Q&A: Trucks by Design
Expedite Now had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Champe, the man behind Trucks by Design.
Tell us about yourself.
Prior to starting First Class Expediting in 1980, I worked for major manufacturers. I was often frustrated and let down by the expediters that existed at that time. First Class grew from 3 trucks to 143 pieces of equipment. Our main key to success was efficient, flexible and creative dispatching using a variety of innovative trucks. We achieved gross margins in excess of 33%. In 2009, we were acquired by Express-1 and we managed several major accounts on a national basis and still had gross margins of 33%.
Can you tell us a bit about your family life?
My wife and I have known each other since early childhood. We have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren. We enjoy spending time in Glen Arbor, Mi in the summer and Naples, FL in the winter.
Do you have a favorite football team?
University of Michigan Wolverines!
Can you give a little history about TBD?
After leaving Express-1, I set out to design a line of trucks specifically modified for expediting. The trucks we are modify will have cargo boxes with larger capacities and deliver higher gross margins. I started first by developing a light truck that is far safer, more comfortable and capable than a van. I will be displaying this truck at EXPO 2016, booth 103. Larger trucks are currently in development.
What are the biggest challenges facing expedited trucking?
The biggest challenge I see is achieving higher gross margins and improving safety. Rate competition and inefficient vehicles severely impact a carrier and its drivers ability to make greater profits. I am addressing only light vehicles at this time to replace vans. Vans are perfectly suitable for tradesmen who need frequent access, hand load and drive short distances. That is not what we do in expediting! We load heavy steel bins and pallets then drive at higher speeds over long distances. A high speed collision places a van driver at greater risk of injury or death than if they were driving a truck. Drivers belong in the safety of a cab where they are isolated from their cargo box. Accordingly, carriers restrict what they will transport in van and severely limit the drivers earnings. Carriers are often forced to use large trucks for small shipments at a very low gross margin or a loss because they are afraid to place certain cargo in a van. The First Class Expediter will be able to carry loads that would otherwise require a larger truck; therefore increasing gross margin.
What are some ways our industry can overcome these issues?
Carriers can change the way they operate in order to achieve greater success. More efficient trucks and advanced operations procedures are critical to improving gross margins and safety.
How important are Owner/Operators?
O/O's are the most critical part of a carriers operation. They should feel their carrier is concerned about their safety, comfort and earning potential. Carriers could recruit more drivers in better trucks if they a have better options than the current vehicles that are in use.
How can the carrier - Owner/Operator relationship be strengthened?
Communication is most critical. Drivers must answer their phones! Voice mail is not an option when the carrier has a nervous customer on the phone waiting for an immediate answer. Customers will not wait for a driver to call back, they will simply call another carrier. The O/O and the carrier miss too many loads over this simple failure to communicate. Dispatchers should always be courteous and forthright. Accurate pickup and delivery info and times must be clearly sent and acknowledged. Prompt, accurate driver pay is important for obvious reasons.
How can TBD help?
We are creating an innovative line of trucks, based on more than 30 years of actual experience and success. These trucks are specifically modified by expediters for expediting. The trucks we will develop will be more affordable, have larger capacities and deliver higher earning potential for the driver and the carrier. Driver safety and comfort is foremost in our plans for those who work and live in our vehicles.
Anything else for our readers to know?
We will be displaying our first light truck model, the "First Class Expediter", at EXPO 2016 in Lexington. Please stop by Booth 103.