All for one, ONE for Freight

by Sonia Straface

MILTON, Ont. — Traditional is not in David Carruth’s vocabulary. He’s the president and chief executive officer of ONE for Freight – a transportation service provider that prides itself on being innovative, and a one-stop shop for all of its clients.

Carruth bought the business – then called Ontario New England Express – in 2005. At the time, the business only had about 15 straight trucks and a couple of tractor-trailers which operated between Ontario and New England.

“It was very small in revenue then, and I would say that 85% of the revenue was through relationships with other carriers and load brokers,” Carruth said. “So, when I bought the business, I got rid of the New England name, I thought it pigeon-holed us. To get ONE for Freight, I just took the initials of the original business name and
got ONE.”

From there, Carruth started building up the business, adding new clients and staff. One year into the game, his brother came on-board as well. And in 2012, after it acquired a smaller business, it started changing the way it operated.

“It was around 2012-2013 when we figured out a clear understanding of who we were and are,” Carruth said. “We were all at our annual general meeting that included our drivers and I said something and it stuck. I told the company then that I wanted to build something different and something great that everybody owns and is a part of.”

Today, the business has 44 trucks, and around 90 trailers. It hauls general freight all over the U.S. and Canada and specializes in what it calls “ugly freight” – or anything that doesn’t fit nicely on a 4x4x4 skid. It also has three principles it abides by every day: know its clients better than they know themselves; put the right person at the right place at the right time; and stay true to its concepts.

“We just really had an aspiration to build it into something different than a traditional transportation provider,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve done here. Today, we have about 35 key clients that make up 85% of our revenue. And these clients are Fortune 500 companies, that wouldn’t typically see smaller-sized fleets. We’ve built our business on service and always trying to suggest better solutions for our customers.”

Unlike other companies, who are focused on increasing shipping volumes, ONE for Freight is focused on helping customers ship smart and efficiently. The business uses a multi-modal approach to not only deliver freight on time, but to create a way for freight to move that is efficient and cost-effective at the same time which sometimes includes using trusted carrier partners.

Like many other fleets, ONE for Freight is affected by the driver shortage, though it helps that it’s known for being a top tier employer in the industry.

“It is a big challenge for us to attract drivers,” Carruth admitted. “But we’ve been named the Top Small Fleet Employer for two years running thanks to our HR (human resources) initiatives. When we look at drivers, we look at how we are investing in their wellbeing without just paying them more. We focus on making sure each employee has a more rounded role. We know a driver isn’t just a commodity.”

What’s keeping employees and drivers around, according to Carruth, is the company’s profit-sharing program, its belief in staff and drivers having flexible work hours, and having management question how to make the lives of employees better.

“One of the things that is a real priority for us is to help our team members set career paths,” Carruth said. “We are working on advancing our employees’ personal development and they seem to enjoy our efforts because we understand some people are content in the position they are in, and others, like millennials, want to grow in the company.”

Recently, Carruth was named the chairman of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) for the 2019-2020 term. And his goal while leading the association is to level the playing field for all Canadian carriers.

“We want to be able to compete,” he said. “Because there’s a number of carriers in our industry who cut corners whether it’s safety-wise or tax-wise. We want a level playing field. So, when I’m driving my truck that’s set at 105 km/h on my speed limiter, the truck next to me is also doing 105 km/h – he’s not passing me going 120 km/h. With ELDs (electronic logging devices), we really want to see them certified by a third party. We want a barrier of entry so carriers coming in to the industry need to provide a safety plan and have a third-party audit before they let just anyone in the truck.”

Carruth said if this was the case, the Humboldt, Sask., tragedy (in which a tractor-trailer struck a minor hockey team bus resulting in 16 fatalities) would have never happened.

“Humboldt was preventable by everyone in the industry,” he said. “It was preventable by the Alberta government, by the Saskatchewan government – if it was Ontario it never would have happened because of mandatory entry-level training. We want those carriers off the road.”

Another goal of Carruth’s is to change the motoring public’s view of the industry.

“My own personal goal with the OTA is to positively influence how the external world thinks and acts about our industry,” he said. “It hasn’t been a well thought of industry for a number of years. We need to be able to attract millennials and Generation Z into our industry. We need to grow beyond the traditional trucking industry. Everything you feel, touch, see, wear at some point has been on a truck. So, it’s vital to our economy that people don’t see trucks on the road with disdain. But we’ve created that. And we need to do something about it. We need the laws we have in play, enforced.”

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  • I agree wholeheartedly on what you are saying.
    You need to adjust your statement on the Humboldt bus crash though. The truck did not hit the bus. The bus hit the lead trailer on the drivers side.
    The truck driver was still at fault. He definitely should have a lot more team training.