‘While You Were Sleeping’: Big spills, no problem for overnight freight handler

Hollins Freight Handlers cleans up loads spilled by big rigs

When his telephone rings in the middle of the night, Leon Hollins knows there’s something big waiting for him.

SAN ANTONIO – When his telephone rings in the middle of the night, Leon Hollins knows there’s something big waiting for him.

Many times, it’s a big mess on a local road or highway caused by an overturned big rig.

“We're coming out to get the job done. We're on call 24 hours a day,” he said. “I have a list of maybe 50 (potential workers) because most people have other jobs. And we call and see who's available and who's ready to go.”

With his crew assembled, Hollins heads out to the site of the trouble and tries to undo the damage as quickly as possible.

He assesses what has been spilled and where he will put everything after his workers pick it up.

“When you go it just looks like a mess but there is a pattern to it,” Hollins said.

With a background in warehousing, Hollins got into the freight handling business about 15 years ago.

He also invests in real estate for a living.

To clean up a typical spill, he needs a team of about 20 people.

However, Hollins is careful to point out that these cleanups really take a village.

“Starting with SAPD, the fire department, EMS if necessary, TxDOT,” he said.

On any given day, Hollins never knows what might be in store for him.

He said his crews have cleaned up all sorts of messes in all kinds of weather.

In March of this year, KSAT 12 News was there as Hollins’ employees stood up to a storm to recover pallets of home appliances that fell from a semi-truck that had been blown over by wind.

Back in 2017, they endured hot temperatures while plucking 42,000 pounds of chicken strips from the pavement on Highway 90.

“I think once, it was about 105 degrees and we did onions. And I think the whole crew teared up,” Hollins said, laughing.

While cleaning up cargo is the biggest task at hand, Hollins said his mind, most often, is on traffic congestion.

His goal, he said, is to reopen the roads and get traffic flowing again as quickly as possible.

“In the interest of commerce,” he said. “People have to get to work. There are lawyers and judges and all that (who) need to be on the job.”

If all goes as planned, Hollins and his crews get their job done while most other people are still sleeping, so that the public never even knows what happened.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.