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Top Fleets: Doing It Their Way

MT: Quik X has experienced 58 percent growth over the last five years - 100 percent if you take in the Roadfast division, which you purchased in 1998. What has been the major driving force behind such...

MT: Quik X has experienced 58 percent growth over the last five years – 100 percent if you take in the Roadfast division, which you purchased in 1998. What has been the major driving force behind such rapid growth?

Murray: I think the whole point of our company since day one has been that we have focussed on quality and service to the customer. Even before we had freight we had that as our mission. And that’s how we continue to grow – our reputation in the market is that we are a top quality service carrier. I had a customer tell me the other day you are a no-trouble partner. That’s our culture, our mindset and I believe that’s why we have been successful.

MT: How do you put this commitment to quality to work?

Murray: Let me give an example of something we’ve done from day one. If we have schedules that are running late, we pull manifests out of the computer of every bill that’s on those trailers and our sales people will be on the phone calling every shipper advising them we’ve encountered a delay. At the other end, the destination terminal is calling all the consignees to arrange for alternate delivery times. Who else in the business does that? I can assure you that with thousands of shipments a week this is a challenge but we have the will power to do it because that is one of the things that makes us different.

MT: With the purchase of Roadfast in 1998 to provide TL, expedited, dry van and specialized air operations as well as non-asset based logistics through Truk X, you have diversified your product offerings. Was this something your customers had been pushing you for or something that was necessary to grow the company to the next level?

Babcock: A bit of both. As we’ve expanded our penetration of the expedited market got to where we had to start looking at other areas for growth and what we could offer our customers. And broadening the markets Quik X is in, means we are less sensitive to the fortunes of one specific area of the business.

MT: Unlike most carriers your strategy calls for dealing with exclusive suppliers, such as your preferred supplier for linehaul tractors. You also prefer to lease your power units. Why have you chosen these strategies and what advantages are they providing?

Babcock: We are in the transportation business not in the business of selling used trucks. We’ve put our cash into hard assets instead of rolling stock. In terms of having exclusive suppliers, it really simplifies things if you have a good working relationship with your supplier. They know you, they know what your needs are, and are alert to what you are trying to accomplish. Also, our preferred suppliers have a service network throughout the continent that we can access if we have a breakdown.

MT: Let’s move on to your human resource assets. When you looked at the available “quality” and “continuous process improvement” systems you decided that none fit what your company was looking to achieve. Why did you decide it was best to go it alone?

Babcock: We made the decision in late 1998 as to what we would do and ISO wasn’t it. I saw inherent risk in ISO. I have talked to supervisors and middle managers at companies that have become ISO certified and they identify it as a program that manages people as opposed to a program that you manage. When developing our quality program we created a management system that we manage. ISO creates in my view bureaucracy. The accuracy of reports is more important than the quality of the service. We are an entrepreneur-driven company and our concern was not to adopt a system that took that away. We also had the luxury of being able to look in depth at a quality system developed by a U.S. partner and make comparisons. When you develop something from the ground up, as we did, you understand it when you’re finished, you know it inside out, you believe in it. It also allows you to look at your company and your customers and say does this fit our philosophy, our culture, our customers’ requirements? We’ve had people who had said they would only do business with companies that are ISO certified, come in take a look at our program and decide they would have no problem working with us.

MT: You place a great deal of emphasis on leveraging technology to improve operations. I understand you are looking to use technology to develop better costing models for your LTL operation.

Babcock: What we’re developing is activity-based costing, which is the actual cost, real-time, to handle a shipment. In the end you would be able to cost by industry. You would actually be able to look at how you’re doing in a specific industry and see if your service is priced right. Or you can cost by lane between terminals. You can even cost by specific customer. What I’m talking about is being able to spin off a report any time on any customer, any lane, any product.

MT: You have used your satellite communication technology to implement a program to track your drivers’ hours of service and alert them when they’re about to cross the legal limit. It’s a unique approach that shows your commitment to safety but how do you explain it to a customer that just wants to get his freight on time?

Babcock: The customer is not interested in us telling him our driver is running out of hours. He is interested in whether you can deliver within committed times. It’s up to us to ensure we have the network to do that. And that might mean we have to set up a switch where one team can make it to point A before they run out of hours and another team is going to meet them and take over. Because our system is computerized we can predict ahead what those team drivers can do. Without the computerized system, and with the scramble, mistakes would happen and drivers would run out of hours. My hope is that one day we can have this science to the point where it will be accepted by the government and do away with paper logs. I understand that there are a lot of carriers that don’t have such technology but on the other hand I’m saying if I do, let me use it.

MT: Over the last five years you have funded the construction or acquisition of your service facilities entirely from internal cash resources. Why do you prefer to take this approach?

Babcock: I believe in a very strong balance sheet. If you’re going to weather a storm you have to be ready for it. Also, this way if a potential opportunity comes along we can react immediately. From our perspective this approach not only fits in with our entrepreneurial culture, it’s a sound business strategy.

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1 Comment » for Top Fleets: Doing It Their Way
  1. Disgruntled Customer says:

    Gary, your teams leadership under you has some serious flaws. Please look at your night time staff and re train them as of late as a customer, we have major concerns!

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