Issue 52 (10)/ October 2011

BLM: we deliver what we promise

As DorogaRoad continues to introduce its audience to Ontario trucking companies, we met with Richard Zimmerman, Operations Manager of BLM Transportation Group Inc.
BLM: we deliver what we promise

DorogaRoad: Richard, we learned from the company website that the BLM was founded in 1984, and at that time it consisted of one owner and one customer.
Richard Zimmerman: (Smiles) Yes, one driver and one owner.

DorogaRoad: What is the situation today?
Richard Zimmerman: Today we are probably in the area of 135 power units, over 400 trailers, from that one truck we do refrigerated; we have a flat bed division, oversized division. Most of our customers are Fortune 500 companies. We do both LTL and truckload. The company has grown obviously there is a terminal in California, one in Laredo, and the one here, in Kitchener, Ontario. And the owner is the same.

DorogaRoad: And I understand you still have that first customer, which is great.
Richard Zimmerman: Yes, some of our major customers, for example from the aerospace industry, have been here for 17-20 years. Electronics industry, the same thing, we have been together for over 20 years.

DorogaRoad: That's great. How many people does the company employ today?
Richard Zimmerman: Today we are in the neighborhood of over 400 employees.

DorogaRoad: Of course, almost every trucking company is hiring today. What would you say to a driver who is hesitating in terms of which company to go with? How to pick the right company?
Richard Zimmerman: The driver has to know what he is looking for and what fits his lifestyle. Some drivers like to be gone for 10-12 days at a time and then go home for 3 or 4 days, others want to stay closer to home and have their weekends. Some do not like the LTL, they are more truckload oriented. These are the things they have to know before they apply. Otherwise they are going to apply to a wrong company, and the company will try and move itself to help them but there is a limitation to what the company can accommodate. Here we offer a long haul, there is a short haul, and again we have the vans and flats. If they communicate what their preference is with us when they come in, then we can adjust our operations to fit them. Most of the time we would find ourselves very successful here, but you would need to tell us upfront what you are looking for.

DorogaRoad: What are the minimum requirements for a driver to be hired with BLM?
Richard Zimmerman: We would like two years of experience. If they come in as a team we will look at one year on the one driver as long as the other driver has two years plus. We are very adapted to husband-wife teams; we are trying to push that. We prefer that they have fast card, definitely have cross-border experience. These are all assets to what it makes it easier for us to become a team.

We've had a lot of success with both male partners as teams. Coming established as a team is easier for us, and we can help them make up a partner, too, and we don't hold them to it. If two drivers don't get along, they have different personalities, we will look at other avenues, maybe they will make it better with someone else.

DorogaRoad: There is a pretty high turnover in this industry. People come and go, sometimes they even return. Why does it happen, in your opinion?
Richard Zimmerman: The trucking industry is a hard life, there are no two ways about it - you are gone from home, you miss family functions. As much as Operations tries to work with the driver, there are things that can't be controlled, you know, the load cancels or there is a breakdown. These are minimal with us, but it still happens. Therefore people get frustrated. Also, not everyone who is working for drivers is totally honest with the drivers what they are going to make, where they are going to run, and they show up there to find out that they haven't been exactly told the 100% truth. They are then frustrated, and you can never fit when you start over frustrated - it never goes away. Someone else makes an offer they jump at it. Everyone is trying to make more money these days because the cost of living is up, so anything that pays a little better they take a serious look at it.

DorogaRoad: What tractor brands are there in your fleet?
Richard Zimmerman: We run predominantly Freightliners, Kenworths and Volvos, and Volvo right now is overtaking the other two.

DorogaRoad: Why do you prefer Volvo over other brands?
Richard Zimmerman: We have had good luck with the units we have in our fleet: good fuel mileage, very few break downs and they are very popular with the drivers.

DorogaRoad: What do you think is the secret behind the amazing growth of the company since it was created?

Richard Zimmerman: The biggest would be the owner Jim McConnell, who has a great drive, is a very intelligent individual, can see through things, can see to the bottom of a problem, way ahead of people. A very aggressive individual, loves to succeed, puts a lot into his word. He promises someone that freight will deliver at a certain time, and it will deliver at that certain time. He makes sure, he follows it through, and he is very hands-on. He is always looking at opportunities, and a lot of his thought while he is looking at the opportunities is the drivers out there that he is providing a living for. He feels obligated when he hires someone that he has to provide a living for them, because they have picked his company, and now it is his responsibility to make sure that they make a living. He also has the opinion that the drivers safety on the road must be one of our biggest concerns that is one of the main reasons we have a 24/7 break down line. We also have a north American wide service provider pool to ensure one of our drivers are never without the help they need for whatever the problem may be anytime anywhere.

DorogaRoad: Is there any special strategy that the company uses during tough economic times or you do everything as normal?
Richard Zimmerman: We basically continue to do the same thing all the time, we have excellent Operations staff, everyone is very team oriented. Basically what keeps us going through the lean time at the end of this is that we deliver on what we promise. It has been our biggest asset ever.

DorogaRoad: What does BLM stand for?
Richard Zimmerman: The abbreviation actually stands for the owner's parents Bruce and Lynn McConnell. It was a tribute to his mother and father.

DorogaRoad: What is your vision for BLM in five years from now?
Richard Zimmerman: My vision for BLM is that it will be bigger than it is now, stronger than it is now. It's at continuous growth since its inception, and there is no sign on the team's part or the owner's part that we should sit back and just take life easy, that we retain a certain size. The effort is to keep growing, keep adding accounts that are profitable, household name accounts, and keep delivering the service that he has been doing since the day he started.

