Getting ahead by giving back

by Sonia Straface

BELLEVILLE, Ont. — Even though it’s red, white and blue, the Canadian-born International Truckload Services’ (ITS) logo is one of the province’s most recognizable on the highway.

ITS president Rob Haggarty says the business found success through its generous employees, who are always willing to give back and lend a helping hand.

But, if you take a closer look, ITS is not only visible as it’s rolling up and down Hwy. 401, but it is all around Canada, giving back to charities across the country. ITS sponsors local youth soccer teams, volunteers at food banks, and is constantly raising money for a cause. And to president Rob Haggarty, being involved in the community is what makes the business stand out from the rest.

ITS was started in Trenton, Ont., in 1986 by Max Haggarty, Rob’s father, with a single truck. Max had been in trucking for a while before he ventured out on his own, hauling mostly paper products.

Today, the business has expanded and now has eight locations throughout Ontario and Quebec, with its main headquarters located in Belleville, Ont. It boasts 390 trucks and 1,200 trailers – a far cry from when it started 31 years ago – and hauls retail commodities both domestically and into the US. The business is family-run and is still headed by Max, who is the CEO of the company. His daughter Pam is the director of safety and compliance, and son Rob is president and chief operating officer.

ITS has taken on a few big purchases in the last decade. It bought David Cordingley Transport in 2014 and CSI Logistics in 2011.

But what makes ITS one of the most successful and recognized trucking companies in the province, is that it is always making news by giving back, according to its management.

“And it’s because of our people,” president Rob Haggarty said. “I know it’s overused, but our people are our biggest asset. We have a great group of employees here who surprise me every day.”

ITS is involved in countless charities. It donates to the United Way, it sponsors youth sports, and helps out local causes when it can.

“One story that really comes to mind right away was during the Fort McMurray fires last year,” Haggarty said. “We were organizing a load of relief supplies to be taken out to Fort McMurray, so we reached out to the community to help us. We got the truck filled up with donated supplies very quickly and we had about eight drivers that came to us and offered to drive the load down for free – without pay. I thought it was just wild that our people cared so much to do that.”

Eventually, Haggarty did pick a driver to deliver the load: Justin Martin, a former Ontario Trucking Association Road Knight.

“He pestered me,” Haggarty recalled jokingly. “He called me every day saying he wanted to do it and be the one to go down there and deliver the load. And we did pay him because I wouldn’t have him doing that for free.”

In total, that truck made its way to Alberta with more than $140,000 worth of products inside to help those families in need.

“And that’s just one example of how our people always want to lend a helping hand,” Haggarty said. “We are heavily involved in the community with the food bank. We try to help out wherever possible. We donate, we move stuff for free for the food bank. We’re big with United Way and we do lots of sponsorships for events and sports teams around here. I have this saying here, ‘All you have to do is ask and we’ll do it’.”

In recent years, the company has also donated a police dog to the local Belleville Police Service.

“The people that work for us, are the people every trucking company wants working for them,” Haggarty added.

And it shows. The company’s driver turnover rate is quite low, with drivers sticking around to work for ITS.

“I think that’s because we offer regular runs and make sure they’re home a lot,” Haggarty said. “Plus, a lot of our transborder runs are within 600 miles, so they’re not out on the road for weeks at a time. Our drivers like the familiarity of doing the same runs over and over and they get to be home a few times a week. We are also very flexible on weekends. If you want to be home on weekends, great. If you want to work weekends, that’s great too. We’ve learned flexibility is key in keeping our employees happy.”

Haggarty added he believes drivers are also staying put because of the newer equipment ITS offers its drivers.

“We replace tractors every five years and our fleet is very modern,” he said. “All of our company tractors have disc brakes, and satellite radio. And our fleet is mostly Volvos and Freightliners.”

But even though his drivers are staying put now, Haggarty does worry about the driver shortage that is supposed to worsen in the coming years.

“We’re doing everything we can to attract drivers and owner-operators, but it continues to be our greatest challenge,” he said. “Our average driver age is 48 and it’s not long before these guys will be heading for the exit and that really concerns me.”

To combat this, Haggarty said the business is trying to hire younger people by aiming its advertising and marketing efforts onto social media platforms.

“We actually hired a social media person last year to help us recruit more drivers that way,” he said. “We do a lot of print advertising and now, online advertising.”

Looking towards the future, Haggarty said the focus will be to grow the company’s logistics division and keep its eye on opportunities for further growth.

“We will be keeping our eyes open to see if there are any strategic opportunities or acquisitions that would make sense in the future,” he said. “We’re always looking for that.”

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