It’s ironic that more than half a century ago, a man named Hall decided he would invest in the hauling and trucking industry. Today, his company is still kicking and is a household name and respected carrier in the Canadian trucking industry.
J&R Hall is known for its shiny black trucks that haul across Western Canada. Recently, it was named one of Canada’s Top Fleet Employers by Trucking HR Canada and of late, business has been flourishing according to its third-generation of owners.
The history of the company dates back to 1949 when John T. Hall founded a transportation company that hauled livestock and farm products around southwestern Ontario. The second generation joined the business in 1959 and expanded the venture into the transportation of aggregate products. In 1969, the business added dry vans, and by 1982, the third generation of Halls was on-board. The name J&R Hall was incorporated in 1987 and in 1988 it was decided that the company would focus on hauling primarily to Western Canada.
Today, the business is being led by president Jeff Hall, grandson of founder John T. Hall, and his siblings, Andy Hall, v.p. and Lynn D’Aguilar, v.p. It has 80 trucks, more than 180 trailers and some 130 full-time drivers on its payroll. It hauls general freight, or as Jeff puts it: “If it fits in a van, we’ll haul it.”
Jeff’s eldest son Cody also joined the family business in operations, marking the entrance of the fourth generation in J&R Hall. Jeff’s other son Dylan works as a licensed mechanic in the company’s shop.
So far, the Halls are hauling well and are turning heads in the industry. The company has a loyal customer base and has been nationally recognized for its integrity and human resources best practices, since it’s not losing drivers and is capitalizing despite trucking’s tough times. In addition, J&R boasts an excellent CVOR rating and its damage claim ratio is close to 100% – all impressive when you consider it is in the LTL side of things.
The company’s secret to success or biggest strength is a combination of the reputation the company has earned over the years, according to the senior staff.
“Our reputation in the industry is our biggest strength,” said D’Aguilar. “Our drivers are very professional and exceed customer expectations on a regular basis. Communication is one of our strongest points with our customers, and we definitely think a lot of it has to do with the size of our company. We’re not too big, but we’re not too small. We have a group of dispatchers that are communicating and letting our customers know when their freight is arriving.”
Communication is so strong, according to Cody Hall, because of the longstanding employees at J&R that become familiar faces for customers to deal with when a problem arises. This helps customers feel comfortable and allows them to express problems freely.
The company’s communication also extends further to its senior staff and employees.
“We always take the time to talk with the drivers and know each and every one of them by name,” said D’Aguilar, adding that if a driver ever has a problem, they have no issues discussing it with management.
The company’s driver turnover rate is well below industry average and that is thanks to a combination of using only brand new equipment and the state-of-the-art terminals across the country.
“Our terminals make a really big difference because our terminals in Western Canada and Ontario all have laundry facilities, a kitchen, showers, a drivers’ lounge and a full gym available to our staff,” said D’Aguilar. “Drivers do appreciate those comforts of home that our facilities provide. I also think the fact that we offer satellite TV and Internet in our terminals as well has to do with it…the drivers have said they really appreciate those things when they are on a reset.”
According to Jeff Hall, the addition of a gym in the terminals was recent because of how much health and wellness has been in the spotlight in the trucking industry.
“We receive positive feedback about the gym facilities each and every day,” he said. “All of us are understanding our personal health more and more these days and we are paying attention to those needs and right now focus on wellness is at the forefront for us.”
At the end of the day, the company credits its low turnover rate to treating drivers like people.
“We build their work schedule around their personal needs,” said Andy. “We cater to them for their schedules and what they need for home time. When they can’t work, we work with them to see what they need.”
Though the driver shortage isn’t exactly affecting the business today, it is something that is on the company’s radar for the future.
Cody Hall one of the two fourth generation-ers at J&R expressed the company’s concern with the lack of interest of trucking from millennials, like himself.
“There aren’t too many up and comers coming into the industry,” he said. “And we’ve got an aging population of drivers, and it’s definitely going to continue on. But it’s something we’re thinking about and something we need to address in the future.”
The third generation of Halls – the management team – all have different opinions on the company’s biggest concern.
Jeff thinks that the education system has failed the industry as a whole because of how many teenagers are in the dark about the opportunities present in the trucking world. He thinks this is the company’s biggest struggle because in the future, when it comes time to replace his retired drivers, he’s not going to have many options.
“People is our biggest struggle,” he said. “I feel our school system has failed our industry in the last 20 years. We have chased kids into university to learn how to be an IT professional or a Google guru and we have not educated kids in the trades and I classify our industry as a trade.”
Andy argued that the company’s greatest challenge is the weak Canadian dollar that is making buying new equipment – which in turn keeps their drivers around – an expensive and difficult task.
D’Aguilar agreed with Jeff that education is a problem for students, but is also an issue with shippers. She claims that some shippers aren’t aware of the hours-of-service rule and this causes tension on a daily basis.
As far as the future is concerned with J&R Hall, the youngest of the company’s management team, Cody, said the future is looking good and that steady growth is the focus for now. The company is currently expanding even further into the west, adding a terminal in Abbotsford, B.C.
“Everything you use comes by road, so there’s always gong to be the need for our industry,” he said.