Reliable Carriers
Tom Abrams, Reliable Carriers' owner, with his daughter Lauren and son Brian.

A focused passion and investment in technology help this fleet succeed

June 25, 2024
Through laser-sharp focus, the owners of a specialty transporter grew their business and now rely on technology to train drivers, ensure safety, and deliver quality.

With a stack of more than 10,000 driver applications, Reliable Carriers must be doing something right. While the auto hauling company gets a lot of attention from its YouTube channel hauling luxury and one-of-one vehicles to private owners, Reliable Carriers’ breadth of vehicle hauling is vast. From transporting vehicles to auto shows to transporting clay models for OEMs to being the exclusive transporter for auto auction houses, saying the company has made a name for itself in the auto-hauling industry is a bit of an understatement.

But a success story of this magnitude takes time to write.

Carving out Reliable Carriers’ niche

Reliable Carriers started in 1960 as a local moving and storage company. Don Abrams, who worked nights making ice cream at a dairy, would spend his days hauling loads that his wife Doris would book. Eventually, the couple signed on with a van line company—which went bankrupt within one year. The couple then moved their talent to other van line companies before landing with Allied Van Lines.

“As far as we felt, we hit Utopia,” Tom Abrams, Don’s son who now owns Reliable Carriers, recalled. “We finally got where we wanted to be.”

During their time as an Allied franchise, the Abrams accumulated an account hauling household goods and some automobiles for Chrysler. When it was time to renew Chrysler’s account, Tom, who’d taken over most of the business from his father by then, showed up to meet with a Chrysler executive alone because representatives from Allied missed their flight. The Abrams lost their biggest customer that day, and it was then that Tom Abrams decided to make a change.

Abrams wanted his company to “sell quality,” and the company’s trajectory at that time wouldn’t allow it. “I couldn't be everything to everybody,” he said. “I’m trying to move a piano here, I'm trying to move a car here, I'm trying to move a display here. ... I told [my dad] we’ve got to do something different ... We’re going to haul cars.”

Once Abrams and his team had a goal in mind, they never looked back. Since then, the company has grown to five locations with a sixth in progress, hauling cars across the United States and Canada with more than 400 haulers and 45-plus corporate clients.

While the company has experienced great success, it has faced challenges along the way. The hard times of the Great Recession required Reliable Carriers to shift from hauling predominantly for OEMs to branching out to haul cars privately and for auto auction houses. Then came the ELD mandate, followed closely by the pandemic of 2020, causing Reliable Carriers to reexamine its use of technology. Guided by Tom Abrams, Reliable Carriers and its staff, which now includes Tom’s adult children, have been able to rise to the occasion each time.

Relying on technology

Technology for compliance

While the company has been successful for decades, the ELD mandate caused Reliable Carriers to reexamine its operations’ technology and safety. When the mandate first came into effect, Reliable Carriers used a “cumbersome and chaotic” ELD system, explained Lauren Abrams, Reliable Carrier’s digital director and daughter of Tom Abrams. This system also had very little customer support, and Lauren and her team received regular calls from drivers needing assistance.

In 2020, Lauren and her team took advantage of the slowdown in business due to the pandemic to research and test different ELD providers over six months. Her team narrowed it down to two providers and performed head-to-head testing with a group of 30 drivers.

“We would start them on one system first and let them run it for a month or so and then switch them to the other and get their feedback,” Lauren told FleetOwner. “By the end of it, all drivers chose Motive. And it was a relief for us in the office too, because we all had our hearts set on Motive.”

Reliable Carriers preferred Motive because of its 24/7 driver support, but the partnership has provided many more benefits than just that.

“We've seen time after time, you'll share feedback with [the Motive] team, and a month later, it's actually implemented in their product,” Lauren said.

Technology to increase driver safety

Another way Reliable Carriers has implemented technology within the business is by adding driver-assistance technology.

“We spec all of our new trucks with all the latest collision mitigation systems, the blind spot monitoring systems,” Brian Abrams, Reliable Carriers’ director of technology and son of Tom Abrams, said. “We're trying to get as preventive as possible. Also, things like where DOT requires inspections yearly on equipment, we're doing them twice a year. Safety has been a huge aspect of how we all view the company in the last couple of years.”

Reliable Carriers also implemented dash cameras into the fleet. Initially, drivers weren’t excited about having dash cameras, said Ann Danko, Reliable Carriers’ director of safety and compliance, “but now it’s like, ‘You’re not taking that out of my truck—I’ve got to have it!’ It’s exonerated so many drivers.”

Driver exoneration is becoming a must for fleets of all sizes, as Tom Abrams noted, explaining Reliable Carriers’ insurance costs alone have risen by 30-40% just this year along with nuclear verdicts.

“I think part of the trucking industry, unfortunately, is going to get more difficult as time goes on with all the litigation,” Abrams told FleetOwner. Nuclear verdicts are “any verdict over $10 million, and last year, there were 33 of them. So, that's a couple every month for a trucking company.”

With nuclear verdicts, safety technology and dash cameras within a truck truly become assets not only to help keep the driver and other motorists safe but also to help provide evidence in the event of a collision between a trucker and another motorist. 

“Dash cams have really been a blessing for us,” Danko told FleetOwner. 

Building in-house technology solutions

While Reliable Carriers regularly invests in new equipment and technology, there are things it had to innovate in-house because of the specialized nature of its business. Reliable Carriers’ hauls change with every load, so its drivers must undergo multiple aspects of training. The company  creates its own training videos and stores them within its own app, developed by Lauren Abrams.

“It allows us to really scale our learning and make sure drivers are always becoming the best versions of themselves,” Lauren told FleetOwner. “Our drivers really love it too because it's not just standard training content. It's very specific to Reliable and our processes.”

Lauren Abrams also built an app for drivers to check in and check out their trucks when they start or complete their haul. In this app, drivers document the condition of the truck, its odometer reading, and the fuel available.

“It's actually saved us a lot of money because we used to have drivers return our trucks empty, or they returned the trucks dirty,” Lauren said. “So now we have checks and balances. We always know the condition that the driver is receiving or picking up equipment.” 

Steps ahead of the competition

The company culture at Reliable Carriers exudes excellence—and it comes largely from the top down. And that excellence is all in the details. After all, Tom Abrams, who wears a necktie to the office each day, expects the same from his staff.

“I’ve always had a passion to be the best,” Abrams told FleetOwner. “All we have to sell is a service, so at the end of the day, we’re going to be the best service.”

Part of being the best includes the investments Reliable Carriers has made, which also came from the top down. Safety Director Danko said implementing safety technology started with Tom’s buy-in.

“From the top down, we have developed in ... the last five years a safety culture here,” Danko explained. “And that's important, especially in today's world.”

About the Author

Jade Brasher

Senior Editor Jade Brasher has covered vocational trucking and fleets since 2018. A graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in journalism, Jade enjoys telling stories about the people behind the wheel and the intricate processes of the ever-evolving trucking industry.    

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Going Mobile: Guide To Starting A Heavy-Duty Repair Shop

Discover if starting a heavy-duty mobile repair business is right for you. Learn the ins and outs of licensing, building, and marketing your mobile repair shop.

Expert Answers to every fleet electrification question

Just ask ABM—the authority on reliable EV integration

Route Optimization Mastery: Unleash Your Fleet's Potential

Master the road ahead and discover key considerations to elevate your delivery performance

Leveraging telematics to get the most from insurance

Fleet owners are quickly adopting telematics as part of their risk mitigation strategy. Here’s why.