You don’t have to be big to think big.
When Mark Hagedorn started A/T Transportation in 2006, it was with three trucks and five trailers. He had a niche – as the logistics manager for a large furniture manufacturer, he knew the hauling needs of furniture manufacturers, and he could talk the talk. So, when a friend suggested he start his own trucking company with furniture manufacturers in mind, he said to himself, “why not?”
“Actually it was a little more than that,” Hagedorn said with a smile. “I did know the industry and logistics very well, so I had a good idea as to how I could succeed within this specific market; I knew we could become a preferred trucking company and grow the business.”
Grow A/T did. By the fall of 2008, the company was up to 18 tractors and hauling for several furniture manufacturers – it was putting its location in Indiana and reputation for logistics and excellent service– to good use with routes primarily in the south. It also decided to start the process of tracking its trucks and shipments – installing PeopleNet systems.
Two years later, with 20 trucks, the company decided its scale was large enough to engage in a fleet management system. After a false start with a company that could not integrate well with PC*Miler, A/T found BOLT System. “A lot of companies our size don’t think a fleet management system works on a smaller scale and can be cost-effective,” Hagedorn said. “But the people at BOLT see things differently – they can work with the smaller players, as well as the largest companies. We’re glad we found them.”
According to Hagedorn, A/T wanted a fleet management system that could integrate easily with “what we operated and as we were scaling up. We wanted automated dispatch, fleet visibility and timestamps, and payroll consolidation,” said Hagedorn. “BOLT was our solution and it’s been a great marriage from Day One.”
Now running 55 company tractors, along with 12 owner-operators, the company is still very much dedicated to furniture hauling. It has nearly 200 trailers, about 25 percent of which are used in drop-and-hook operations. Deliveries are still more concentrated in the south, but A/T does make runs to the West and East coasts.
Valerie Karpowicz, who joined the company as safety manager in 2007, oversees many of the company’s operations. “That included integrating BOLT into A/T,” she said. “BOLT’s implementation plan was excellent and very smooth – and the ramp up was very quick.
“When we started with BOLT, we pushed out the loads to our drivers – each trailer load could go to one destination, or it could have up to 15 drops,” Karpowicz continued. “As we grew with BOLT, we transitioned to the driver requesting their load, and we would update that delivery with backhaul information – we had a complete route plan.”
Since each delivery is time-stamped (drivers push “arrive” in their ELD, then “depart”) visibility and documentation through BOLT helps A/T assign proper pay. “When we run deliveries, our drivers also unload the furniture. So, they are compensated for that activity and it’s easily tracked,” said Karpowicz. “When the truck is off to the next stop, we can see how we’re progressing and if we’re on time. We can let customers know of any deviations.”
BOLT is also integrated with EDI and the dispatch team accepts or rejects loads tendered from A/T’s customers. In addition, A/T has a brokerage department, and through BOLT is able to track shipments with its outside carriers. Through BOLT, customers get full visibility and status on loads via BOLT’s Customer Portal.
Since BOLT integrates with QuickBooks, customer billing and driver payroll is streamlined. “As soon as a delivery is made, we can take a picture and send the image of the bill of lading, along with he invoice,” said Karpowicz. “And since we outsource payroll, all of our drivers’ miles and delivery pay are automatically sent to our service.”
According to Karpowicz, the reports BOLT generates have been very helpful. “We can plug in time-off requests for our drivers, so when we’re assigning loads, we never run into the issue of inadvertently sending a load to a driver scheduled for vacation. BOLT automatically cross checks. What’s more, we do RPM (rate per mile) with BOLT. This allows us to run reports at any given time to see where we are efficient and profitable, and where we might be lagging. Some lanes, for example, will be higher paying, and have easier-to-find backhauls than others. Or there might be more congestion, so it takes longer for deliveries. This information is very powerful. If you don’t know how you’re performing on routes, you can’t perform financially. It allows us to adjust our rates accordingly.”
Trailer tracking is also integrated into BOLT. Before utilizing BOLT, the company used EXCEL spreadsheets to assign and track trailers. “It was manual entry and keeping track was not easy,” said Karpowicz. “And since we were doing a lot of drop-and-hook, some customers were keeping trailers longer than they should — keeping them for storage and delaying unloading. With BOLT we have visibility and if we have a customer holding a trailer longer than the days allotted, we can charge a rental fee.”
Recently the company began to integrate with BOLT’s maintenance module, which allows A/T to track repairs on its equipment. “By entering the maintenance invoice, we can easily see what it’s costing to run our tractors and trailers,” said Karpowicz. “This will help in determining our true cost-per-mile and our overall life-cycle costs. And it will allows us to determine the ‘sweet spot’ for when it’s time to turn in our vehicles for trade.”
While A/T has a stable driver pool, thanks in part to a family atmosphere, recruiting new drivers to A/T is a continuous program as the company continues to expand. And, BOLT plays a part in helping here, too. “We can develop runs for our new drivers, based on where they’re located – this will allow them to get home more often,” Karpowicz said. “Plus we can show, based on our BOLT reports, how other drivers in the those lanes make out in miles and pay. This way drivers have a great feel for what they’ll be doing for us; how often they’ll get home; and their expected pay.”
Information is power, according to Hagedorn. “BOLT is helping us run our business more efficiently and profitably,” he said. “That goes from route planning, through to driver payroll and everything in between. BOLT knows our business – I like dealing with people who have hands-on experience. They were once in our shoes too – the founders ran a small trucking company – so they know what works and what’s important to their customers. We’re glad we found them.”