TORONTO, Ont. — The first car Wally Horodnyk moved was in 1987.
It was from Flint, Mich., and needed to be delivered in Toronto. The job paid US$1,500 – more than quadruple what he was used to, moving general freight from Detroit.
He carefully padded the car to ensure no dents or scratches would occur, and hauled it with his Ford F250 and a borrowed trailer.
When he arrived to the delivery address, the man waiting for the delivery saw the car and said, “Why do you have pads on it?” and being happy with himself, Horodnyk replied that he wanted to make sure the car wouldn’t be damaged during the trip. Turns out, the car was going to be used for a crash test.
After that, Horodnyk told the sales representative who got him the car gig in the first place to go out and find some more deliveries, and it’s been history ever since.
Horodnyk is the founder of TFX International – a specialized carrier that delivers luxury vehicles all over Canada and the U.S. It is the exclusive carrier for the Barrett Jackson Auction, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston-Martin, Ford, and McLaren. In his words, “There isn’t a manufacturer in the world that doesn’t use us.”
Horodnyk started in trucking in 1981 when he began Traffix – a freight brokerage business, that would match trucks with loads. After moving his first car in 1987, he got a taste for it and began doing that for a while. Eventually in 1998, he split off from Traffix and started TFX International with his wife. Today the business has 30 trucks and 31 trailers, and is the best-known carrier for luxury cars in the country. That’s because, according to Horodnyk, TFX is the best at what it does.
“My job is simple,” he said. “We pick up your car and tell you we’ll deliver it in the same condition. What makes us different from the rest is in the equipment. I don’t have competitors, I have imitators.”
Over the years, Horodnyk has designed his own equipment to minimize the risk of damage to the vehicles his company delivers.
“When you drive a car into a small trailer, like everyone else, the problem is once you get the car inside, you can’t open the door, or else you’ll bump the door on the inside of the trailer and scratch it,” he said. “So, what do you do? You climb out the window. And you don’t want to be doing that. So, we decided to attack that problem. We did something very unique and created what we called a drop box and all the major motorcars love it. It’s like a big container that we have on the ground so you can drive your car in without being on an angle. Then it gets hooked and lifted onto the back. It has two big doors on the side – that way you can open the doors of the car once it’s in there.”
No one else is doing this, Horodnyk said.
“My whole business is driving a car level,” he said. “Because you don’t want to be scraping the chin of these cars. And that’s what happens when you drive them up on an angle – it’s called the ouch factor. It costs $40,000 to repair a Ferrari chin rub. We can’t have that.”
Transporting cars to and from auctions means there is no wiggle room for error, either.
“Sometimes we get cars that have to be moved from an auction and someone has paid good money for it, because it has original paint, for example,” he said. “If we take it and we scratch it, now the owner has to repaint it and it’s not worth as much, because it’s not original paint.”
This attention to detail is what makes TFX the best in its field, the company claims. But it’s also about the people Horodnyk hires.
“I hire car nuts,” he said. “Because they understand that this isn’t just freight. It’s not just a load of flour or bags of sawdust they’re hauling. It’s somebody’s car. It’s somebody’s pride and joy. And people who love cars won’t intentionally scratch anyone else’s car. If someone comes here for a job and thinks ‘Oh, this is just another thing to move,’ they probably won’t work here. It’s an expensive business to be in, and I can’t hire people who don’t represent my brand.”
As far as hiring goes, Horodnyk says turnover at TFX is quite low. He has many drivers that have been working for him for more than 25 years, and only recently has he seen drivers leave for reasons out of the company’s control.
“I think my guys are sticking around because I pay them well and treat them right,” he said. “I love my drivers and am always in the back with them. I’m not somebody who sits in an office and points at things. I load trucks, I weld, I do everything. I even drive sometimes. My drivers are my ambassadors. I love the guys.”
Having drivers who are also car nuts, has its perks too. Because they take pride in their equipment and are always polishing and shining their trucks, making sure they are in the best shape for the road.
“I’m building a brand here,” he added. “So, if my clients see my trucks and trailers, they’re washed and shined, that client knows that if I take pride and my drivers take pride in their trucks, they’ll take pride in their Ferrari or Volkswagen.”
Looking into the future, Horodnyk says the goal is slow and steady growth, as his son Adam, the president of the company, takes over the business.
“Our five-year plan is to have 40 trucks, so we are looking to hire good, confident drivers right now.”
TFX is also looking for a new home. It is currently situated near the Toronto airport.
“We want to continue slow and steady growth,” he said. “We don’t want to grow too quickly. We want to service the clients that we have. As I always say, you want to dance with the girl you brought to the dance. You don’t want to be looking around. You want to make sure you take care of the clients you have first.”