DorogaRoad: IS there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Richard Zimmerman: In my opinion, BLM is probably one of the best trucking companies you can actually work for. It's financially sound, it's solid as a rock, and you never have to worry about your pay. I think we have an excellent benefit package and a retirement savings plan. And an open-door atmosphere because if they are upset about something, and these things happen, they are able to walk into our safety department, address their concern, which then will generate a meeting with myself or a controller to appease what is actually wrong, so that it doesn't just get brushed under the rug.

We are busy, drivers can get all the miles that they want and can legally run, and they can still structure home time they can put a request form in if they want to take, say, two weeks. If they have a special requirement, we try to look after their home time as best as we can, even on short notice if something comes up. We tell the drivers when they start here is when you phone, give me your name, not your truck number. We don't go by truck numbers. If we need a truck number we will ask you everybody goes by their first name here. And after all, everyone in Operations knows who that is on the phone.

DorogaRoad: Thank you for your time Richard. To drivers and owner operators: when applying for the job with BLM please call 1-800-256-6688 or fax 1-519-748-0051

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Industry association urges drivers to take precautions to prevent thefts, keep eye out for stolen rigs
The sharp eyes of a trucker helped nab a thief in Quebec earlier this week, along with a trailer containing $150,000 worth of stolen cheese from Moncton.
Codiac RCMP say the refrigerated trailer was parked in a lot on Caledonia Road in the Caledonia Industrial Park last Saturday. Sometime after 3:15 p.m. the trailer was stolen and the crime was discovered the next day and reported to police.
Cpl. Mike Gaudet said the trailer was gone, but a transport truck was found in that same lot that didn't belong there. Police soon learned the truck was stolen from a lot on nearby Somers Drive before being abandoned in the Caledonia Road lot.
A second truck was also taken from the Somers Road location, which was still missing, along with the trailer full of cheese.
Word of the stolen truck and trailer spread through the trucking community and a couple of days later, an alert truck driver travelling through Quebec spotted the stolen trailer being pulled down the highway. He instantly knew the truck and trailer didn't belong together and relayed that information back to Moncton.
Codiac RCMP were notified and contacted the Quebec police.
"They stopped the truck and arrested a 43-year-old man for possession of stolen property," said Gaudet. "The stolen truck, the stolen refrigerated trailer and the $150,000 worth of cheese were recovered."
Jean Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, was not surprised to hear a truck driver spotted the stolen property on the highway.
He said theft of trucks and trailers has increased over the past few months in New Brunswick and as a result the drivers and trucking companies are working closely to combat it.
The association has a section on its website where stolen equipment can be reported. Stolen items are then listed on the site, with the company name, a description and identifying marks, such as a trailer number. Then there's a section where people can phone in tips.
Picard said drivers check that section of the website and then keep on the lookout for stolen property.
"All the drivers talk to each other," he said.
The association is trying to raise attention among the trucking industry and the community in general about this problem, which seems to be on the rise. Several trucks and trailers have been stolen in the western and northern parts of the province over the last couple of months and while some trailers have turned up later, the cargo is often missing.
While a trailer can cost $20,000 to $25,000 to replace, stolen cargo is usually worth much more.
"The goods can be worth a couple hundred thousand, easily," said the executive director, adding that the value of a trailer full of tools stolen earlier this summer exceeded $300,000.
Picard said they want drivers and companies to take precautions regarding where they leave their vehicles and to be aware that they might be targeted.
"And never leave yourself in a vulnerable position while driving or stopped for a rest," he adds.
They also want all thefts reported immediately to the police and the association, to increase the chances of recovering trucks, trailers and the stolen cargo, as happened this week.
"That saved a company a lot of money and headaches," he said.
The association is in the process of scheduling a meeting with the Department of Public Safety and the RCMP to discuss the matter and what can be done to create more awareness of this problem in the trucking industry. The Canadian Trucking Alliance is also actively pursuing this same cause and last month met with federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to discuss cargo thefts and other issues at its head office in Toronto.
David Bradley, CTA's president and CEO, said in a news release after the meeting that the industry is calling for increased enforcement resources for this problem and for the courts to begin handing out stiffer penalties for cargo crimes as provided under the government's new 'tough on crime' legislation. Bradley said organized crime syndicates are playing an increasing role in cargo crimes.
"While the trucking industry has made substantial investments in security programs and policies, organized criminals are not deterred," he said. "In the absence of a greater enforcement effort and penalties, the return from cargo crime is seen as far outweighing the risk by many criminals."
Bradley said the goal is to raise awareness of the scope and seriousness of cargo crime and its true costs to the industry, the supply chain and the Canadian economy as a whole.
Earlier this summer, the theft of trucks and trailers was a big problem in the Woodstock area.
On July 20, the Integrated District 7 RCMP Crime Reduction Unit and Woodstock Police Force announced they were investigating a series of transport truck and trailer thefts from that region over the previous two weekends. Seven trucks and five trailers containing various goods were stolen.
Five of the seven trucks and three of the five trailers were recovered in the days after they were reported missing. The trucks and trailers received minor damage and the goods inside the trailers were removed.
The trucks were recovered at various locations throughout western New Brunswick and Quebec, while all the trailers were recovered in the Montreal area.