Upstaging Inc. Customer Story: Reinventing an Events Transportation Company During COVID

When facing unprecedented challenges that force your business model to change overnight, the right equipment is critical to finding the way forward. Some obstacles can’t be predicted, but the ability to rely on durable, top-quality equipment is critical when the day-to-day veers into chaos.

Chip Warterfield is the fleet safety manager at Upstaging Inc., a company that provides transportation solutions for the live event industry. When large gatherings were canceled in early 2020 with the advance of COVID-19, Upstaging knew it would have to adapt with the changing conditions. With employees and their families depending on the company, Warterfield got to work to find a solution, combining his resourcefulness with the experience and creativity of his employees.

From Live Event Transportation Solutions to Logistics Management

For 40 years, Upstaging has served the live event industry.  This fleet of tractor-trailers fills a unique niche: it supplies lighting systems and transportation solutions for concerts that tour across the country—equipment that needs to be at concert sites on time, every time. But with concerts canceled for the foreseeable future, Upstaging knew they needed to strategically pivot into the logistics market.

To make the change quickly, everyone at Upstaging had to pull together, addressing new business needs, defining new operational expectations, and opening lines of communication up and down the chain of command—from operations to drivers.

The management team listened as much as it directed. A driver spoke up with ideas and connections that enabled Upstaging to make a drastic, but successful, business pivot very quickly. And listening continues to play a big part in Upstaging’s success.

Challenges for Fleet Management in Logistics

They were used to having 25 trucks on one task for six months—that was easy to manage—but jumping into the logistics market suddenly meant the team was micro-managing 150 individual truckloads. There were many more moving parts to cover. Warterfield explained, “We built methods to predict our HOS (hours of service) workflow in our event touring operation, but when it came to logistics, we focused our modeling down to the individual trips. We had to do a bit of training with the operations staff and had them up to speed in a couple of days. We can immediately display the data to the drivers, who can then better plan their trips.”

Upstaging always welcomes drivers to share their thoughts and opinions. Some of the best answers come from those who have their boots on the “shop floor.” Warterfield is a former driver himself, and it helps that he’s driven a few miles in their shoes. He encourages anyone who sees a solution to speak up, and he meets their objections with open debate. A driver may come to him with a simple question of “Okay, but what if it’s better?” From there, the ideas flow. When they see results, the process grows.

As the company pivoted towards logistics, everyone maintained communication at each step of the way. Warterfield made sure that safety was constantly at top of mind, especially considering COVID-19. “A challenge has been in educating everyone on the benefits and pitfalls of the Emergency Declaration. Again, we have to present the trip to the drivers and explain the exact timing of the load parameters. We use our newsletters and email blasts to communicate to our people that no one wants a fatigued driver on the road.”

Along with the safety programs being hustled into play, they also had to give the drivers a quick course in business basics. “It was important for them to know how much value they were providing, not only for the people needing the supplies, but how they were providing a foundation for the business to thrive,” Warterfield said.

Innovative Solutions for Dry Freight Trailer Adaptation

As Upstaging pivoted from production transportation, their Great Dane equipment continued to be a strong and dependable solution for them to get the job done. Their Champion Sheet-and-Post trailers were built to custom specs, perfect for delivering stage lighting, exhibits, and signage for live events, but now this same equipment needed to handle new applications. The Champion vans, crafted with the highest-quality components and technology available, were more than up to the challenge.

The tough task solutions built into Upstaging’s Great Dane trailers helped the fleet to power through new levels of productivity. “The use of PunctureGuard product in the high-impact areas of the walls has stood up to the challenge of aimless forklift operators all across the country,” Warterfield said. “And the use of the onboard airbag pressure gauge has helped our drivers with unnecessary trips to the scales.”

A difficult transition was made easier by reliable equipment. Here are just some of the specific features Upstaging relied on to make the change:

  • Composite floor systems with extra features, designed for extreme strength and durability.
  • EnduroGuard rear frame, designed for safety and for longevity.
  • PunctureGuard linings and scuffbands, providing protection from everyday abuses—including forklifts–while only minimally increasing overall weight.

Dry Freight Vans Made to Upstage Any Obstacle

With its people ready to face the challenges ahead and its equipment up to the task of tackling new loads, Upstaging carried its new business model forward—no small feat for a company with a fleet of custom-built solutions.

Upstaging Inc.’s ability to throw out the playbook and successfully start over is equal parts ingenuity and elbow grease. They’ve defied expectations by serving new customers in new applications. There are still daily lessons to be learned, but they’re working together, and their new strategies are met, mile for mile, by Great Dane’s Champion dry freight vans. With its new focus in place, Upstaging’s new business outlook is brighter than ever.

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