EDGE Chattanoogan's 'just-in-time' trucking business appeals to drivers

EDGE Chattanoogan's 'just-in-time' trucking business appeals to drivers

October 1st, 2017 by Tim Omarzu in EDGE

Bob Poulos

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

If you've ever considered being a truck driver, Bob Poulos has a job for you.

Poulos is a Chattanooga-area resident and former vice president of sales at U.S. Xpress here who's also co-founder and CEO of V3 Transportation, a Cleveland, Ohio area-based trucking company that does "expedited" or just-in-time transportation.

Founded in 2012, V3 Transportation has grown from a two-laptop, two-cell phone operation to a company with about 50 support staff, a 235-truck fleet and $17.1 million in revenue last year.

If an automobile plant runs low on a key part, it can call V3 Transportation, which will dispatch a truck in time to save the day and keep the assembly line running.

Customers spend about $3 billion annually on expedited shipping, Poulos said — compared to about $600 billion spent annually on trucking, overall.

"We're in a very small niche," says Poulos who works remotely as CEO. He opted to stay here, where his family has put down roots, while company President John Sliter and Chief Operating Officer Paul Ratcliff are stationed in the company's headquarters.

Expedited delivery is great for V3 Transportation's truck drivers, Poulos said, since they don't have to wait around for hours at the loading dock — which is often the case for long-haul truckers.

"We get to the front of the line," he says.

Other advantages that V3 Transportation offers truckers, Poulos said, include that most of the company's fleet consists of 22-foot-long "straight trucks" similar to a U-Haul and even smaller 12-foot Sprinter vans and 8-foot cargo vans. Only 10 percent of the fleet consists of 53-foot-long tractor trailers, commonly known as "big rigs."

"It's a lot easier to drive a straight truck than it is a tractor-trailer," says Greg Thompson, a company spokesman.

There's still a bed, refrigerator and other features found in long-haul big rigs in the 22-foot-long straight truck — and V3 Transportation will put a bed in a sprinter van or cargo van, so they're live-able on the road, too.

The pay's good, too, Poulos said. A typical operator, or driver for the company will earn between $80,000 and $90,000, minus the cost of the truck, he said. And a husband-and-wife, or other two-driver team, can gross between $230,000 and $250,000, and net about half of that, minus the expense of their truck.

That's the only complication: All of V3 Transportation's truck drivers are owner-operators who own or lease their own trucks.

"We do not own any of the trucks," Poulos says.

Even with that caveat, V3 Transportation has had good luck recruiting drivers, he said — and retaining them in an industry where turnover averages around 103 percent, annually.

"We're half of that," Poulos says.

V3 Transportation's has a range of drivers. They include people just starting out, since you don't need a commercial driver's license to drive a cargo van. Experienced long-haul drivers sign up, because they prefer smaller-sized trucks and the perk of being ushered to the loading dock. A husband-and-wife team gave up their computer programming jobs for V3 Transportation and the lure of the open road.

"They just got sick of sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen all day," Poulos says.

Two-person trucking teams are a hot commodity, he said, because starting on Dec. 18 a federal mandate will require all long-haul trucks to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) instead of paper log books. That'll put an end to solo drivers who bend the rules and exceed the 550-mile a day driving limit. This will create openings for teams, which can travel roughly 1,000 miles in a day because one person rests while the other drives.

"Demand for two-person teams is going to go through the roof," Poulos says.

Expedited trucking includes some unusual jobs. V3 Transportation trucks have been used for everything from hauling the U.S. Presidential podium to moving large displays to Wrigley Field during the World Series to delivering concert T-shirts to the musician Prince at his Paisley Park Studios near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"We do some really, really unique things," Poulos says.

The company, which has grown more than five fold in the past three years, has a strong footprint in the Midwest and the Southeast and plans to expand its service network to cover the Southwest and the West Coast.