The term “specialized trucking” gets bantered about often in the industry. If you dive deep enough into the chatter, you’ll discover specialized trucking is full of unique niches — including one where the cost of entry is exceedingly high. It’s called “Transportation Protective Services.”
Translated, Transportation Protective Services means the world of hauling ammunition, arms, explosives and hazardous materials. Highly regulated and monitored by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, there are less than 20 companies in the United States authorized to carry this freight. The R&R Trucking Companies, headquartered in Duenweg, Missouri, happen to have three of these companies under their umbrella — R&R, AATCO, and NEI. Together, they’re the country’s second-largest munitions hauler, and they’re also the latest specialized company to join the Daseke family.
“R&R is a great addition to our family; they operate in an exciting and specialized niche,” said Don Daseke, president and CEO of Daseke Inc. “Their people are highly experienced, smart and passionate about the serious nature of their freight. R&R gives Daseke yet another specialized branch that we can grow and expand.”
Led by Phil Nelson, an industry veteran of 43 years, AATCO handles all the Dromedary (“Drom”) business — and holds 40 percent of the DOD market. “Drom” work entails picking up sensitive defense materials in special, less-then-truckload (LTL) cargo boxes (“droms”), placing them on open-deck trailers, then the boxes are trans-load at The R&R Trucking Companies’s government-approved, high-security “safe haven” facilities for final delivery.
To keep sensitive loads moving and secure, trucks almost never shut down. They’re typically shadowed by security vehicles, and “eyes” are in the sky. As mandated by the federal government, driver teams haul the most sensitive cargo. New drivers must obtain hazardous material endorsements, undergo a background check and pass government security clearance protocols — an arduous process that takes a minimum of 12 weeks. Not all drivers make the cut. Those who do are richly rewarded with top pay and benefits.
Driver turnover at The R&R Trucking Companies is low, thanks in part to driver teams consisting primarily of spouses and significant others. The R&R Trucking Companies are also committed to hiring veterans. More than 30 percent of its drivers have served in the country’s armed forces. “Many of our ex-military drivers already had security clearance, and many saw driving for us — and what we haul — as an extension of their service to our great country,” said Phil. “We’re a great fit for them and them for us.”
The R&R Trucking Companies have come a long way from its humble beginnings. Their story began in 1988, when Roy and Richard Travis, “R&R,” started the company, initially hauling non-hazardous material for the government. “But, seeing opportunity in munitions, they decided to bid on contracts and routes, and they slowly grew that side of the business, ultimately concentrating all their efforts in this niche,” recalled Phil. “When Daryl Deel bought the company in 1997, I followed along with him as executive vice president. Under Daryl’s leadership, the company really made its mark.”
With enthusiasm and a dedicated team, R&R grew from 20 power units and 35 trailers to 140 power units and 350 trailers in just 18 months. “That’s what you call vertical growth,” Phil said with a smile. “Our business went straight up.”
In 2007, R&R was purchased by Jefferies Capital. Phil continued to lead multiple departments and was eventually offered the CEO position in 2014. “Initially I hesitated,” recalled Phil. “But I went home and talked with my bride of 43 years. Karen said, ‘Maybe this is what God has planned for you.’ Being a deeply religious man, I realized He had put me into this space for a reason, and I decided to accept the position.”
It ended up being a great decision, both for Phil and the company. Business continued to be strong and profitability increased. Under Phil’s leadership, R&R started a program called the “Christmas Club.”
“We ‘adopted’ several residents of the Whispering Pines nursing home — visiting with them, forging new relationships that allowed them to feel special. It’s important to feel ‘wanted,’ to have someone who cares. We’re also participating in the ‘Moving Mountains’ program. We’re helping to bag and provide food for low-income schoolchildren in need. We also had an employee who wanted to start fundraising for the American Heart Association. We raised more than $10,000 between our 50 office employees and drivers. Our people have a passion for what they do and for our community.” Clearly, giving back to the community is something that’s close to Phil’s heart.
“And, that’s why they’re now a Daseke company,” Don said. “They are a company that works hard, has a heart and is committed. They are a leader in the industry for a good reason — they’re great at what they do.”
“It’s going to be a great fit,” concluded Phil. “I was excited to announce to our employees that we were becoming part of Daseke and that we would continue to operate ‘as is.’ I knew this was going to be one of the best opportunities the company would ever have. Don is a visionary, and he is going to let us do what we do best. Only now we will have all the support and benefits of being a Daseke company, like consolidated purchasing power and collaboration with our top-quality sister companies. That will make us even more competitive in the marketplace. We are all going to thrive, and I couldn’t be more excited.”