On-Time Express: On the Move, All the Time
I had the opportunity to sit down with Bob Stark of Livonia, Michigan's On-Time Express & Logistics, Inc. to discuss new developments and to build a bit upon this profile that appeared at ExpeditersOnline.com a few weeks back. We also discussed in a more in-depth manner just how On-Time Express weathered the economical storm and how they're prepared for the apparent bounce-back that the economy is just now beginning to see.
In terms of newer developments at the company, Mr, Stark points out that On-Time Express is also a logistics company and that that side of the business looks to be growing so far in 2010. "Last year, we did a couple million in freight. This year, we're going to surpass 3 or 4 million. We're doing a lot of brokering right now.
"We've been brokering for three years and have changed our whole way of doing things; we have very few vans of our own now. It used to be that everyone ran under On-Time's authority--now the vans are owner/operators. This has cut costs for everyone. In the end, a big part of my job is to make our drivers money."
Beyond these changes, Mr. Stark has noticed an overall change in the industry, perhaps partially due to the economy's rebound: "Things have been picking up quite a bit. I've noticed an increase in work. There are still tough areas out there, but the fact that things have been picking up is nice."
In discussing the economy, Mr. Stark notes that On-Time Express came out of the economical downturn reasonably well--which isn't necessarily common, given that a number of smaller carriers simply ceased business over the last couple years. "We weathered that storm pretty well. We were able to cut some office staff, but didn't lose one driver. We're extremely proud of that. We were able to keep everybody's head above water. Nobody was looking for anything more, because nobody was oblivious to what was happening, but we kept everyone.
"At the same time, we could be right back where we were a year ago pretty quickly. A lot of these things are out of our control, and we'll do what we can, and it's definitely still tough out there. We purchased a new building, and we do a lot of cross-stocking. It was definitely an interesting time."
I asked him about how the economy's return will affect things, and specifically when rates will be returning to where they were before the crash--and while he wasn't necessarily optimistic, Mr. Stark did seem to think that rates will be recover: "It might take a year or two. The companies today have tightened their belts. They know how to streamline things and be more cost-efficient. We've lowered our rates to a degree--you can only go down so much. Unfortunately, until you start to see volumes where loyalty isn't there, and when they start picking up and customers can't get a carrier to do their work, you'll start to see rates going up."
And in the face of this, how to did they prepare for the economy's recovery/bounce-back? "That's the nice thing about what we're doing right now," Mr. Stark says. "Not only are we a trucking company, we're a logistics company as well and we can see what other companies are charging, and we're able to adjust our rates accordingly."
He also touts his staff as a way that they've prepared for growth, saying, "I have 4 dispatchers that have been w/ me for 10+ years. We have a great group of people and are very fortunate, and we're always looking for good, solid individual vans who are looking for extra work."
By "Extra work," Mr. Stark means just that--On-Time Express has the ability to offer loads to individuals who are working for, say, multiple smaller carriers. "If there are drivers out there who want to work with us and maybe one or two other companies, they should be able to do pretty well, and I think that's the way the industry is going to go in the future.
"The bigger companies won't go that route, but the smaller carriers do do that, and there's a lot of reasons they do. It only works for a selective group out there. They have to do just as good a job, and they have to communicate--if they get a load from another carrier, they've got to have the respect to call that/those other carriers and let them know where they're going to be."
Being open to working with a more "Freelance" type of driver exhibits not only On-Time's willingness to be flexible when the times call for it, but also a somewhat progressive nature when it comes to driver relations. When it comes to growth, however, they're going about business the old-fashioned way: "We're always looking for assets. We're very selective; it's not like it was back in 2000 when you could hire just about anybody who walked through the door. In order for us to grow, we need good people. Come on over and show us what you've got; we'll show you we're the real deal."
On-Time Express offers to their drivers:
Weekly Settlements Top of the Industry Pay No forced dispatch No Satellites Open door policy Flexibility 24 hour dispatch Home most nights/weekends Paid fuel surcharge Family Atmosphere
34443 Industrial Road
Livonia, MI 48150
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