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On the Road with Loadsmart Ep 3: Hunter Transportation

We’re in the business of connecting the logistics industry, but that doesn’t stop at connecting shipments with carriers. This is our second episode of On the Road with Loadsmart, a platform to connect the industry to the stories that matter, inspire, and are essential for giving credit to the unsung heroes of the road we have the privilege to work with every day.

In this episode Aaron from Loadsmart sits down with Coleman from Hunter Transportation to discuss how since starting operations in 1998 with one truck (and subsequently growing his fleet to 35), he’s learned to brace for the bottom and ride the wave back up to profitability in volatile markets.

Aaron: Do you want to tell us a little bit about Hunter?

Coleman: My business partner and I Randal Orvig started the company in 1998, working out of a spare bedroom in the house. We had to throw one of the sons out, make him bunk with his younger brother and took over the office. Soon thereafter we were asked to vacate the premises because we were too disruptive. 

We started with one truck. That was my business partner driving it and I was doing the sales and dispatch. Our fleet is currently 35 trucks. We at one point were more than that, but during the pandemic we shrunk a little bit and now we’re back on the upswing to start building again.

We are an intermodal ocean container hauler. We move containers locally and regionally in Carolinas and Georgia. We own and maintain our own chassis. As we are both import and export, we haul a variety of commodities. 

Aaron: You’ve had the perspective to see volatile markets before the one that we’re currently in. Have you ever experienced the changes to your business that you’ve experienced over the last couple of months?

Coleman: Back in 2008 and 2009 with the financial meltdown, that opened our eyes to what could go wrong. And what we needed to do to solidify ourselves and get back up and rolling again. With every incident or episode you always hope there’s a bottom. And then you hope you can ride back up the wave to profitability.

And we believe we have seen the bottom here. It’s going to plateau or level and then start to come back up slowly. In 2008, 2009 we didn’t know what to expect so we weren’t sure when things would begin to recover. With the pandemic, we thought we could see in a month, two months, three months things will get back to normal, and it’s just taking a little bit more time.  

We’re happy to see a lot of production coming back. We’re starting to see the consumer starting to buy discretionary products versus toilet paper – the basics. And that’s encouraging, there’s hope there.

Aaron: Before the pandemic what were some of your main challenges as a business and what did those main challenges or areas of focus of your business become?

Coleman: Our main challenges prior to the pandemic were expanding our customer base and controlling costs. That hasn’t changed, it’s just been intensified, particularly in the cost control.

Our container volumes decreased substantially and that was due to the import export business really affected by the domestic as well as international events. The overseas countries, China and Europe, both basically shut down

Aaron: Were there any specific adjustments that you had to make in order to preserve through that container volume drop?

We had to adjust our staff here, we also made some changes in our truck fleet, we also purchased some additional chassis. The other thing that we really relied on and we’ve always relied on is our technology. We have excellent order management and dispatching software through a company called ProfitTools, we have for years used ELDs, we have onboard cameras and use hand held devices on trucks. We’re trying to make sure our drivers and customers utilize all of those to their advantage.

And one of the things we noticed about Loadsmart is we particularly liked the in truck tracking for our customers benefit. That was something we hadn’t considered because we know where our trucks are at all times. So that was something we appreciate what you’re doing here. That’s really beneficial to offer a customer or compliment.

Aaron: From your perspective, what was the driver experience like in the thick of the pandemic?

Coleman: It was more of a concern of ‘what’s going to happen to the economy? Will I have a job tomorrow?’ We did everything we could to assure our drivers that as long as they keep doing the right thing, things will work out the way they’re supposed to.

Aaron: Do you feel your business will get back to the way it was?

Coleman: Volumes in the import and export business will continue to rise and get back to where they were and actually expand. I don’t have a clear enough crystal ball to give you a prognostication on when that will be.

But America runs on trucks. 70% of all our cargo runs on a truck somewhere. I don’t see trucking, trucking as an industry, or intermodal, of being less importance in the future. In fact, I think one of the great things to come out of the Pandemic is that trucking was recognized as essential business and on the front line of bringing products to the American public when they were stuck at home. I’m very hopeful.

More stories, more episodes

In our ongoing conversations with carriers across the country, we’re uncovering silver linings to the events of the past few months. For Coleman it’s “trucking being recognized as an essential business and on the front line of bringing product to the American people.”

Stay up to date with everything we find in our On the Road Episodes as we criss cross the country talking to our network of carriers on our YouTube.

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