The world of household goods moving is secure in the hands of Atlas Van Lines. The proof is in the numbers: The American Moving and Storage Assn. says that during 1996 to 2002 only two major moving carriers showed growth, and Atlas Van Lines was number one with 54% growth.
Founded as a small, privately held Midwestern moving company in 1948, Atlas Van Lines has seen its share of changes along the way. The company, now based in Evansville, IN, went public for five years during the 1980s, but was subsequently bought back by its agents and today is part of the Atlas World Group.
Greg Hoover, senior vp-sales development at Atlas Van Lines, says that in spite of many challenges over the years, the company has retained its leading-industry stature and has remained the mover of choice for much of corporate America. Relocating corporate executives, he notes, is the company's main focus and accounts for two-thirds of its household goods moving business.
Hoover says: “Operationally, we're somewhat different from other moving companies because we're agent owned. In exchange for van lines retention, agents are allowed to work under Atlas Van Lines' authority.
“Our agents are given 100% autonomy. We encourage them to self-pack and haul shipments they've booked, which is what sets us apart from our competition,” Hoover points out. “We believe that giving them complete control over service levels and making them accountable to their customers leads to a higher quality service, which is the keystone of our success.”
Atlas Van Lines currently represents 391 domestic agents, 150 in Canada, and another 800 through worldwide affiliations. The majority of the fleet is owner-operator driven. In fact, of the 3,200 drivers working for Atlas, less than 150 are company drivers.
To move household goods in interstate traffic, agents are required to register their fleet equipment with corporate. Hoover notes there are 1,684 straight trucks, 2,901 tractors and 4,180 trailers registered in the Atlas fleet.
“To make sure the fleet meets our standards, we have stringent safety requirements,” Hoover notes. “All trucks must be inspected quarterly. Annually, photographs of every piece of equipment must be submitted as proof that the trucks are in good physical condition and appearance. We also have stringent requirements on how the equipment is painted — the majority of the tractor must be white, and the two-toned blue stripes from the Atlas trailer must match up with accompanying stripes on the tractor.”
Hoover says most owner-operators driving for Atlas make a good effort at keeping their equipment current and in good shape. The average age of their power units is 3-4 years. The drivers mostly prefer Kenworth units (which make up about 30% of the tractor fleet) and Peterbilts (which account for another 30% of the fleet).
The majority of trailers (90%) are Kentucky vans. The vans are drop-deck models with multiple side doors and storage boxes to facilitate loading and unloading.
Qualcomm satellite communications equipment will be introduced into the household goods moving fleet this year. The company has been using the systems successfully in its specialized transportation fleet for the past five to six years.
Hoover says maintaining high quality transportation is an ongoing effort. Despite the challenge, Atlas Van Lines continues to be successful in its quest for quality. For the eighth time in nine years it has ranked second highest for overall quality in household goods moving in polls taken by Logistics Magazine.