To Alberta and Beyond
Back in 2016, I spoke with Dustin Omeniuk, the son of Dan Omeniuk, founder of Trappers Transport Ltd., the leading provider of temperature-sensitive transportation services in the West. At the time, a switch to electronic logbook devices was underway, and expansion into Alberta was in full swing. We recently caught up with Dustin.
The switch to e-logbooks has been beneficial for Trappers Transport. “Anybody undertaking cross-border transportation is on the same page these days and is using the e-log systems. We are ahead of the game when it comes to the amount of integration between our drivers, our service, and the actual software,” says Dustin.
The drivers have been trained in the use of the e-logs and now have a live counter on what their log hours in a day are with one quick look, no more guessing. It has helped the drivers with time management and enabled transparency to operations staff in the planning department.
The company’s job at its core is to put a customer’s freight in a box and move it from point A to point B on time. Before e-logs, staff relied on calling drivers who then tallied up their hours. With paper log books, there was never an instant answer to available hours a driver had, with the fast-paced environment transportation demands – paper log books are now a thing of the past.
“Now that the e-logs are integrated on the trucks and tied into our software program, we can make an accurate and confident decision on a load assignment in thirty seconds because we have complete visibility over their hours of service. From a planning perspective, it’s a godsend! This is just the beginning of a new wave of technology that will serve to maximize efficiencies. It is only step one in several sequences to come,” says Dustin.
Three years ago, Dustin informed me of the company’s expansion into the Alberta market to move goods for export. This has been accomplished, and Trappers Transport now works with two of the province’s meat packers. It moves about thirty loads every week to Vancouver and is in the process of bringing on a third export packer for which it already does some domestic shipping. That should be another ten loads every week moved to overseas markets through the Port of Vancouver.
To carry out this work, the company invested in specialized equipment: a steel frame chassis with three axles, with a diesel generator mounted underneath to power the electric refrigeration system. The biggest hurdle was getting the equipment in place in a timely fashion to get the program off the ground.
The second hurdle was recruiting experienced drivers who can travel the six-hundred-mile route through the Rocky Mountains daily. With all the twists and turns, that fourteen-hour drive is not for the faint of heart. It is a pretty intimidating highway in a passenger vehicle, let alone with 125,000 pounds of truck, trailer, and cargo.
Trappers Transport only puts the best of its drivers on that route, and to date, there have been no issues. Drivers are compensated appropriately for the specialized work of expedited hauling chilled exports for overseas markets through the Rocky Mountains.
“We can load a fresh container of beef and have it on the Steamship Vessel in Vancouver within twenty-four hours. Once on the vessel It’s a seven-day trip to the overseas markets, so the product arrives fresh. It is quite a unique business model,” says Dustin.
The new storage and warehouse facility needs are being calculated. Trappers Transport is at the flow planning stage and is hoping to put together a ten-thousand-pallet spot warehouse for one anchor client, and another five thousand pallet positions for the second.
“You must listen to what the customers tell you and follow that. When the customer tells you there is no capacity for cold storage, you must do something. If they can’t store their pallets when they need to, you know there is demand. When a customer says, ‘I’ll put 10,000 pounds in your warehouse,’ you listen intently to them,” says Dustin.
There is always an opportunity to grow because its customers want Trappers Transport to grow with them. The possibilities are endless.
The transportation company partnered with SmartWay recently. It has been good for the company to measure against others in the market and gauge how well it is performing with quality feedback. It is continually taking the time to upgrade its fleet, and the results double as a great way to market the company.
“To put this in perspective, an owner/operator can pull anybody’s trailer and get X amount of dollars per mile, but when you equip your fleet with fuel-saving items on your trailers to gain another five percent fuel efficiency, that’s found money for the operators and that helps attracts top talent. We have been on board with the SmartWay program going on five years,” says Dustin.
Trappers Transport continues to expand in the Alberta market. Over the last three years, it has come a long way in Western Canada, where it is one of the larger less-than-truckload (LTL) temperature-controlled food-oriented carriers. Anywhere from two to two and a half million pounds of fresh and frozen products are transported every week with just domestic LTL shipments. That is where most of the growth is seen.
The company has had to adapt to be an LTL carrier in its export model. What is challenging is, after filling a quarter of a trailer, finding other customers to fill the rest of the load and doing that every week to be able to schedule it.
“That’s where our service as an LTL carrier becomes more valuable than the next. That’s the way to get your foot in the door with these customers. You must provide a service that nobody else can. You can count the number of quality food-oriented LTL carriers in Western Canada on one hand. The market is small, and we are capitalizing on that,” says Dustin.
In the future, electric trucks are on the way, and Dustin sees autonomous trucks coming sooner than anyone thinks, but there will always be a need for drivers. Work will become more regional for the drivers. It will be an attractive opportunity for anyone that wants to drive a truck and be home every night. With the autonomous trucks, costs per shipment will go down.
Trappers Transport’s company culture and driver retention has been impressive and has even improved dramatically over the last six months. The company looked over the statistics for the last three months, and the retention rate was at ninety-six percent.
“To have a four percent turnover in your fleet is unheard of. Some of the new people we brought on board to our organization have really helped take that to the next level. The company culture has improved because of these new hires,” says Dustin.