Business View Magazine interviews Michael Ravallo, President and CEO of Pinnacle Freight Systems, as part of our focus on best practices in American business.
A market with 2 million tractor-trailers, 1.2 million trucking companies, and over 3 million truck drivers is, undoubtedly, a market with consumer options. It is also, in the eyes of President and CEO, Michael Ravallo, of Pinnacle Freight of Florence, New Jersey, an opportunity to build a niche operation that shows no signs of plateauing any time soon.
Since taking over the company in 2010, Ravallo has directed and overseen the evolution of a small truck brokerage into a multi-faceted trucking company specializing in temperature-controlled and hazardous materials. After being recognized by business journal NJBIZ as one of New Jersey’s 50 Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row, Pinnacle Freight continues to prove itself as a top choice among transportation consumers. Today, the firm boasts 100 employees, 60 company trucks, and a growing network of owner operators and sales agents across the country.
Ravallo’s first step in molding Pinnacle Freight into a national, asset-based, transportation company, came within two years of taking control of the firm. In 2012, he added motor carrier authority to Pinnacle’s operation to specialize in LTL and full truckload service. As Pinnacle began to invest in its resources, building a fleet and hiring drivers, Ravallo explains, “We saw the potential in the hazardous and the temperature-controlled marketplace.”
The company began to tailor its growth toward the demand for those hazmat and temperature controlled freight services, and quickly became a niche player in the marketplace. Ravallo only hired drivers with hazmat endorsements, leased only late-model trucks with state-of-the-art equipment, and began building a team of top-notch managers. “We have a really good, strong management team,” he explains. “This is what I’m most proud of. The managers are hands-on, they’re pros. We’ve got the best of the best.”
Organizing the company around the specific services of hazardous and temperature-controlled materials means Pinnacle provides specialized knowledge, capabilities, and, most importantly, good customer service. “Basically, a truck is a truck; a refrigerated trailer is a refrigerated trailer. Ultimately it’s the people who make the difference,” he asserts. “It comes down to who’s going to be the easiest to do business with. Who’s going to be at the phone when you need them? That’s why our people really make the difference. We always try to hire the best sales people we can, the best dispatchers we can, and the best managers we can. Because ultimately, the person on the other end is going to want to do business with the person he feels most comfortable with and gets the best response from.”
While much importance is placed on Pinnacle Freight’s customer service, that service is facilitated by a streamlined operation. Pinnacle has minimized its overhead, transit times, and repair costs by leasing its trucks and power units from companies such as Miller Truck Leasing. By entering into agreements that require the leasing company to manage repairs and provide timely replacements, Pinnacle Freight has greatly reduced downtime and delays, as well as increased customer satisfaction and trust.
In addition to operating leased vehicles, Pinnacle Freight also contracts small fleets and independents, and by working with individual fleets across the country, the company is able to offer more capacity to its customers and increase overall range without having to lease or purchase additional trucks and trailers. The extra manpower allows for more expansive route options and the ability to offer their Load Direct LTL Program, a delivery system that eliminates terminal transfers across the eastern half of the United States and California.
In further efforts to improve operations at Pinnacle Freight, the company recently partnered with Envirun, a business operations consultancy that offers risk management oversight services. The firm oversees the safety training and compliance requirements of all drivers. Outsourcing these tasks allows the staff at Pinnacle to do what it does best: focus on freight.
With a fine-tuned machine and an eye on the future, Ravallo continues to look for innovative ways to grow. As he explains, “Throughout the country, there’s a capacity storage that ebbs and flows, but for the most part there is always a drive by customers to find new companies that are expanding and putting on trucks.” But putting on trucks doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing them. Pinnacle Freight recently unveiled its Owner/Operator model, contracting hazmat-endorsed drivers to provide customers with more capacity and the company with more flexibility. The driver owns and operates truck and Pinnacle provides the trailer. Ravallo recognizes the importance of providing the right assets to make the program work, stating, “Crucial to this rollout for the Owner/Operator program is our ability to get them the trailers they need to pull the freight. And that’s why Utility Trailer Sales in Thoroughfare, New Jersey is a very important partner.”
This outsourcing model is two-tiered for Pinnacle. Not only does it provide customers with more trucks, more options, and more flexibility, it also provides Pinnacle with a personalized source of drivers. Ravallo is counting on word of mouth from the drivers to attract other capable and dependable operators. Just as Pinnacle provides staff with the best chances for success through streamlined operations, the firm provides potential for independent drivers looking to work under the security of an established business. As Ravallo puts it, “We provide good equipment, good opportunities, and a good living.”
As this endeavor is organically growing, Ravallo continues to look toward the future. He sees a fleet of 100 Owner/Operators over the next 5-7 years, with a near double increase in revenues. “Pinnacle is making every effort we can to grow the business, add drivers, and retain them,” he states emphatically.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Pinnacle Freight Systems, Inc.
WHAT: A multi-faceted trucking company specializing in temperature-controlled and hazardous materials.
WHERE: Florence, New Jersey