Building a fleet, one step at a time

A step-by-step approach is key to growth when you own a business, says Preetinder Sahi, owner of Sahi Express. Anyone who wants to start a business must have the knowledge and experience before plunging in, he advises.

Sahi who has a post-graduate degree, immigrated from Punjab, India, to Canada in 2003, joining his wife who was already here. They have two children – a daughter, 17 and a son, 12. Sahi’s parents also live with them.

Preetinder Sahi, owner of Sahi Express. (Photo: Leo Barros)
Preetinder Sahi, owner of Sahi Express. (Photo: Leo Barros)

 “When I came here, I started driving a truck. Everyone else does the same thing,” he says.

Sahi arrived in Canada in April, got his A/Z licence in August, and started driving a truck in September. He drove short-haul routes for three years. Then, did city driving and worked as a shunt truck driver at a warehouse for a year. He transferred his skills to a dispatching job, where he was promoted to dispatch supervisor.

In 2012, Sahi decided to start a business with a partner. He ventured out on his own, with Sahi Express Limited, in November 2014. Sahi says he always wanted his own business, his yard, his company. “The satisfaction of that, I can’t describe it,” he says.

The company began with three trucks, and now has 28 trucks and 50 trailers, including dry van, heaters, and reefers. After operating out of yards in Mississauga and Milton, Sahi has bought his own yard in Oakville, consolidating his operations.

Covid did not have a negative effect on the company because it hauls essential products, Sahi says. The company employs 20 drivers and eight owner operators.

Family first

Family takes a front seat in the company. Sahi’s wife does the invoicing, accounting, and administration jobs. The main dispatcher is his brother-in-law. “He was in a different trade – a tool and die maker. I asked him to join me in 2015. He takes care of all my business.”

Sahi says, “You can trust family. As an owner, you are always busy. There is always some problem to take care of, and lots of stress. There must be someone whom you can trust, who can take care of your customers.”

Sahi and his brother-in-law dispatch their trucks. He says although it is hectic, it is manageable as they don’t have teams and the vehicles do not run at night.

An owner’s involvement is very important for a company. Sahi says dispatchers have all the information as they deal with customers and drivers. Sometimes, when they leave or are fired, they take those contacts and start a new company. “Owners have to be wary about the theft of information,” he says.

Offering advice to those who want to venture out on their own, Sahi says, do not start right away. You need to know all the ins and outs of the business before you proceed. “You should know about driving, a little bit about the repair side and dispatching. When you are comfortable, jump in.”

“Move ahead gradually, don’t be in a rush and put 10 trucks on the road right away.”

Preetinder Sahi, Sahi Express

He says people make decisions without experience and they fail. “Move ahead gradually, don’t be in a rush and put 10 trucks on the road right away. Take it easy, see if you are okay with three or four trucks, then move ahead,” he advises.

Being a business owner is also challenging. “You are always working, there’s no relaxation,” Sahi says. “My last vacation was two years ago, that too for only one week. There is always something going on in your brain, seven days a week.”

For the future, Sahi does not want to get ahead of himself. “We have a new yard, let’s see how things turn out. I am positive that today we are at 28 trucks, in five years, I am going to have 50 trucks,” he says.

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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