Passing the torch to a new generation isn’t easy. It comes with a multitude of changes, a new vision, and a new way of doing things. Tucker Freight Lines’ latest transition came in 2018 when A.J. and Sauny Tucker acquired what had been a family-owned company for three generations. The business had tackled everything from livestock and bulk hauling to van, flatbed, and specialized hauling.
The Tuckers saw an opportunity to take the reins of a company that had proven itself through the decades but was ready for a change. As they began this transition, they leaned on their partnerships with key players like Great Dane to keep the business running smoothly.
Diversification and technology lead to success
“The business was third generation and somewhat stale. The last of the second generation was struggling to let go, which caused lots of cultural concerns,” A.J. said, recalling his view of the 1956-founded company before the acquisition. “The business was also starving for technology. We saw it as a great opportunity to sprinkle our secret sauce on a business and get it back into growth mode.”
More like explosive growth mode—Tucker Freight Lines has grown 270% since the Tuckers bought the business. Much of that is attributed to its dry van business, which the Tuckers have worked to diversify in terms of customers and types of businesses they serve. And that growth has continued through the uncertainty and ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been very fortunate. With us being more diversified now, it seems like when one part of the business is down, other areas are up,” A.J. said.
A strong team is the greatest asset
It’s not just about how Tucker Freight Lines does business. The catalyst for the fleet’s success goes deeper than that. So, how did they do it? A.J.’s answer is simple: the people.
“I would put our people up against any group in the industry,” he said. “They are passionate about the business and truly care about everyone they work with. We have focused on getting the right people in the right positions. Our growth has allowed us to add more people, which in turn has given us the benefit of having more focused roles versus everyone doing everything.”
The right partnerships drive progress
Excellent service and outside-the-box solutions all come from Tucker’s well-oiled team working in concert with customers and partners, including Great Dane. The Tuckers have had a partnership with Great Dane since the early 2000s when they were running a refrigerated freight hauler. A.J. focused on the partnership with the Great Dane people as much as the Great Dane products.
“I have always said that people buy from people they like,” he said. “Great Dane seems to share the same strategy that we have in providing excellent products and services at a reasonable price. We know we get what we pay for and we feel even though the price might sometimes be slightly higher than some of the other brands, the overall value is much greater. We truly enjoy the partnership we have with the people at Crossroads Trailer Sales and Service, [our local Great Dane distributor]. It’s a win-win partnership.”
Working together toward a goal is what makes change possible. It’s about people forging partnerships they can depend upon—when times are good and, more importantly, when times are filled with uncertainty.
Keeping people safe during the COVID crisis
Early in the pandemic, the government confirmed what our industry knew all along—trucking is essential. When the world stopped, trucking kept rolling forward, and that goes for Tucker Freight Lines. To keep its people safe, here are some of the top operations that the fleet initiated:
- Anyone who was not comfortable working in an office environment was allowed to work from home.
- Any driver who had health concerns was allowed to take the time off that they needed.
- Our maintenance personnel were trained on the proper precautionary measures any time they had to physically enter a truck. Our open trucks have always been cleaned/sanitized at the highest level, so that’s one area we really didn’t need to make many changes.
- Anyone who is not feeling well is asked to stay home.
- We have our facility being cleaned daily instead of just weekly. We also have sanitizer, masks, and cleaning products/wipes all over our office.
- We had lunch brought in for our entire office and shop team, and any drivers in the area, for almost three months. This helped reduce the interaction with others while also giving them a great meal every day. This also helped support many struggling restaurant businesses in the area. We have just recently reduced this to once a week.
“At the peak, we had roughly 35 to 40% of our office staff working from home,” A.J. noted. “Since May 1, when Iowa started re-opening, we have been back to being fully staffed in the office. We are following all safety guidelines and making sure nobody is out of their comfort zone.”
To learn more about how you can leverage a partnership with Great Dane to emphasize what makes your business great, find a local Great Dane retailer.