CEO Focus: Tri-State Expedited Service, Inc.
Tri-State Expedited Service, Inc. of Perrysburg, Ohio is one of the oldest ground expedited carriers in the expedited industry.
Founded in the early 70's by owners Ron and Glenna Chidester, this company is one of the few remaining privately-owned larger carriers in the expedited market, offering a variety of freight services to all of the lower 48 states, Canada and Mexico.
Ron Chidester was born in the northwestern Ohio city of Bluffton. In the mid-1960's he graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in business and began his career in the transportation industry as a traffic manager for trucking companies in Lima and Columbus.
He then went into truck sales in Toledo, working for several dealerships before returning to trucking as a terminal manager and Vice President of Sales for several carriers.
Chidester picks up the story: "I founded Tri-State Expedited Services around 1970. At that time, there was only our company and several isolated expedited companies in the business. It was a learning process for not only the trucking companies, but for the shippers as well. We had to teach them how to use a service like ours."
"We started with six leased units and company drivers for the first year. We covered about a 50-100 mile radius from Toledo and as the business grew and the area began to expand, I eliminated the company-owned equipment and went with owner-operators."
"I had maybe 25 owner-operators in straight trucks. As demand grew, we added cargo vans, different sizes of straight trucks and eventually, tractor-trailers."
"In those early days, I handled just about everything in the business except billing. My wife handled the billing, payroll and all of the paperwork. We worked a 24 hour operation with each of us taking 12 hour shifts. We had the phones coming into our home and we'd take business calls through the night. The first two people we hired were a salesman and someone to handle the paperwork."
He continues, "Back then, we leased a terminal on the north side of Toledo. We moved to another location, but sold that one after a year because we outgrew it. Within another year (1989), I built the facility we're in now. Since then, we've expanded the building twice to its present size of over 60,000 sq. ft. in general office space and a 20,000 sq. ft. shop."
The Tri-State business campus of today sits in a prime location - a 63-acre property at the crossroads of I-75, I-280 and the Ohio Turnpike. Chidester says that this offers the company more than ample room for future expansion if necessary. He adds, "It's a matter of pride that we maintain our grounds in Class A shape because we want to give a first-class appearance."
"Over the years, I've been very fortunate to have had top-shelf people to help us grow. They've been hand-picked from the trucking industry and they've helped me immensely in every aspect of the business.â€
"Ted Roberts, our CFO has been with me around 17 years; David Paetz, our COO has been here about 15 years and Irish Skoczen has been with Tri-State over 20 years.â€
Chidester reflects on his fleet: "Our owner-operators are very independent and because of the rising fuel prices, they're very selective about the type of freight they haul and the runs they take."
"Today's owner-operator is much more of a businessperson than 10-15 years ago; he's up on computers and he knows what it takes to make a go of this business. Years ago, truckers would just get in the truck and run, run, run. If they had anything left at the end of the week, great and if they didn't, well, try again next week."
He continues, "Today, the owner-operators are very intelligent people who know what they're going to do before the week starts and what they're going to have left at the end of the week."
"Eighty percent of them are very successful; the ones that don't plan their operation are the ones that fail. Those are the ones that jump from truck line to truck line, believing that it's going to be better on the other side and it's not."
Tri-State's founder shares his thoughts on the industry:
"Most carriers in expedite are the same â€“ the rates and the service are pretty close. It takes a good, smart operator to stay in business today."
"The industry has changed so much from what it was years ago. It's hard work to stay in business and you have to stay on top of it with good reliable people to help you."
"The successful expedited carrier has to diversify itself into different fields and we have done that by moving more into other areas beyond expedited freight. We felt that we needed the diversification offered by temperature controlled, flatbed and dry freight along with air charters, Mexican service, and Canada.â€
â€œThere will always be a need for the expedited industry out there, but today you have so many different "ma and pa" carriers that essentially have no overhead and they can charge rates so low that we couldn't run on them. That's just one of the changes in this industry.â€
"I'm 69 years old but I still devote a lot of time to the business. I have outside interests as well; I do a lot with the Ohio State University athletic department and my wife and I travel a bit now and then."
"I still oversee the company and I know about most everything that goes on here. I still have enthusiasm for the business; I go out and cheer for Tri-State. This has been our baby from day one!"