Good companies are companies that grow and companies that are safe, according to Frank Prosia, president of Transpro Freight Systems based in Milton, Ont.
And you could check off both of those things for Transpro, which has been a household name in the Canadian trucking industry since the ’90s. The business has seen tremendous growth since it first started up in 1989 and currently has 130 trucks. Recently it has acquired Trans-Send Freight Systems, a Mississauga-based company that specializes in cross-border services. The announcement of the buy came earlier this year in May, and Transpro says it couldn’t be happier with the integration so far.
Transpro came to be thanks in part to Frank Prosia and Joseph Carusi who started up the company initially as a load broker.
“By 1995, we felt the need that we needed to support our services with trucks,” said Prosia. “And we purchased our first seven tractors in 1995. Throughout the ’90s we were twice named one of Canada’s fast growing companies. And we won the Mississauga Business of the Year Award. Throughout the early 2000s, we had unprecedented growth. We purchased a company called Gapco Transport, a 30-truck reefer company and it more than doubled our fleet in 2004.”
The company moved to Milton in 2008 and today has 20,000 sq.-ft. of warehousing and 15 acres of land.
Transpro is a strict trans-border carrier, primarily focused on the long-haul movement of dry goods and perishable products. In the last two years, it was named one of the Best Fleets to Drive For. In 2013, it was one of the Best Fleets to Watch.
Eric Carusi, general manager of Transpro thinks the company’s success is because of its customer-focused attitude.
“Our strength is our customer focus,” he said. “The fact that we always put the customer first. We always offer white glove service here and our low turnover has allowed for a lot more relationships with our customers.”
He added that its long-standing employees also help the company be customer-driven because of the relationships they have built over the last 20 years. Carusi said the company assigns a direct rep both externally and internally to the customer, to ensure that the customer is working with the same person every time they have an issue.
Prosia agreed with Carusi and added the company knows how to learn from even the most challenging customers.
“They have taught us to be better and to challenge ourselves to meet some of these expectations, that for most, they would be burdensome, but we’ve found them to be something that has made us a better company,” he said.
Prosia recounted a time when there was a major recall and his customer called Transpro to help.
“There was a huge recall with a customer that had shipped baby formula and the instructions were incorrect, so we had to do a major product recall right across North America for them,” he said. “We were chartering planes to gather the product off the store shelves before it ever got used, where they might have entered a lawsuit. We coordinated a huge project. We received accolades, flowers and everything from the customer praising us for our efforts. It was something that we certainly weren’t expecting to do because it was outside of what our service offerings were, but we rose to the challenge to take it on. To us, a shiny truck with shiny wheels does not trump a customer service relationship. We are still a people business at the end of the day.”
Carusi also added that Transpro’s low turnover rate is reflective of the way it treats drivers. The company has a driver committee that is involved in helping the company make decisions.
“The open door policy is the norm around here,” he said. “But, speaking to drivers by their first name, knowing their extended family, and knowing their schedule in and out of work, these are the things that have become natural to us. When we hear drivers that leave because they think the grass is greener, we get calls three weeks later asking, ‘Can we come back?’”
Prosia added the company holds an employee BBQ each Friday hosted by vice-president Joseph Carusi. The company says the drivers have a connection with all management staff on a personal level.
“Drivers, warehouse people, even outside trucks that come in are welcomed to the BBQ,” Prosia said. “It’s a little thing but it means a lot because we’re actually sitting there with the driver, and it’s a non-business environment, just sitting there having a burger or chicken sandwich. A lot of companies don’t do that.”
Safety is another thing Transpro believes makes it successful. It offers drivers ongoing training programs and compensates drivers who are safe each year.
“Our safety program on our asset side is our utmost priority, we run a safety-driven company,” said Carusi. “Our hiring process requires two years of on-road (experience) as well as your licence. We run two safety meetings a year, and recently we’ve teamed up with CarriersEdge to provide ongoing online training where we release a module a month for drivers to complete on their own. They focus on any trends we’re seeing either in the industry or in our company. We are constantly in touch with our drivers about the importance of safety.”
The company started a new safety program his year called “Fly with Transpro.” The company holds a draw with the names of drivers who achieved their safety bonus, and whomever they pull, plus a guest, receives a trip to the Caribbean in the winter.
“It’s really set us above the rest when we speak with drivers about other companies they’ve worked for,” Carusi added.
Prosia said he doesn’t think it’s any coincidence that most trucking companies that fail aren’t the safest ones on the road.
“We invest big-time, and we spend a lot on safety,” he said.
In terms of the driver shortage, the company claims it hasn’t been hit by the so-called crisis. Carusi claims there really isn’t a driver shortage – though he does believe it is coming in the next five to 10 years when older drivers retire – because his customers have been inundated with calls from brokers and carriers looking for business.
“In the customer’s eyes, they’re hearing there’s a driver shortage…but right now, their door is knocked on so many times, it doesn’t exist to them,” he said. “We don’t deny the numbers, there is going to be a problem in five to 10 years. But the driver shortage doesn’t exist today.”
Though the business is going well, Prosia added that there are many changes the industry needs to see in the coming years if it wants to prosper.
“I strongly believe we need some sort of re-regulation,” he said. “It’s become too much of a wild, wild west. Transportation is too critical to not have some sort of guidance and/or rules that we must follow. Simple rules of the roads are not enough. I think there should be playing fields that are level for everyone such as mandating electronic logging devices, mandating the number of the years equipment is on the roads for and the waiting times for drivers.”
Prosia concluded that the company is always and currently seeking different ways to expand to better service its customers.
“We want to get bigger…we don’t intended to be sitting on the side of the road. We intended to be always continually moving ahead at the speed of traffic,” he said.
Editor’s note: At the time this article was written, Kriska’s purchase of Transpro was not yet publicly announced. Kriska signed a letter of intent to purchase Transpro on Nov. 3, 2015. The acquisition is set to be closed on Nov. 30, 2015