Constructing a successful business

by Sonia Straface

It’s the humble trucking story most are familiar with. Dad drives trucks, takes one truck and builds a business.

That’s more or less how Joseph Haulage planted its roots in 1975. Joseph K. Joseph bought a dump truck and started hauling mostly sand and gravel locally in Hamilton, Ont. under the name Joseph Haulage. Slowly the business grew while Joseph’s son watched over his shoulder and learned the ways of the fleet owner.

Today the company is run by Joseph’s son, Geoff, and Joseph Haulage is one of the most recognized trucking companies in Southern Ontario. It has 250 trucks and nearly 350 trailers.

“And things were pretty much status quo until 2005,” Geoff said of the steady growth of the company until that point.

Geoff Joseph

In 2005, as a commerce student, Geoff had learned a lot about building and selling a business.

“So, I was ready to sell it to a company in the US, and then at the eleventh hour, I decided I was too young to sell and not continue on with the trucking business, which is something I enjoyed,” he explained. “I told my father to give me five years to double the business.”

And he did.

In 2008, Geoff’s father stepped out of the business to assist his wife who was diagnosed with cancer at the time. That’s when Geoff really took the reigns to steer the business’s direction.

“I was president of the company in 2001, but in 2008, I’m not saying that my dad held us back, but it gave me an opportunity to do what I thought was best and kick some butt,” Geoff recalled.

Geoff expanded the business into different segments and transformed the mom and pop business into the recognized trucking company it is today. To date, it has multiple locations in Ontario including Mississauga, Brampton, Caledonia, and Acton with its headquarters in Stoney Creek.

Joseph Haulage mostly hauls construction goods – like building materials – to job sites mostly in Southern Ontario, though it does occasionally go to the Great Lakes states. While it started with dump trucks, it expanded into the tanker business, and then opened up a flatbed group shortly thereafter.

“We haul lumber, shingles, cement, containment soil, you name it,” Geoff said, adding that expanding was the only way to succeed in the tough trucking environment.

“Basically, we knew that because there’s seasonality to the business, having a more diverse group would be key to making it in this industry,” he said. “So, we were careful not to put all of our eggs into one basket. Because even though we are specific to construction, we have a lot of vertical integration to help serve our customers better every day. Our goal was then – and still is today – to provide our customers with a ‘one call gets it all’ operation.”

Geoff claims this approach is what got his company to be one of the primary trucking companies involved in the construction needed for the Pan Am Games that took place in Toronto in the summer of 2015.

“We did a lot of the Pan Am Games projects,” he said. “We worked on the aquatic center, equestrian center, the athletes’ village…we did a lot of trucking there that took a lot of coordinating, that other trucking companies wouldn’t do. So, it’s good to have a good group of individuals that look outside of the box and look at the full scope of the project. Our slogan has been ‘Our business is helping yours,’ because we want to extend and build off of our customer to do more for their business any way we can.”

And it’s not only the customers who are getting what they want at Joseph Haulage, it’s the drivers and staff too. With driver turnover much lower than the average trucking company, Joseph said that it’s all in the focus of good human resources practices.

“We offer performance bonuses, we offer profit sharing, pension plans and we pay our staff hourly so they can be compensated properly,” he said. “Of course we’re not perfect, but we’re a well run group. I try to make my employees feel like if they have a challenge they can talk to me or their direct manager and it will be addressed.”

Joseph also puts a focus on safety, mentoring and coaching when it comes to driver training.

“We also like to promote from within,” he said. “One of my vice-presidents was an owner-operator, then a company driver and is now a VP.
Joseph also specifically chooses its equipment based on driver likeability, and Geoff said that since Peterbilts are the most preferred trucks among the majority of drivers he knows, he bought a fleet of Petes for his drivers.

“The oldest units we have would be three or four years old,” he said. “We like to keep our equipment current.”

The company also has its drivers wear a uniform to show the professionalism that often goes unnoticed in the trucking and construction industries.

“In the construction world, it’s a dirty environment, but it’s one that is always in the public eye,” Geoff explained. “We’re in residential neighborhoods and school zones, so now we believe we have the best trucks in the industry, the best drivers in the industry that are the best dressed, too.”

In the near future, Geoff said he hopes to expand the business even further, perhaps with a location in the US.

“In the future, we are hoping for more acquisitions,” he said, “to get us into different markets and acquire some market share. I see more locations throughout Canada and potentially one in the US. We are looking at getting into rail meaning we might have to rebrand, but we’re always looking to grow. As I tell my senior management group, I’m not in this business to sell it.”

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