A local transportation specialist focuses on customer needs
Drivers at All Truck Transportation Co. in Chicago "go the extra mile" for customers, according to founder and president Mathew J. Alagna Jr. And since more than half of the truckload carrier's hauls are under 25 miles, shippers appreciate that extra mile. Service, says Alagna, is the reason this "local transportation specialist" has grown 15% to 20% a year since the early 1990s.
Most people associate truckload carriage with long, over-the-road movements, but All Truck has found a profitable niche hauling specialized commodities within a 75-mile radius of Chicago. In 1980 Alagna had four trucks and worked for a local freight forwarder. "I knew I needed to do something else, so I bought intrastate authority for corrugated paper," he says.
Although the industry has been deregulated, All Truck now hauls over 50% of the corrugated paper manufactured in the area. In addition, the fleet has added beverage cans, tin plated steel, and other commodities over the years, learning the particular service needs and preferences for each industry.
For example, paper companies have tight dock times and need to move a lot of volume. Dedicated equipment helps All Truck meet those requirements, and a central dispatch using Nextel wireless voice communications can quickly accommodate an unexpected additional load with equipment and drivers.
"Nobody waits in that business," says Alagna. "Calls and pages get returned immediately, and our drivers make sure their loads move." At some of the fleet's larger paper customers, All Truck even has its own shipping clerks on the customer's docks to expedite things.
Attention to specialized service has helped the fleet grow to 150 tractors and 1,000 trailers, all 53-footers. The fleet also has 40 owner-operators, most of them long-term employees who wanted to run their own business.
Much of All Truck's recent growth has come from private fleet conversions to dedicated carriage. "Our kind of business is based on relationships and reputation," says Alagna. "We have a reputation as a local transportation specialist that will, basically, do anything we have to for our customers."
Recognizing that much of the responsibility for that good reputation rests with the fleet's drivers, All Truck places a good deal of emphasis on training and retaining its drivers. "When we bring someone in, we always do additional training even with experienced drivers," says Alagna. Drivers are also paid on an hourly basis, and benefits include family medical coverage, a 401K program, life and disability insurance, and profit sharing. Drivers also elect their own five-member board to deal with safety, work rules, and other related issues.
While service and reputation bring in the business, making that business profitable when hauls are so short requires squeezing the most productivity possible out of equipment. "Right now about 70% of our mileage is loaded," says Alagna. Centralized dispatch with experienced dispatchers and the wireless voice system help keep loaded miles up, as does a good understanding of the various customers' business cycles and requirements. The fleet had been using a land-based vehicle tracking system and is now looking to replace it with one that uses GPS satellite tracking and an Internet management interface. "Eventually we'll move to a complete computerized dispatch system," Alagna says.
Alagna says it would be relatively easy to expand into regional hauling, but he wants to stick with the local market he understands so well. Instead, the company is looking for growth by building on its current strengths.
"Our customers know we don't take shortcuts in maintenance or service or communications," Alagna says. And word of mouth goes a long way in the shorthaul market.