Heavy-duty: Despite likely inbound recession, factors continue to dull sharp truck downturn
“It takes a forward-thinking philosophy to build success,” says Jeff Louis, president of TCI Trucking and Warehousing. “If we focus on what we do best we can address inefficiencies and create opportunities. That’s how we’ve grown our business from an intermodal company with one driver and one truck into a full service logistics provider with 125 trucks in operation and more than 250,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and consolidation space.”
Founded in 1983, New Orleans-based TCI is an intermodal trucking and container load consolidation specialist with facilities at its headquarters as well as in Baltimore, Maryland, and Mobile, Alabama. The mainstay of its business is in transporting container loads entering and exiting port facilities with a combination of leased trucks and chassis, and about 65 owner-operators for added capacity.
“Our fleet plays a vital role in the success of our company,” Louis says. “Without safe, efficient and reliable trucks we would be out of business. Those things are essential for performing our day-to-day activities and for servicing our customers effectively.”
At TCI, daycab tractors are used to make multiple runs each day to the Port of New Orleans, running loads back to TCI’s warehouse, or to regional customers. The company also uses sleeper-equipped tractors to haul bulk chemicals to the Midwest, primarily to the Chicago and Memphis areas.
Currently, TCI leases daycab and sleeper tractors, including 35 Kenworth T880s from Southland PacLease, and a total of 30 Freightliners from Penske Truck Leasing and Internationals from Idealease. Southland and American Chassis Leasing Company also supply the company with a variety of tanker and container chassis makes and models.
“The leasing model creates strategic partnerships that work best for us,” Louis says. “Leasing allows us to retain capital and continue to grow our business, and it lets us focus on moving loads. Especially with full service maintenance, we can use our knowledge to do what we do best and outsource those needs to experts. It also allows us to have immediate access to substitute units so our drivers can keep working if we have a vehicle down for a mechanical problem.”
According to Louis, the leasing companies that supply TCI were chosen for their reputation in the industry for having well-maintained trucks that are extremely reliable. With improved uptime driven by meticulous maintenance programs, he notes, full service leasing also makes a difference in helping the company keep driver turnover low.
“We really try to look after our drivers and premium equipment absolutely helps us stay well below the industry average in driver turnover,” Louis says. “We operate in very competitive markets for drivers in the container drayage industry. From a driver standpoint, that truck is their office so they want to be as comfortable and safe as possible.”
To enhance safety, TCI specs its Kenworth T880s with Bendix Wingman Fusion systems that integrate stability, collision mitigation, lane departure warning and braking systems. The technology gathers input from radar, video and the brake system. The company also uses safety performance data to pay quarterly bonuses for accident-free driving. All TCI drivers are Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) certified and have hazardous endorsements.
TCI is always looking for opportunities to improve and add value for its customers, Louis notes. For example, when the company realized that there were inefficiencies in the way plastic resin coming into the Port of Houston and was being shipped by rail to outlying areas, it suggested a better distribution system. Today, more than 25,000 container loads of resin come into the Port of New Orleans instead, and are taken to TCI’s warehouse for consolidation and packaging before being hauled to customers.