Klint Lowry – July 10, 2018
In trucking, as in many businesses, a sound strategy for success is to specialize. It’s a strategy that has worked well for Load One Transportation & Logistics. In a little over a decade, the Taylor, Michigan-based company has established itself as one of the most innovative expedite carriers in the business. Not coincidentally, it’s also grown into one of the nation’s largest expedite carriers, with 410 power units serving the entire continental United States as well as Ontario, Canada.
But as Load One founder and CEO John Elliott describes how the company operates, it almost sounds like “expedite” and “specialize” are a contradiction in terms, unless the specialty is extreme versatility.
“It’s not like general truckload where a trailer is a trailer, everything is the same size,” Elliott said. “It is a much more robust, complex business model. The type of equipment we operate is very varied compared to a normal trucking company. We have everything from sprinter type vans, big sleeper straight trucks, dry van tractor-trailers, and then curtain-side tractor-trailers.
“We handle different dimensions, different sizes. Sometimes you need to be docked, sometimes you need liftgates. Can you go into Canada? Are yourdrivers TSA certified? Can they go in and out of the airports? We do a lot that’s going to and from aircraft charters. Air freight options — we have to be able to provide them with air charter should they need that. We offer all those things.”
And as the term “expedite” implies, the unifying theme behind all that versatility is speed.
“We’re kind of the ambulance of trucking, for lack of a better term,” Elliott said. “Versus general truckload, expedite is more critical, on-demand shipping. It’s often on very short notice. It’s usually pick-up as quickly as possible from a customer, deliver it absolutely as quickly as possible.”
Also, just like an ambulance service, it means being on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, because, as Elliott puts it, “critical doesn’t stop.”
“We do relief supplies, emergency supplies,” he added. “The energy sector, we do a lot for them. You know, when a nuclear power plant needs a part, it needs a part.”
That makes expedite sound more like a specialty, and a demanding one at that. It isn’t for everyone, Elliott said. Actually, it wasn’t the vision he had for Load One back in 2003.
“We started as a general carrier,” he said. The transition to expedite started two years later, but Elliott isn’t taking any bows for the decision.
“I could tell you I had an epiphany after studying business trends and the rise of the just-in-time delivery system,” Elliott said, “or I could tell you the truth.”
When Load One started, he said, there were just a handful of employees, and the original dispatcher, Jennie Bader, liked it that way. Bader wasn’t much of a people person, Elliott said, and as the company started to grow, the less it suited her. She quit and went to work for a small expedite company.
But four months later, Bader called Elliott and asked if she could come back. About a week after her return, she came to Elliott and told him about an owner- operator she met over at the other company. He had a straight truck and a cargo van, and she knew he wanted to make a move. Elliott told her he wasn’t interested, they didn’t run straight trucks or cargo vans.
A week later she pitched him the idea again, and again Elliott explained to her, sorry, but no, the guy might be agood driver but he didn’t fit their business model.
“After about four weeks of this, I finally put my hands in the air and said, ‘Fine, if you think we can keep this guy moving, put the two vehicles on,” with the understanding that if Elliott were to decide to pull the plug on the experiment, she couldn’t squawk about it.
That was how they started in expedite, “and today we’re the third-largest expedite company in the U.S.,” Elliott said.
Although they also still do some truckload, they handle all loads with an expedite mentality, which in Load One’s playbook means a high level of service.
“We don’t do general flatbed,” Elliott said. “We do more high-end, white glove kind of stuff — robotics, high-end automation equipment, big digital billboards, jet engines — things that are much more valuable, sensitive.”
That’s why when it comes to hiring, he looks at veteran drivers, people who cannot only deliver the goods but also deliver a high level of customer service. And because speed is the essence of expedite, it’s a good niche for teams.
“Our drivers have to be better trained, and we have to give them better technology,” he said.
Load One’s ascendance in the expedite market has occurred during an era of rapid development in technology designed to make shipping faster and more efficient, and that is no coincidence. Technology, Elliott said, has always been one of the “pillars” of Load One.
“We’ve been an early adopter of technology for years,” he said. “We kind of have to be on the cutting edge of everything in the industry to be the leader.”
For example, Load One was among the first to install scanners in all their trucks so that as soon as a driver made a delivery, the paperwork could be sent in by satellite instead of driving to the nearest truck stop and faxing it in to headquarters or using overnight mail. Customers could be notified of a delivery within minutes instead of hours or days.
At the beginning of 2018, Load One unveiled the Ultimate Advantage Driver App.
“A lot of people have driver apps,” Elliott said, “but what we gave our drivers, we took it to the next level.”
Another aspect of Elliot’s ambulance analogy is that with expedite, there’s no telling where the next load will come from. After drivers deliver their loads, they need to reposition themselves in the likeliest nearby location to get another load quickly.
“Pretty much everybody but us, drivers will call in to their operation and say, ‘Hey, what are you guys seeing? Where do you think I should move? What’s hot today?’ and that one person is going to tell them what they think is going on,” Elliott said.
“We built databases to collect the data on everything running, to be able to display that to the driver in real time,” he said. Drivers can see what loads are out there, including the ones Load One passed on because no one was handy. Drivers can look back two days, seven days or 30 days, and they can filter the data to match their equipment.
The ability to provide this level of information to cut wait times is not only good for Load One as a company, but it gives its drivers and contractors “a level of empowerment that in our industry nobody has done.”
When it comes to embracing the latest technological edge for their employees and customers, or for how they handle day-to day business, the company’s slogan concisely conveys the company philosophy:
“The future belongs to those who deliver.”
We are currently seeking:
This is your chance to join our winning team. Load One offers a great combination of pay, benefits, and a strong commitment to safety. We are the last logo you will ever need!