JLE Industries has quickly become a force as a long-haul flatbed carrier
What’s the secret to taking a full-service logistics and transportation management company from 15 trucks to 350 in the span of four years? It could be little things, such as breaking out the smokers and hosting a barbecue for your employees every Friday during the spring and summer. Or, it could be even simpler and more direct than that.
“It really boils down to this,” JLE Industries CEO Evan Pohaski told BOSS, “We try to put as much money and keep as much money in our drivers’ pocket at all times.” While that’s enough to get them to sign up for a few miles, you also need enough customers buying into your way of doing things to fill that many flatbeds with cargo. Pohaski attributes that particular feat to awareness of customer pain points.
“I'm getting out of the office and getting in front of our customers and talking to them,” he said. “That gives us some strategic insight into what they're working on, and then [I’m] coming back and digesting that with a very competent team.
“I have a high degree of literacy with respect to the financial market and what's happening in transportation. I’m always looking to connect the dots; putting situations in front of the team and saying, ‘How do we solve this problem?’”
Flat Beds, Rising Growth Curve
In flatbed trucking, a $150 billion segment of the $1.2 trillion North American logistics industry, JLE has risen to the top 1 percent of carriers in the US in terms of size and scale. Flatbed hauling requires a different breed of driver who is much more hands-on.
“Flatbed is more difficult in terms of the service process,” Pohaski said. “The loads need to be secure. So much of the service process therefore takes place outside of the truck” compared with tractor trailers “where you back into a warehouse, you back into a distribution center, and robots are loading you up and the driver never really has to leave the cab … With our drivers, so much of that does take place outside of the cab. So it's typically a much stronger, better quality driver.”
In addition to hiring and training quality drivers, JLE’s business model also allowed it to ascend quickly. “We are a business with a service advantage; we are asset-based carrier, meaning we own and operate all of our equipment. This goes against the grain these days where you see most companies, particularly technology-focused companies, focused on being the middleman more than developing marketplaces,” Pohaski said.
While JLE knows relationships are everything in the transportation industry, its technology-enabled platform strategy makes sure cargo is getting to its destination in the most efficient manner possible. After all, on-time delivery is a great way to maintain those hard-earned relationships. JLE has invested millions of dollars in data acquisition and a detailed recruiting management system.
Key-performance indicators and driver management dashboards at JLE’s southwestern Pennsylvania headquarters allow the management teams to pre-plan, matching drivers to loads for the next day so they can hit the ground running without significant wait time. There are automated email notifications when a load has been assigned to a driver and hasn’t been picked up, and real time tracking that shows customers where their product is. It’s all part of being in constant communication with drivers and customers to keep everyone on the same page and everything running smoothly.
“With our customers being so diverse, none of them has the same transportation management system,” Pohaski said. “So how do you standardize things across your operating platform and give your customers greater visibility into their own supply chain as it relates to moving the product?”
JLE’s biggest differentiator, Pohaski said, is giving customers the confidence that they’ll be on the front end of logistics, not just keeping pace with trends but being a trendsetter. Those innovations haven’t gone unnoticed, as Commercial Carrier Journal made JLE its carrier of the month for last December.
Helping keep trucks on the road is dealer partner Transteck, which picks up trucks in need of repair and delivers them to JLE’s door once they’re back in operation. Transteck has helped JLE get repairs parts warrantied at other dealers and made repairs on truck brands it doesn’t sell for JLE. Transteck has even brought in other Freightliner dealers to get repairs made faster so JLE drivers can back on the road with state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips.
The Three Cs
Pohaski attributes JLE’s success to inverting the traditional pyramid structure of a business to ensure the drivers and operations employees feel just as responsible and valued as the higher-ups, something that’s of vital importance with such a staggering growth rate that has seen the company grow to more than 400 employees. JLE’s philosophy can be boiled down to the Three Cs: control, competence, and connection.
“You want to have some autonomy, and what we've noticed in the past is that drivers make decisions that are in their best interests,” Pohaski said. “We're not going to jam anything down your throat, and we want to learn what you like. We want to mirror that learning strategy and technology so that we can cut to the chase and already have those options available for you. But we want to find what works.”
When drivers feel they are being heard, they’re more likely to take pride in their work, and JLE wants to showcase that pride. “That can be as easy as sending us a picture of your most recent load securement. We put it up on Facebook and Instagram to promote and recognize those drivers,” Pohaski said. JLE’s training program gives drivers the skills to feel comfortable with what’s being asked of them, “and when they feel more comfortable, they can be more productive, and if they are more productive, they're going to make more money for themselves.”
While rapid growth is a good thing, it can make it harder to maintain a close-knit family atmosphere. That’s where connection comes in. “We do have a fabulous culture here,” Pohaski said. “We've grown a lot and as you grow, it's tough to maintain that hometown feel, but we do a lot of video production so that the drivers can see what we're working on here to support them. We do live chat on Facebook to really give them a sense of connection to the organization, which is a tough thing given the fact that most of them will be driving over the road, sometimes for weeks and months, but we’re trying to keep things in front of them so that they remember they've got a family here.”
As for what the future holds, Pohaski is confident JLE will keep fighting its way to the top of the industry. “We want to be known as the team, the operating platform that can get in the ring with Mike Tyson and knock him out.”
JLE Industries is a full-service logistics and transportation management company specializing in Long-Haul Flatbed routes across the USA. Through progressive technology investments and deeply ingrained service culture, JLE offers its clients unprecedented convenience, reliability, and cost-efficiency. JLE built its core business from the ground up, and through hard work and superior service, today JLE boasts more than 300 power units, 350+ incredible staff members, loyal drivers, cutting edge technology, and an extensive customer base.