Challenger pushes envelope on speed, efficiency and safety with new HQ

by Lou Smyrlis

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – In his 31 years in the industry Dan Einwechter has hardly shied away from making a statement. And the influential and sometimes outspoken head of Challenger Motor Freight certainly made a statement on the future of trucking facility design with the official opening of the company’s new headquarters.

The new 126,000 sq.-ft. facility built on 53 acres pushes the envelope in a number of areas, including driver amenities, technology and environmental design. The facility incorporates state-of-the-art maintenance facilities, driver amenities, safety lanes, automatic wash and fueling stations as well as a highly advanced administrative centre. It also consolidates activities previously housed in two separate buildings at Challenger’s old site, which was bursting at the seams.

“This is a threshold moment in the Canadian trucking industry. This is the premier truckload facility in Canada,” Einwechter told a gathering of industry suppliers, customers and dignitaries. Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley described him as being so proud of the new building, he has been “like a little boy” over the past year as the building has grown into reality.

Einwechter, who started with one truck and has grown Challenger to a fleet of 1,450 power units and 3,300 trailers that was bursting at the seams at its old location, stressed he had three goals with the new building’s design: speed, efficiency and safety.

Speed and efficiency in processing equipment and drivers have become particularly critical as carriers deal with more restrictive Hours-of-Service regulations on both sides of the border.

The new facility has improved Challenger’s efficiencies in various aspects of its business. For example, the possibility of drivers picking up the wrong trailer or spending 15 minutes looking for the right one is always a problem that wastes valuable time for any fleet with more than 50 trailers. But Challenger’s new Yard Smart trailer management system locates each specific trailer in its yard and alerts drivers if they pick the wrong one.

Also, Challenger’s highway drivers can use one of three bays in an indoor fuel building and have an automated tire reader read the tire pressure and temperature of each tire on their truck. The truck is then driven over a pit with an alignment pad, which will indicate if the tires are in alignment on the tractor and trailer.

“I tell our drivers I can’t guarantee they won’t have a breakdown at 2 a.m. but I can guarantee we will do our damn best to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” Einwechter said.

And the drivers can start their paperwork while their trucks are being checked and fuelled.

“These are all little things on their own, but they add up in combination when you are trying to make more efficient use of driver time to deal with the more restrictive US and Canadian Hours-of-Service regulations. From a security perspective, which is also becoming increasingly important for shippers exporting to the US, the entire facility is well lit, with a secure guardhouse, and specific security zones,” Einwechter had explained to Transportation Media in a previous interview.

The focus on drivers is evident throughout the building right from the driver entrance that looks more like the front of the building than the back of the building and a driver room with large comfortable chairs and a big screen TV. (Several drivers were in the room at the time I took the tour, enjoying a World Cup game.)

Another feature of the new building is a driver simulator, which Challenger is using to train recruits and provide remedial training on identified problem areas for experienced drivers. It can even recreate accident scenes.

“With improved driving skills and the ability to handle many different road conditions we expect to see fewer accidents,” Einwechter said.

Challenger has also been placing a heavy emphasis on technology to make its operations more efficient in other areas and to improve customer service. It is continuing to roll out its business analytics to all levels of the company so managers have quality information to help them make the best possible decisions. The company is building specific modules that are geared towards areas such as operations, recruiting and shop activity. The user can see quickly how they did yesterday or last month against their KPIs. For example, the quick, visual method of viewing information assists operations staff in their planning, Einwechter explained, as it allows them to get a better handle on any shortages and implement the necessary corrective action.

As impressive as the new facility is, it’s unlikely this signals a significant slowdown in innovations for Challenger, which has been named to the prestigious list of the 50 Best Managed Companies five times in a row and also just received the Shipper’s Choice Award from sister publication Canadian Transportation & Logistics after surpassing a benchmark of excellence set by more than more than 1,000 buyers of TL transportation services across Canada. That’s because according to Einwechter, success comes from “being prepared to accept change on a continuous basis and be willing to look at things from a new perspective in order to continue to manage effectively.”

“Our team is good at that. Anybody can make mistakes but it’s how you choose to deal with the problems that sets apart the good companies from the bad,” he said.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.