The all-consuming goal for many for-hire trucking firms has been just to get through this year — but not so for Pitt Ohio Express. In the face of the toughest business climate trucking has faced in nearly three decades, the Pittsburgh-based truckload and less-than-truckload motor carrier is doing much more than just riding out the economic storm. Rather, it has kept resolutely to accomplishing its “mission to evolve from a regional trucking company to a transportation solutions provider,” relates Geoffrey Muessig, chief marketing officer.
Pitt Ohio, Muessig points out, launched itself on this path starting back in 2005 with the purchase of its truckload operation. “From there, we formed what we call a customer solutions group to help our customers access and benefit from all our services, including enhanced LTL coverage such as freeze protection and expediting.”
He says the next big step, taken last year, was to form a strategic alliance with five other regional motor carriers to enhance the account base for all. The six-way partnership — dubbed The Reliance Network (TRNET) — “has allowed us to weather the recession,” according to Muessig.
“The alliance has grown to $100 million in sales per year for all six member carriers,” he continues. “Pitt Ohio's share of TRNET business amounts to just shy of 10% of the firm's total LTL business. Our research shows that Pitt Ohio enjoys a widely held and positive reputation as being dependable, flexible and customer-centric,” and being part of TRNET has only enhanced its market position.
But Pitt Ohio did not stop there. “Most recently we launched a regional small-package service called Pitt Ohio Ground. We can bundle this offering with our other services and deliver everything from a 5-lb. package to a 45,000-lb. truckload shipment with one purchase order,” Muessig relates. He notes that while the truckload and LTL networks extend from the Mid-Atlantic States to the Midwest, Pitt Ohio Ground also runs to New England.
Muessig points out that The Reliance Network, whose other partners are Averitt Express, DATS, Lakeville Express, LandAir, and Canadian Freightways/Epic Express, is “unique in that the service offered is reviewed daily and action is taken as needed by an administrative and cross-functional IT group. The idea is to try to operate as much as possible as our own company, yet deliver to the customer a very reliable system.” Muessig notes that the Pitt Ohio truckload operation provides a linehaul link to its network partners.
“There is seamless track and trace capability for shipments across The Reliance Network,” Muessig relates. “These shipments can be booked online, too, and the process to handle them mirrors that in place for our core service offerings.”
Contributing to a customer-centric freight partnership is not the only innovation at work for Pitt Ohio. “We've put mobile computers into all our trucks. These are allowing us to track and improve our fuel efficiency by monitoring the acceleration and braking patterns of our drivers. And they're helping improve customer service as well. The onboard computers allow drivers to communicate information on customer concerns about deliveries to our customer service department in real time. This way we can address and handle any issue head-on.”
Muessig advises this feature was designed in-house with an “eye toward being as customer-centric as possible — letting us stay more in touch with both shippers and their customers. The carrier is only a conduit from the shipper to the customer; to take care of the shipper, you must take care of his customer, too.”
Completing the picture as it does at all savvy carriers is Pitt Ohio's commitment to its drivers. “We recognize our drivers are our best asset, and we must continue to invest in them,” remarks Muessig. He says that despite the freight downturn, Pitt Ohio is continuing to offer an impressive benefits package and even instituted a “modest” wage increase for drivers this year. “This $300 million business was built by our people,” Muessig adds, “many of whom are our drivers, who are on the front line for us every day.”