Moving specialized, oversized, overweight equipment is a job only fit for a carrier that has the experience and personnel to execute such a daunting task.
But for Fleetway Transport, moving mining equipment from southern Ontario to the port of Baltimore is just another day.
Fleetway is a specialty carrier based out of Brantford, Ont. that hauls mostly humongous loads across Canada and the eastern half of the US. The company has been around since the early ’80s and its history is part of the reason why Fleetway has been successful, according to current president, David Rees.
Rees is the fourth generation to run the family business, which originally was called Rees Transport. Rees was started by David’s great grandfather and was eventually sold to Maislin Transport in 1979. Shortly after, Fleetway was born, starting out as a leasing company. Through smart management and business advice being passed down through the generations over the years, Fleetway has positioned itself into being one of Ontario’s premier specialty carriers.
Today the company boasts 92 power units and 300 trailers and its business is sectioned off into two main divisions: flatdeck and dry van.
On the flatdeck side, Fleetway moves everything from structural steel to hospital curtains to forestry and mining equipment. The division has also been included on a number of notable projects including the Freedom Towers rebuild in New York City. On its dry van side, Fleetway hauls refrigerated products – like grocery cooler display cases – to major retailers.
Like many trucking companies, Rees says the reason for the company’s ongoing success is simple: the people who work for him.
“For a transportation company to be successful you have to be very good at what you do and you have to have the right people to help you. So we’re really in the people business,” he said. “It’s changed a lot over the last 20 years how we handle associates. Today, we provide them with the best tools, the best training, the best technology, and comfort to enhance and exceed customer expectations. Buying the equipment is easy. It’s the drivers, the administrative people, the technicians that make Fleetway so successful.”
Rees said that by hiring the best and providing them with the resources they need, Fleetway has essentially built one smooth-operating machine that can work well together.
One example Rees gave of how well operations, dispatch, and drivers work together was on a recent delivery to new a condominium construction site in downtown Toronto.
“We have a site downtown at Yonge and Eglinton,” he said. “So the operations people drove down and met with the customer on site, because the logistics was a nightmare in downtown Toronto. So freight was being delivered to the highrise. Trucks all had to be marshalled in and out. So we scoped out the site, we had spotters and escorts and police to block off the site, just to make the process as smooth as we could make it. And after, the customer said they’ve never seen a job go so smooth before. We had to use special 37-ft trailers that we had made for this customer because we knew we couldn’t get 53-ft trailers in there. There was no room. We had over-dimensional loads going there, dry vans driving in and out. It was for an existing customer of ours and they were really happy with the operations people and the drivers and the efficiency of the whole day.”
Not only has the company perfected how to move large items from Point A to B, it has learned that diversification is key to success. In its terminal in Brantford, Fleetway has a maintenance shop complete with six drive-through bays where it has 10 technicians doing all its maintenance. It also has a 24,000 sq.-ft. warehousing facility that will soon double in size on its 15-acre lot to better serve its customers’ warehousing needs.
Of course, though the company has almost all of its trucks full, Rees said its biggest problem is the driver shortage. To combat this, Rees said Fleetway is a regular advertiser and has been working with local colleges and high schools in the area to find young, enthusiastic drivers who want to be on the road.
“The average age of our employees is 52,” he said. “So our focus in the next four years is replacing those 20-year-plus employees. To do that, we’ve put youth into driving positions. We’ve invested in their training and have started developing them to complement our long-term employees here.”
Rees said new hires go through a rigorous three-month training program that is often run by Fleetway’s risk management safety director. Over the course of the three months, new drivers learn all about cargo securement, the importance of a driver’s appearance and how to do a proper pre-trip inspection.
“The vision is to provide them with the best equipment, tools, training, and environment to sustain them for a long period of time,” he said. “A lot of the time (new drivers) work with a senior driver for an extended period of time until operations and the risk manager has the confidence in him/her to let him/her loose. We also try to keep them within a 400-mile radius in the first year.”
Today, Fleetway boasts a below-industry average driver turnover rate and Rees said he believes his drivers are sticking around for multiple reasons: the company’s dedication to safety, the new equipment the company invests in and its adoption of new technology.
Safety is important to Fleetway simply because of the nature and value of the products it hauls. The company has quarterly safety meetings and with its in-house maintenance shop, it has found new ways to be even safer.
In addition, Fleetway drivers enjoy driving Freightliner Cascadias and being in the loop with the latest technology.
Rees said that the company rolled out e-logs more than two years ago and his drivers were thrilled to do away with the old paper logs.
“It’s been a very smooth transition,” he said. “It has exceeded our expectations. We’re hoping Canada mandates them – the sooner the better. The drivers actually do fewer miles and make the same money with them. The drivers have their day planned out and with the e-logs we are finally getting customers on side, because they understand HoS rules better now.”
So far, Fleetway has grown organically as its customer base has grown, but Rees hinted that it is on the acquisition path.
“I don’t have an expectation to grow to 500 trucks, I don’t want 500 trucks but I think we could be at 150 within a couple years,” he said of Fleetway’s future. “But unless it’s a fit for our operation, we’re not interested.”