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Fleet Owner Conversations: Bryan Bishop

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted May 29th 2018 9:00AM

Meet Bryan Bishop. Bryan is a former corporate pilot, who got into the expedited trucking business in 2008 as a part-time fleet owner while keeping his "day job" flying private Lear Jets for another four years until he retired in 2012.

Today, Bryan operates a fleet of seven expediter straight trucks out of Load One in Taylor, Mich., with more trucks ordered to bring that number to a total of 12 in the next few months.

So, what led Bryan to expedited trucking? How did he get started as a fleet owner? What challenges has he encountered? And what advice does he have for others who may be considering becoming an expedite fleet owner?

EO recently spoke with Bryan to learn more about his story. Here are edited highlights from our conversation.

EO: You were flying private jets for nearly two decades. So, how did you hear about expedited trucking, let alone get into the business in 2008?

Bryan Bishop: My parents had been owner-operators in the expedite industry for about 30 years. And I had uncles, great-uncles, and others in my family who had worked in various types of trucking. My parents kept saying for a long time, "Hey, you might want to give this business a try. You’re a pilot and have the extra time—and you have extra means to make it happen. Try it and make some money out of it."

I was like, "Okay, let's give this a shot. Show me what to do." And I bought a couple of trucks to get started.

Would you say that it’s because you grew up in the industry that you got into expediting, versus, say, over-the-road or other types of trucking?

Absolutely. Had it not been for them at the time, I probably wouldn't have considered trucking at all, much less expedite. They were the sole influence on me getting into this business.

You mentioned that you’re expanding your fleet of expediter trucks from 7 to 12 this year. Out of curiosity, what led you to pull the trigger on nearly doubling your fleet in 2018?

The economy.

I mean, when we first started in 2008, it was tough. We didn’t know at that time that the market was getting hit square in the face with a brick wall. We got off to a rocky start but pulled through it. Since then, there have been some good years and some bad years.

But then the economy in 2017 was like a locomotive that started going and just kept building and building up steam. And as we wondered how 2018 might turn out, we looked closely at the first quarter results because that's when things usually slow down. But it turned out to be a record-breaking quarter for us. I said, "Okay, this economy doesn't seem to be slowing down, and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. Let's go ahead and do this and get these trucks."

What typically happens when starting a new venture is that you hit this stage where you think, "What did I get myself into? How are we going to get through this?" Can you describe a point in your business where you experienced that?

Yeah, the downturn really started hitting us hard in 2009. At that time, I was spending so much of my own cash. I was scratching my head thinking, "What am I doing? Do I keep this going?"

How many trucks did you have at that time?

Only two. I had some liquid cash but not a tremendous amount, and I was going through it so fast that I started getting a little nervous and thinking maybe I made a mistake here.

Then in 2010, we got connected with Load One. And not long after we signed on and got rolling with those guys, it’s as if the tide turned for us. I think part of it was that the economy began to improve and the other part of it was signing on with the company. They gave us the resources and support we needed to get through that time, and we’ve been with them since.

What gave you the inner strength to hang on until things turned around?

Deep down, I knew that my parents made a great living for many years doing this. So, I knew the money was there. I just had to figure out what I was doing wrong—and fix it. I didn't want to just bail and give up. I wanted to ride it out as long as I could. I wasn't looking to bankrupt myself, but I wanted to figure it out because I knew too many people who had done it successfully in the past. I wasn't going to be defeated.

You worked this business as a “side hustle” for about four years before you were ready to go full-time with it. Why is that?

I needed to get big enough before I could make it a full-time business. The reality is that you can't have the quality of trucks that attract teams and pay those teams the amount that will keep them with you and still have enough left over for yourself if you plan on making a living off of one or two trucks. The money is just not there.

The biggest mistake I see people make is that they don't have the funds to support a slow time, a downtime, or something terrible happening to their business. They go out there and buy that one truck with a driver in it, and they want to make a living with it. You can't. You just can't make your living off of that one truck. You need to grow your fleet, where you take only a small percentage from each truck. And when I add those percentages together across my fleet—that's how I make a living.

And that's why I kept flying, holding on to my career until I could get the fleet large enough to where it could solely support me.

What advice do you have for others who may be considering becoming fleet owners?

My biggest piece of advice: Be sure to build your rainy day account. Always have plenty of reserves set aside because it’s not a matter of if but when the slow times come. And if those slow times don't come quickly, then you've put yourself in a strong position to where you have extra funds on hand to invest in growing your fleet.

So be frugal and patient. Success in this business is not going to happen overnight.