CCJ Innovators: Andy Transport moves from ambitious start-up to industry heavyweight

CCJ Innovators profiles carriers and fleets that have found innovative ways to overcome trucking’s challenges. If you know a carrier that has displayed innovation, contact CCJ Editor Jason Cannon at jasoncannon@randallreilly.com or 800-633-5953.
Montreal-based Andy Transport pulls a number of innovation levers to propel itself from a modest trucking company to one of Canada’s largest carriers. (photo by Sonya MessierMontreal-based Andy Transport pulls a number of innovation levers to propel itself from a modest trucking company to one of Canada’s largest carriers. (photo by Sonya Messier

Many larger carriers in North America can trace their roots back to a single-truck operation, dating back decades over several generations. It is far less common to see a trucking company achieve that same success in the span of just 18 years.

In 2001, Andy Transport opened its doors for business when Ilie Crisan, a Romanian immigrant, began hauling freight as an owner-operator in Quebec. After early modest gains, Ilie’s daughter Andreea – who had worked with the company most of her life while going through school – joined Andy Transport full time after finishing law school in 2012 when the company had roughly 50 trucks. The Montreal-based company then hit a major growth spurt, increasing its revenues by 217 percent in the last five years and growing its truck and driver count to nearly 400 to become one of Canada’s leading carriers.

That level of growth doesn’t happen by accident, and Andy Transport has initiated a number of efforts in recent years to keep the business humming along its current growth trajectory.

Expanding borders

In recent years, Andy Transport has broadened its service mix beyond asset-based transportation, adding warehousing, logistics and maintenance capabilities. It also expanded its dry van offerings and now includes flatbed and drayage operations.

In late 2018, it formed Tristan Fleet Management, a multi-location truck and trailer maintenance operation that provides preventive maintenance, equipment inspections and general mechanic and collision repairs for small and medium-sized fleet customers.

photo by Sonya Messierphoto by Sonya Messier

“When operating a fleet, managing a shop and an in-house maintenance program can become an overwhelming burden and an expensive cost center,” said Crisan, founder and president.

More than 200 clients now use Andy Transport’s maintenance program to plan PM and repairs and use Tristan’s 24/7 roadside assistance and towing offerings across North America.

“Tristan Fleet Management is a natural expansion of the maintenance and repair services that have historically been provided to Andy Transport and independent owner-operators,” said Andreea Crisan, who now serves as the company’s chief operating officer and executive vice president. “The growth of Andy Transport’s fleet resulted in a strategic physical network of maintenance and repair centers.”

Earlier this year, Andy Transport again seized another opportunity to expand its business footprint beyond its traditional operations with the launch of Tristan Cartage, a power-only outsourcing fleet solution for local and regional customers in the Quebec and Ontario provinces.

“We will provide a tractor and driver without any long-term commitment or business interruption,” said Ilie Crisan. “Our customers maintain control over the schedule and the routing, and benefit from cost savings by paying only for what they need.”

Andy Transport said target customers for its new venture include for-hire carriers of all sizes, private fleets, third-party logistics companies, retailers, manufacturers and distributors with fluctuating transportation needs.

“We often receive calls from customers and partner carriers, requesting Andy Transport to provide power-only services,” said Andreea Crisan. “But cartage services largely differ from Andy Transport’s usual operations in terms of human resources, assets and dispatching. This is why we have launched a power-only solution, offering a tractor and driver on demand, to counter the fluctuations in capacity, volume and manpower of partner companies.”

Tristan Cartage also has other synergies within the Andy Transport organization, allowing Tristan Fleet Management to offer power-only solutions to maintenance customers so they can remain productive while their equipment is being repaired.

Using its in-house simulator, Andy Transport’s driver instructors can tailor the system to each user to reflect changing road conditions such as traffic flow, time of day and weather conditions.Using its in-house simulator, Andy Transport’s driver instructors can tailor the system to each user to reflect changing road conditions such as traffic flow, time of day and weather conditions.

Mitigating the driver shortage

Canadian carriers are not immune to the driver shortage facing U.S.-based carriers. A recent study commissioned by the Canadian Trucking Alliance showed the country could be short as much as 48,000 drivers by 2024.

Four years ago, Andy Transport launched a new initiative to get ahead of the problem, becoming the first carrier in Quebec to offer an in-house program to train and develop professional skills for driver candidates.

“It may seem like a paradox, but while there is a shortage of truck drivers all over North America, new drivers have trouble getting hired,” said Andreea Crisan. “That’s why we’ve created a safe and structured one-stop shop for those who wish to enter the industry and join our company.”

Andy Transport’s training offers theoretical classes, simulation classes and over-the-road practice. After earning a Class 1 license, new drivers spend a few months working with driver trainers to refine their skills. After completing this step and meeting Andy Transport’s requirements, they are eligible to be hired full time and drive alone.

If a driver stays with Andy Transport for a certain period of time, the company will absorb the costs incurred during the driver’s training and apprenticeship.

Andy Transport has trained an average of 30 drivers per year since it began its driver training program, and the company has been able to retain most of those new drivers for at least a year after their hire date. Last quarter, the company had a turnover rate of just 6 percent.

To improve the quality of its program, Andy Transport also purchased a simulator to tailor skills training for each student. Instructors can adjust the driving experience for each user, providing scenarios in a number of environments, including parking lots, loading docks and highways, and in a variety of weather and road conditions.

Not resting on its laurels, Andy Transport has plans for continued growth and diversification across all its business divisions in all segments while developing new ones. “We have so much potential and young people on our team, we need to keep growing for them to stay with us,” Andreea Crisan said. “We want to be able to offer them new challenges internally rather than them leaving us to find new challenges elsewhere.”