“Creating value for our customers and our drivers is a winning formula that results in growth and overall reduced costs,” says Matt Handte, executive vice president of Tribe Transportation. “For us, it’s a simple formula: Quality equipment attracts drivers and reliability attracts customers.
“We go beyond what many refrigerated carriers typically do by investing in greater equipment capacity and the latest in technology, which is, for us, key to attracting new business and keeping drivers,” Handte adds.
Gainesville, GA-based Tribe Transportation is one of the fastest growing Native American women-owned carriers in North America. Founded as a 3PL in 2005, the company started its own fleet, Tribe Express, in 2010. Today, the asset-based truckload operation, which specializes in hauling temperature-controlled and deep frozen freight as well as pharmaceuticals, plans to have over 300 tractors in operation by the end of 2016.
According to Handte, part of Tribe’s strategy is long-term supplier relationships. For example, Tribe is partnering with Great Dane Trailers to add an additional 135 trailers to its fleet of 400 Everest reefers this year. “All of our first-generation Great Danes are still on the road producing revenue and working flawlessly,” Handte says, “and we expect our 2016 model-year trailers to exhibit the same durability and low cost of operation.”
Tribe is also using Thermo King’s TracKing telematics to set and monitor cargo temperatures and track locations and door openings. “TracKing sends instant notifications of critical events, including unit setting errors and unauthorized movement or access, which is increasingly important under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act,” Handte explains. “It also provides an added level of security in conjunction with the Enforcer Seal Guard Lock and Abloy padlocks we use.”
Tribe continues to focus on sustainability through fuel savings and is now rolling out a dedicated fleet of Thermo King Precedent SmartPower electric standby refrigeration units to reduce emissions. The carrier has also continued to add fuel-saving side skirts and tails to its trailers and specs its Kenworth T680s with Paccar MX-13 engines and Eaton automated transmissions.
“With our tractor specs and trailer aerodynamic features, we’re seeing overall fuel economy jump from the mid-6.0 to the 7.8–8.3 mpg range,” Handte reports. “With teams averaging 225,000 mi. per year and single drivers running 125,000 mi., that’s making quite an impact on reducing our fuel costs.”
New equipment, competitive pay, a range of benefits, and routes that cater to individual driver needs are also having an impact at Tribe. “In the first three years of employment, our driver turnover rate is about 35%, and our return ratio of drivers who leave and come back to work for us is 92%,” he states. “For drivers who invest more than three years with us, our retention rate is among the best in the business.
“Our success is driven by our people providing value and reliability to our customers,” Handte says.