Written by Seth Skydel and approved for reprint by Fleet Equipment Magazine.
For Scott Wheeler, it’s all about continuous improvement.
“Our mission is to be better tomorrow than we are today,” says Wheeler, executive vice president and corporate chief executive officer of Daseke Inc. “Daseke is more than a group of trucking companies. It is comprised of companies with strong management and highly personalized customer service skills, companies with excellent expansion opportunities and that offer diversity in a range of specialized equipment.”
A provider of flatbed, open-deck and specialized trucking capacity in North America, Daseke, headquartered in Addison, Texas, consists of Smokey Point Distributing, E.W. Wylie Corp., J. Grady Randolph, Central Oregon Truck Co., Lone Star Transportation, Bulldog Hiway Express, Hornady Transportation and The Boyd Companies, including Boyd Bros. Transportation, WTI Transport, Mid Seven Transportation and Boyd Logistics.
Collectively, the Daseke companies offer services including truckload, partial load, over-dimensional and large project moves and full service logistics in 49 states plus Canada and Mexico. Open deck trailers operated by the carriers transport everything from wind turbine blades, aviation parts, construction and agricultural heavy equipment, structural steel, pressure tanks and oil field equipment to a variety of construction materials.
Since 2008, Daseke has been building its operation by merging in what Wheeler refers to as “the best of the best.”
“We are a trucking company with different fleets that serve regional or industry vertical needs,” he explains. “Our operations are analogous in that they are all terrific companies with terrific leaders. We are able to work together to identify best practices and ideas that can be implemented in all of our operations to bring more value to our customers.”
Through that collaboration, Wheeler notes, the Daseke companies also identify and eliminate things that have a less than optimal impact on each of the operations.
“Our most impactful collaboration is unstructured and less formal,” he adds. “We talk to each other regularly, not just in formal meetings, about things like specifications, technical issues and costs. We support each other’s operations with a nationwide network of facilities and maintenance locations.”
Daseke companies operate autonomously, but are increasingly finding synergies when it comes to consolidated purchasing.
“That’s especially true for consumables like fuel and tires, as well as truck wash and other services,” Wheeler relates. “In terms of equipment, we are also accelerating that activity when it makes sense to take advantage of any benefits that come with a larger scale operation.”
Collectively, the Daseke companies operate more than 3,000 tractors and 6,000 trailers. About 1,100 of its tractors are International models. There are also 650 Kenworths, 200 Peterbilts and a mix of Freightliner, Mack and Volvo units. The trailer fleet primarily consists of Reitnouer, Fontaine, Great Dane and Utility models.
“To a great extent, our customers’ needs determine our specs,” Wheeler states. “In one case, for example, we might be hauling large but lightweight aviation parts and in another we’re handling extremely heavy loads. Additionally, beyond brand, model or specs, what are important to us are relationships. With suppliers it’s not just transactional. We need to work together to find long-term solutions.”
Wheeler goes on to say that the makeup of Daseke, with its range of different applications, is a real advantage when it comes to testing ideas and technologies.
“It’s helpful to be able to try new things under replicable operating conditions and on a small scale,” he points out, “and when we get consistent positive results roll it out across the rest of the company.”
A technology first tested at one of the Daseke companies and that is now being deployed in a growing part of all its operations is EpicVue in-cab satellite TV, now equipped on almost half of the Daseke companies’ over-the-road tractors.
“We often try to focus on things that improve driver comfort,” Wheeler explains. “EpicVue is an example of how someone inside our company found a way to boost driver retention and lower recruiting costs. Among drivers with EpicVue satellite TV at Boyd Bros., for example, the turnover rate is half what it is for drivers that have not opted for the system. For the carrier, the savings in recruiting expenses easily recoup the cost of installing the systems.”
Other evaluations have led to the decision to adopt solutions that help drivers operate safer, Wheeler reports. For instance, as a result of testing there are plans to spec Bendix Wingman Fusion safety technologies including its full stability and collision mitigation systems such as stationary vehicle braking, lane departure warning and overspeed alert and action solutions.
Taking care of drivers
“We also believe strongly that taking care of trucks is taking care of drivers,” Wheeler continues. “We spec equipment based on our experience with things that keep trucks out of the shop for unscheduled events. That’s also why preventive maintenance is a big part of our focus.”
Another part of Daseke’s focus on drivers is aimed at improving fuel efficiency.
“In open deck transportation, loads are never the same and aerodynamics are not as effective as they are on enclosed trailers,” Wheeler says. “That means fuel economy is not consistent so the best way for us to improve MPG is to support and train drivers.
“We already have some of the most skilled drivers in the industry,” Wheeler adds. “That’s critical to our success because our drivers are required to secure, load and unload cumbersome and often high-value loads in a wide variety of conditions.”
Daseke, Wheeler relates, cultivates companies into a network of premier carriers. Each of the Daseke companies maintains its own autonomy, management team, operating functions, employee base and original branding and identity.
“We all work together,” Wheeler adds. “Don Daseke, our founder and chief executive officer, was once quoted as saying, ‘we look for outstanding companies with strong management and safety cultures. We do not take over management, as there is strength in our diversity. We invest in people, and we’re giving them an opportunity to be part of something bigger, together.’”
Written by Seth Skydel, reporter at Fleet Equipment Magazine. To view this article on Fleet Equipment Magazine’s website, click here.