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Erb Transport at 60: ‘Doing the job right’

Wendell Erb reflects back on the company's history and comments on the current freight market


At the helm: Wendell Erb is just one of two people allowed to drive his father’s personal truck, an International 9900i.

Vernon Erb with his son.

BADEN, Ont. – The day after Wendell Erb wrote his last exam in 1980, he went up to the dispatch window at Erb Transport and said he was ready to drive trucks full-time.

“By then I already had some 20,000 miles under my belt, driving trucks from here (Baden) to Kitchener and back,” Erb recalled in an interview on board his father’s rig Friday as the company celebrated its 60th anniversary.

These days, Erb is in the driving seat of Erb Group of Companies as president and CEO.

“My first job is president. My second job is whatever else needs to be done,” he said.

Wendell Erb took over from his father and founder of the company, Vernon Erb, in late 2011.

Vernon Erb started out with one dump truck in 1959. Erb Transport has since grown to become one of Canada’s biggest trucking companies employing some 1,500 people, including owner-operators.

It specializes in refrigerated transportation. Hence the slogan: “Another cool move.”

“Just doing the job right for our customers” is the secret of Erb’s success, said Wendell Erb.

“Success has followed doing a good job for your customers… Take care of your people, they will take care of the customers.”

The dump truck that started it all in 1959.

Last year has been a banner year for trucking but 2019 not so good, he said.

Freight has been slowing down and there is intense competition from truckers who are undercutting industry rates.

“We’ve got issues with Driver Inc.,” Wendell Erb said.

“Last year there wasn’t enough trucks for the freight that was out there. So, Driver Inc. didn’t bother you. Now Driver Inc. has got a competitive advantage in the market we are in. It is rather frustrating.”

Driver Inc. is a controversial business model that classifies fleet employees as independent contractors. The drivers are incorporated and receive their pay without any source deductions. That helps them offer rates no carriers can afford. Industry lobbying groups and major fleets have been fighting the model for years.

“I just heard from a friend of mine that (he) lost a bunch of lanes for Canada Post to a Driver Inc. That’s kind of odd as Canada Post is a Crown corporation. It is a little frustrating that we don’t have a level playing field,” Wendell Erb said.

Last year, carriers including Erb gave big raises to retain and attract drivers, but the company has no intention of rolling wages back despite falling freight rates, he said.

“The freight we haul is generally very complicated. For the easy freight, it is a race to the bottom again right now.”

Addressing the issue of acute driver shortage, Wendell Erb acknowledged that it is still a challenge getting good, qualified drivers even for a company such as Erb.

“We have set the bar a little higher for the drivers we are looking for.”

He said Erb has all kinds of university graduates driving trucks, but the education system needs to be spruced up.

“We need people to get their hands dirty whether it is trades or trucking. I don’t need somebody with letters behind their names to move freight.”

For many Canadian youths, trucking has become a job of last resort, and that is a little frustrating, he said.

A recent Trucking HR Canada study found that non-trucker prospects make up 48% of the millennial population, meaning they will not consider a trucking career.

As for the outlook for the year, Wendell Erb said, things are improving slowly, and August was pretty good.

“I am optimistic, let us put it that way. Truckers and farmers are always optimistic.”

So is his father.

Reflecting on the past six decades, Vernon Erb, 83, said he is quite happy the way things are going.

“It doesn’t seem like 60 years. It sort of went way beyond what I had anticipated back 60 years ago.”

He said the industry had changed “an awful lot” in that time.

“Hard to say what is it going to do in the next 60 years.”

 


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9 Comments » for Erb Transport at 60: ‘Doing the job right’
  1. Carl Szamosvari says:

    Congratulations Mr. Vernon Erb, Viola, & Wendell for 60 successful years. You won’t find finer people to deal with anywhere than the Erbs. The very best to you, your families,employees and stakeholders for continued success and blessings at your company.

  2. Ray haight says:

    Congratulations to the entire Erb family on 60 years. You have always been a first class operation.
    Regards and many more years of success.
    Ray Haight

  3. Andy Koopman says:

    Congratulations to the Erb Family on 60 years. May the next 60 be as memorable!!
    Happy to have been a part of this company!!

  4. Ernie Weese says:

    Congragulations to the Erb family and the Erb family of employees. My 10 years there as a dock worker to dispatch to company driver to o/o were some of the best years of my life. I was always treated well from Vernon and Wendell on down the line. It doesn’t surprise me they have lasted this long.

  5. Rob Young says:

    Congratulations on 60 years of trucking Vernon and Wendell, not an easy thing to do in the trucking industry. I’m always proud to say that I spent almost 20 years on that journey with you all, I was there for a lot of the growing pains and some of the achievements. Cheers Rob Young.

  6. Stephen Webster says:

    Erb is one of the better companies out there. I have hauled many loads for them, and always got paid on time and the right amount. They offer goods for free after bad storms and other disasters. They run well-maintained equipment. They put their drivers and safety ahead of profits.

  7. Tom Steacy says:

    I have to say, I’ve never been treated more fairly in my 30 years in the industry. I’ve truly enjoyed my 10 years with Erb. Thank you Vernon and Wendell and the rest of the Erb Group. Cheers!!!

  8. Jan Eisses says:

    Congratulations to the Erb family on 60 years in business. I immigrated to Canada 30 years ago and have had the pleasure to do business with the Erb family for 30 years. They are a great team of people. Thank you for your trust, and I wish you success for the next 60 years.

  9. Dutch van Noggeren says:

    Congratulations to Erb’s. Although I’ve not had the pleasure of working for the Erb company, I’ve met many people who have and who have nothing but good to say about the Erb company and the Erb family. You have certainly given the trucking industry a high standard to aspire to.

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