From one truck in 2001 to running 250 tractors, 400 trailers and a handful of flatbeds this year, Andy Transport, based in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, about 65 kilometres outside Montreal, is a carrier oozing ambition.
Ilie and Andreea Crisan
Ilie Crisan, a native of Sibiu, Romania and president of Andy Transport, moved to Canada in January 2001 and launched his business with an old Volvo. By 2006 he was running 16 trucks and drivers.
One morning that year, however, he got an unpleasant surprise when his sole customer announced that it has lost a contract and poof!, there was no more work.
“Probably one of the biggest challenges I had was the economic downturn which started in 2006. I was really at the beginning of my journey, and it was difficult to find clients and to keep a steady flow of work,” Crisan says. Fortunately, he confides, “I am an extremely competitive person. Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I look at the best ways to overcome it. And I never give up.”
“Two-thousand-and-six was when we learned our first business lesson 101: not to put all of our eggs in one basket,” adds Andreea Crisan, Ilie’s daughter and executive vice-president of Andy Transport. In her mid-twenties, Andreea, who is also a lawyer, has been helping run the company since she was 11.
Without even a yard in which to park their trucks, the Crisans went into problem-solving mode. “We had to decide what to do. We kept five trucks on the road. We invested in five trailers and hired a dispatcher who was working from his house. I was doing payroll from our house while my father was still driving. Prior to 2006 we didn’t know much about loads, trailers, insurance…This is how we started the real business activity,” Andreea says.
Ilie’s first commercial job was bussing athletes all over Europe. He also drove a coach between Romania and Germany. He later managed a German company, where he learned the “German way of doing business.” He also saw technologies in Europe, such as disc brakes, e-logs and automatic transmissions on heavy vehicles, years before they arrived in North America. Ilie sees himself as very open-minded, so it is not surprising that Andreea describes the company as being open to innovation and experimentation.
Golan Moryoussef, chief financial officer and vice-president of sales, recalls the speed with which Ilie adopted trailer skirts. (Moryoussef joined Andy Transport in January 2015, but knew the company well from his former life as a commercial lender with the Royal Bank of Canada).
“About five years ago Ilie tested some trailer skirts and after two weeks he called me. He bought skirts for all of the trailers. The skirts paid back in seven months,” Moryoussef says.
Ilie also wasted no time buying trucks with disc brakes in Canada – on his first Volvos, purchased in 2011.
As a general statement, Andreea says, “We are ready to adapt. I think we were one of the first companies to install scanners in all of our trucks. Our culture as a company is of being open-minded, accepting change more readily.”
The company’s first yard was a rental property in Dorval. The search for more space and a property to purchase led the Crisans to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, just a few kilometres from the A-30 ring road and its great connections to Ontario, Eastern Canada and the United States. Here, in 2011, the company bought an administration building, five-bay garage and a yard with room for about 150 units.
Its location, three miles from the new CSX Transportation intermodal terminal, which opened last November, suggested an opportunity for a new division: This April Andy Transport began doing pick-up and delivery of containers to the intermodal terminal with six rented chassis and four more it purchased.
Last year, Andy Transport opened a Specialized Division for moving oversize and heavy equipment, with four-axle flatbeds and dry vans.
Andy Transport rents a yard in Ville Saint-Laurent, with room for 300 units and a three-bay garage. The company also rents parking space near Toronto and keeps 20 trailers there, but is actively looking for a permanent location.
This January Andy Transport placed an order for 65 Volvo VNL 670 trucks, 80 Manac trailers and eight flatbeds. The Volvos were delivered in September.
“We have been buying Volvos for a few years. We were happy with the truck and the service,” says Andreea. As for choosing the 670, she says “We were looking for a product with the engine, transmission, and everything from the same OEM.” She notes that they had had service problems with other trucks because of major components that came from multiple OEMs.
The driver comfort, visibility, fuel consumption and the Volvo’s disc brakes were also attractive, Andreea explains.
“The warranty that came with the I-Shift transmission and disc brakes gave us a lot of confidence. We liked the partnership with Volvo.”
Among the qualities of the company that have contributed to its success, Andreea cites its reputation for delivering on its promises. And behind those promises are its 150 drivers and 70 owner/operators and how the company treats them.
“We treat them with respect; for example, if a dispatcher says he will get a driver back for his daughter’s birthday, we will do everything we can to do that. So when one of our drivers says ‘Yes, I can take that load on Monday and deliver it by Friday,’ I take that very seriously. There is a commitment on both sides.”
The company is on an aggressive growth track.
“We plan on maintaining constant growth over the next years by continuing to develop our core business and by diversifying into adjacent business units,” Ilie says. “In the 10 next years, we foresee acquisition opportunities. We will continue to open terminals in strategic locations and we want to penetrate the US market with a physical presence.