I am really happy for my pal Ben Rouillard, executive v.p. of B&B Group/Bess Tank Lines, who last week dropped me a note to let me know he closed his first acquisition. The company bought High River, Alta.-based Cooney’s Farm Services, which runs a small fleet of well-kept tractors and tanker trailers hauling chemical products. The marriage of the two family-run businesses will help Bess expand its chemical hauling capabilities.
Let me tell you about Ben. We met in the early 2000s when I was new to Truck News and he had just arrived in Alberta from Montreal to start a western division of the family trucking company, which operates in Quebec as B&B Group; you’ve seen their trucks. Ben had to learn English on the job while establishing a trucking company in Alberta, of all places. Their specialty was hauling ‘animal byproduct,’ which would be processed into powder and fed back to the cows to fatten them up. Mad Cow disease put an end to that practice and the company was forced to reinvent itself. It began hauling canola oil and other bulk liquids and never missed a beat.
Ben always hated the question “How many trucks do you have?” It drove him nuts. He didn’t like the idea that people in the industry measured your worth or success by the number of power units in your fleet. He said he’d rather by judged on the profitability of each of those trucks in his small fleet. This was progressive thinking at the time; remember this was the early 2000s when carriers would add trucks at the mere hint of freight to haul behind them.
For a time, we were neighbours in downtown Calgary. I lived on the ground floor of my building and he resided on the top floor of his, which cast its shadow over a wine shop I would visit on occasion. More than once I left that store with my arms full only to hear Ben’s voice from above. “James – come on up!” I’d leave hours later realizing I needed to revisit that store on my way home. Those were good times.
I saw Ben last summer while in Calgary and he was hinting of a deal his company was looking to close. It wasn’t Cooney’s, though. That original deal apparently fell through. Still, Ben spoke of his ambitions to grow Bess Tank Lines and his passion for the business of trucking was invigorating. Tanker fleets in Alberta are being snapped up by the mega-fleets like minnows in a shark-filled pond. So yeah, I’m rooting for the little guy and hoping Bess Tank Lines continues to grow and to thrive. They have young, ambitious management who are committed to the business. Ben hinted more acquisitions could be coming. But even then, I don’t think you’ll ever hear him bragging about the size of his fleet.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies