Secrets to building a successful trucking company

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Updated Nov 1, 2021

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

More than 3,140 trucking companies went out of business last year.

Typically, around 85-90% of startup trucking companies fail.

It’s not always easy to run a company, but it’s especially difficult in the competitive transportation industry. So as my company approaches it’s 10-year mark, I am excited to share some of the key factors that have made DVL Express one of America’s fastest growing 5000 Inc. companies.

The philosophy

Whether you’re a driver or a customer, the first question on everyone’s mind is always, “What is this company about?” The first answer to that question for me is growth. It’s so compelling to be around people who have a zeal for more out of life. A “grind for growth” attitude is contagious and will transfer to others.

One of the unique things we instituted to help our drivers grow was a driver’s development program. We train drivers to become better professionally depending on the path that works best for them. If a driver wants to become the best paid OTR or local driver we have steps to make that happen with our Progressive Incentive pay structure.  If a driver wants to haul a different type of trailer, we offer an in-house training program. If a driver wants to become a lease-operator or owner-operator, we have a program for that as well. I want it to mean something to put DVL Express on a resume, because it shows that the driver has been well equipped.

The second answer to that question is home.

With drivers from more than 20 countries, it is especially important for me to make my people feel like they have a home base. I want to show my drivers that they are more than just a number. I want to know their dreams and desires. I want to know what goes on in their daily lives. I find that when you treat people the way they want to be treated, they work harder for you. Consider how you would want to be treated as a driver and give them that.

Lastly is purpose. If people are a part of something bigger than themselves they will love the work they are doing. Every single mile that we drive goes toward making the world a better place. Currently we are working on a school/orphanage for children in Ukraine. In the past we have done projects like building churches, cleaning up plastic from the ocean and others.

The competencies

The greatest philosophies in the world won’t matter if you aren’t good at your craft. The fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A consistently ranks first in restaurant surveys, and the CEO says it’s because they invest more than other companies in training and career advancement.

When it comes to pay, most companies in this industry are very open about the gross payments and RPM they are offering. Strive to be a leader in this category, even if at first it doesn’t make sense on paper. If someone believes you have their best interest at heart, they will run through a wall for you. What you are offering money-wise is the first indicator of if you are in it for yourself or for your drivers.

Stay with the times is another important mission. Technologies are moving faster than ever. Develop an app for drivers, order electric trucks, use a Samsara system or some other type of dashcam. All these things will help to improve the customer service for drivers and customers alike.

The strategy

Setting up realistic short terms goals is the foundation for growth and competency. How do I instill in my drivers a growth mindset? The first goal for me was to make a comprehensive program where drivers or customers can decide what they want, and we provide the steps to make it happen.  This involved the fleet department, safety, accounting, and dispatch operations because I needed specialists who could train in these areas.

The second goal was to make some additions that would cause our home base to be more valuable to our drivers and customers. That’s why we started Markham Truck Center, our internal truck repair center. We also started Unibox Warehouse, our on-site warehouse. I’m always looking for ways to add value for my drivers and customers.

The strategy will depend on the philosophy. I want my drivers to grow, feel like we are a second home, and drive with a purpose. So, my goals are set up according to that philosophy.

The “why”

Answering the question “what is your why?” may be last here - but it is the first one a soon-to-be business owner should consider. We decided in the very beginning that our WHY statement is, “we exist to change the way the world views the trucking industry.”

I’ve heard that people often say that DVL Express is like Google in trucking. That tells me we are headed in the right direction. For every person and business, there will come a time when a choice must be made between several good options. The only way to know how to choose what’s best for you is to examine the options according to the why.

It’s not going to be easy, and there will be times when giving up seems like the best option. Allow the struggle to make you stronger. Trucking isn’t for everyone but the lessons learned in this industry will correlate to every avenue of life and make you an all-around better person for your spouse, your friends, and your children. Overall, if you are striving to be the best you can be, things will work out well for everyone involved.

Alexander Dovgal is the founder of DVL Express as well as 11 other businesses. He has dedicated himself to making the transportation industry better with technological solutions, as well as helping people achieve mental and physical health.