Putting safety first for drivers, families, and customers
Providing a leading business model for the trucking sector, Gulf Relay ensures customer satisfaction while upholding safety standards second to none
Operating out of Clinton, Mississippi, Gulf Relay has cemented its position as a leading trucking logistics company that owns 225 trucks and roughly 650 trailers. The company primarily operates in the eastern half of the United States and has been in the driver’s seat when it comes to customer satisfaction and safety top-tier safety measures.
The company’s largest freight is paper, beverages, and products for retail markets.
Working within an industry that’s been the center of pandemic supply-chain issues, the company has had its challenges.
Andy Vanzant, Chief Operating Officer at Gulf Relay, elaborates, “We’ve had tremendous issues securing equipment and labor over the last two years. Specifically, drivers and good in-house personnel.”
With most industries linked to automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Gulf Relay had issues allocating stock from the four leading tractor players in the industry. Namely, Freightliner, Mack, Peterbilt, and Volvo.
In simple terms, the company needs more than the manufacturer can produce. But Gulf Relay understands that they can only purchase what the manufacturers are able to provide.
The same predicament plagues the company within the trailer sector. These players can only provide 30% to 60% of Gulf Relay’s requests.
With this backlog of vehicle stock, many players in the logistics industry are procuring more spares for their trucks so that they can keep them on the road for longer. This has had a domino effect that has cascaded into the spare parts industry.
“We currently have seven trucks needing repairs and can’t use them until parts arrive,” says Vanzant.
Safety is paramount to Gulf Relay. 98% of all drivers at the company have at least one year of experience. The other 2% are trainees, and students must undergo a rigorous six-week instruction program with a professional trainer. The company limits itself to four or five trainees at a time to keep operations running smoothly and ensure a high level of expertise.
Gulf Relay also offers a Family Plan Training Course, where friends or family members of an employee can be shown the ropes, so to speak, about the trucking industry.
But most of these trainees are guided by the six to seven professional trucking staff members who rotate their roles. After six weeks of training, they return to the road.
While all logistic companies will talk about safety, Gulf Relay can say that the statistics speak for themselves.
“The company has a crash score of 33 and an unsafe driving score of ten. Our department of transport (DOT) reportable (an accident) per million miles was 0.21 for 2022. And Gulf Relay had only four DOT reportable accidents after completing about 19 million miles in the last year. Industry-standard for covering that mileage in a year is around 15 to 17 reportable accidents,” says Vanzant.
Typically, most of these statistics do not need to be made public, but Gulf relay believes that when the statistics paint such a great image, why not share them.
The company prides itself on having employees that can build and maintain relationships from the shipper level all the way up the ranks.
“Because of the close relationships, account managers can call clients and say they’ve seen posts on the Design Advisory Panel (DAP) board and then win over the business,” says Maddie Cook, Director of Customer Success for Assets Division, Gulf Relay, Clinton, Mississippi.
“I’ve seen it multiple times, where the client may have selected a lower-cost option, but due to the relationships built by our account managers, they’ve been able to call them directly.”
As the trucking industry is very male-dominated, it’s a breath of fresh air that many of the managerial roles at Gulf Relay are filled by women.
Currently, 11% of the company drivers are women. Twenty-three people, to be exact. But the main consideration when recruiting female drivers is to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for them.
The most significant incentive for female drivers to work for the company is for someone they trust to lead them into the role, whether that is a spouse, close relative, or friend.
“It’s essential to cultivate a welcoming environment for women to become drivers. Most individuals don’t just wake up and stroll into a new profession. They need to feel accepted and feel like they can grow within the role. It’s one of the primary reasons we started the Family Plan Training Course.
After the female driver has 500 hours of driving experience, they can start to drive confidently on their own,” says Vanzant.
And because the system works so well, the recruitment department at the company is always on the lookout for female driver applications.
As with any industry, companies must also establish strong relationships with other businesses. With Gulf Relay, the most important vendors are tractor and trailer manufacturers. Without the proper equipment, nothing can be accomplished.
Another vendor is the company that offers the sophisticated software Gulf Relay utilizes, Omnitracs. This software allows for satellite technology integration and communication with drivers, which means that no matter where they or management are, there’s a constant line of communication.
The company also utilizes a customer relationship management (CRM) software package called McLeod’s, and for proper tracking, Gulf Relay uses SkyBitz.
SkyBitz informs the teams at the office where the truck’s trailers are, how long they have been standing for, and when they’re moving.
“The logistics industry operated for 85 years without communicating with the drivers or tracking them. But now it’s impossible to think about how our company would operate without tracking,” says Vanzant.
While tracking software isn’t new in the industry, the features that it monitors are increasing and improving annually. Where before, only location was tracked, now the company can watch speed, RPMs of the engine, when the engine is turned off, and more.
Moving into 2023, the company wants to look at growing its assets. While there isn’t a consistent equipment supply, Gulf Relay believes this is the perfect time to acquire and hire new staff.
The market never aligns with what you need precisely. The number of trucks and drivers is never on an equal footing.
For this reason, the company is looking at growing 10% during 2023 as the availability of drivers is higher than the equipment supply. These new drivers also vary in quality, so training is essential, which takes time.
Another focus for Gulf Relay is to continue looking at different network lanes. The company currently has about five primary network freight lanes and is actively looking to secure two more.
This will hopefully become profitable soon.
Also, the company is going to grow its owner-operator fleet in 2023. By expanding this business element, the company will assist operators in creating a more predictable revenue stream.
But with so much potential for growth in the industry, Gulf Relay is poised to accomplish big things down the road by keeping its radar on safety and utilizing its skilled drivers to navigate its business path.
AT A GLANCE
What: a top-tier trucking and logistics company focused on client needs
Where: Clinton, Mississippi
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