of 75 years in business, and Allan Penner assumed leadership as President and CEO.
Allan Penner became the sole owner of Penner International in 2004. Penner International Inc. is now a three-generational family company that began with one truck in 1923 and now serves the country through locations in ON, MB, SK, AB, BC and the US.
The company received the Manitoba Trucking Association’s Distinguished Member Award in 2013.
Although the company remains quiet about supporting its own community, it has been recognized by the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce with the Business of the Year Award (2013) and the Community Involvement Award (2015).
Feb 3, 2020 - C.A.T. Inc acquires Penner International. Penner was a natural fit for C.A.T. both being family-run businesses, similar in size and customer base, and most importantly similar in culture.