For Shoreland Transport, trucking is a fishy business. But that’s only because it’s in the business of going from fish egg to plate and everything in between.
Shoreland is the trucking arm of Cooke Aquaculture – one of the world’s largest independent salmon farming companies. Cooke Aquaculture was established in 1985 by Gifford, Michael, and Glenn Cooke with one marine cage site containing a mere 5,000 salmon. Through vertical integration and smart business maneuvers, the Cookes expanded the business, and today sell 115,00 tonnes of Atlantic salmon and 20,000 tonnes of sea bass and sea bream each year. The company has operations in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Maine, Chile, Spain and Scotland, while its annual sales are estimated to be at nearly $1 billion.
Much of Cooke Aquaculture’s success comes from its aim to be as vertically integrated as possible, said Ted Weaire, director of service operations for Shoreland Transport.
“Part of our philosophy is to vertically integrate our business,” he said. “So we have other conditions that complement more of our existence, which is salmon. So for example, we will have the processing facility, we have the hatcheries division, we have our saltwater division, we have cage buildings, nets, repair buildings…and we do this for a number of reasons. But in particular, we believe that having parts of business vertically integrated allows us to be competitive in the marketplace, while ensuring service levels.”
This is especially true for the business’ trucking division, Shoreland, which was established in 2002.
“From a trucking perspective, we can ensure the cold chain and we can do it for less,” Weaire said about why Shoreland was born.
Hiring the best staff and not relying on a third-party trucking company was Cooke Aquaculture’s top priority because of the nature of the product it had to haul to customers.
“Our product is very time-sensitive because it has a shelf life. So as soon as we pull it from the water, it’s very important that we process that and transport it to our customers in a timely manner,” Weaire said. “It’s very critical.”
Currently, Shoreland consists of 25 long-haul tractors and drivers, six local day cab trucks and drivers and two boom trucks. All of the company’s trucks are Kenworth T680s and all have reefer units to deliver the fish from the one facility in New Brunswick to Toronto, Montreal, and the eastern and mid-western states, like Illinois and Virginia. The company aims to deliver within a 24- to 36-hour window to ensure the freshest fish possible.
So far, Shoreland has built a positive reputation both on the road and with its customers. This feat is thanks to its employees, according to Weaire, who claims they are the company’s biggest strength.
“We have a very dedicated staff in the office and a tremendously dedicated group of drivers,” he said. “Like anything, it’s a team, and the team takes the request and carries it out. If it wasn’t for the people who work for us, we’d be stuck using a regular trucking company more or less. Our staff has a personal touch with things. Our office staff is always in constant contact with our drivers from the time that they’re called to do a load to the time they deliver it. Our office staff is always communicating with our drivers and it gives the drivers a sense of commitment on both ends. It’s not just, ‘Here’s the address, take off.’ It’s working together from the time that the load is picked up to dropped off and sent back. It’s constant communication. It’s caring, because we all care for each other.”
Weaire added that Shoreland drivers stand out from the rest because of their unrivaled professionalism that gets noticed on a daily basis by customers.
“There’s numerous examples of our drivers doing everything that they can to get our product delivered to our customers in a very professional manner,” Weaire said. “For one, our trucks are always clean and presentable. And we always have very professional drivers that are all constantly working towards a common goal – getting the product from the ocean to the shelves.”
The trucking company’s turnover rate is also incredibly low and Weaire says there are no retention problems – something he thinks has to do with consistent driver schedules.
“We have a very family-friendly schedule for drivers,” he said. “Their routes are very consistent. Our drivers are great and they range from just getting out of the driver trainer school, all the way to have 20+ years in the industry. We don’t have a lot of retention problems and I think it’s a combination of having those family-friendly schedules and having them drive good, reliable equipment and having a good supporting cast around them. We’ve got great people who look after our drivers and make sure they’re able to maintain a life outside of work.”
Similar to most North American trucking companies, Shoreland’s biggest struggle is the looming driver shortage, though all its trucks currently have someone occupying the driver’s seat.
“We’re not affected by the driver shortage right now,” Weaire said. “But we could grow faster if I had a pool of drivers that I know I could pick from.”
Much like its parent company, Shoreland has its eye on expanding through smart business acquisitions and has recently purchased a fishery in Virginia that has a small fleet containing a handful of trucks. It plans on integrating the handful of trucks it has acquired in the near future.
However, in the distant future, Weaire said slow and steady growth for Shoreland is the ultimate goal.
“I think we’re going to continue to grow the old-fashioned way which is to keep adding trucks and drivers as we go,” he said. “But if the opportunity were to come that there was a trucking company for sale, where we could acquire something, then we certainly will. We have a lot of
product to haul and our customers have product to haul, so there’s no reason why we can’t all work together to do that.”