Change Starts with Questions and Ends with Solutions
Some companies say they embrace change, but DTL Transport embodies it.
Twenty-seven years ago, founder Teja Singh was a farmer from India who came to the United States with the hope of providing a better life for his family and the dream of starting a business. With little more than a CDL and a foot in the door at his uncle’s trucking company, he built his own freight-logistics-turned-asset-based transportation company picking loads up on the west coast and delivering to the east coast (or anywhere in between) in less than three decades.
That doesn’t happen without a lot of changes. And today, change continues for the California-based hauler of perishable goods.
“Being based in California is a challenge. We have to keep an eye out for new regulations; it keeps us on our toes,” said Jazz Sidhu, DTL Transport’s chief financial officer and director of operations. Sidhu was instrumental in DTL Transport’s growth from a logistics company to an asset-based carrier when he joined the company, working alongside Lucky Singh, son of Teja, in 2010. Singh and Sidhu have learned many lessons in the past nine years and their go-to equipment specs have changed accordingly.
“One of the things we learned quickly was that not every trailer van works with every suspension,” Sidhu recalled. “We were running another brand of trailers and we were replacing tires due to irregular wear. We couldn’t figure it out—it wasn’t alignment or any other typical cause. In the end, we found that the suspension didn’t pair well with the trailers, and it cost us a lot of money. We switched to Great Dane trailers, and we found that the Great Dane paired with the suspension so well that we didn’t have any issues with tire wear.”
Used trailers also don’t work for DTL Transport’s operation—another lesson learned early on.
“We quickly realized that used trailers weren’t the right solution for us—you don’t know where they’ve been or what freight they were hauling,” Sidhu said. Conversely, the carrier discovered that investing in topline trailers like Great Dane’s Everest reefer and turning them around in four-year cycles yielded the best result.
“Four years is our trailer value sweet spot,” Sidhu explained. “The resale value is still high, and there aren’t too many hours on the TRU. It’s also about the mindset of the second-hand buyer—a four-year-old trailer is worth a lot more than a five- or six-year-old trailer.”
Especially in California, where the California Air Resource Board (CARB) has set stringent requirements for trailer refrigeration units, which are required to meet in-use performance standards by the end of the seventh year after the engine model year or the unit manufacture year. This basically means that running a trailer with a TRU older than seven years isn’t economically advantageous. It also means that Sidhu keeps a close eye on reefer trailer efficiency, not just to keep up with regulations, but to ensure that perishable products are hauled safely.
“Nothing fails on these Great Dane trailers. The doors are super strong; the seals are solid, and the temperature holds great. That’s key for us when hauling perishable goods,” Sidhu said. “We have to keep an eye on the trailer and make sure the temperature isn’t dropping. When the temperature holds more consistently, the TRU runs less and that means less noise the driver has to deal with and less fuel we have to use to maintain the temperature.”
Even with the right equipment spec and a winning market strategy, change still lies ahead for DTL Transport, but this time, they’re driving it.
“Today, our biggest challenge is when we’re dealing with customers that still have the mentality that all a trucking company does is haul and then they work with a logistics partner, but we’re explaining to our customers that today’s trucking companies can provide logistics too, thanks to GPS tracking, dispatching, and telematics on the newer equipment,” Sidhu said. “If the carrier is structured well, can cover the logistics and perform, then why are you getting someone else involved?”
Change starts with questions and the cycle ends with solutions – and then it begins again. For DTL Transport, it’s not a matter of when change will take place, but how they will capitalize on the opportunities that change presents.
Driving the change
Like all carriers, DTL Transport knows the driver shortage well. In addition to providing newer equipment to entice drivers, Jazz Sidhu, DTL Transport’s chief financial officer and director of operations, noted that the carrier is also putting the latest technology and telematics to work to boost its drivers’ pay.
“New technology allows us to monitor our drivers’ behaviors,” he explained. “Things like how hard they’re accelerating, braking, if they’re making sharp turns, how much they’re idling—we take all that and put a driver scoring program in place that rewards our drivers. Additionally, we also track accidents and citations, and pay a bonus if a driver doesn’t have either of them at the end of the year.”
Smelling the Microban difference
“Garlic is the worst,” Jazz Sidhu, DTL Transport’s chief financial officer and director of operations, said with an honest laugh that tells you he knows from first-hand experience. The carrier hauls a cornucopia of produce, but Sidhu singled out the onion relative as the biggest odor offender.
“That garlic–let me tell you–that smell will get into the reefer unit, it’ll get into the vents, the walls,” he continues. “The smell is potent and hard to get out of any trailer. If you don’t have a good trailer, you’ll never get that smell out. But we’ve noticed a huge difference with the Microban lining—100 percent. The odor is less.”
Microban stain- and odor-fighting technology is infused into Great Dane’s PunctureGuard and ThermoGuard trailer linings, and though it’s a feature that’s hard to see, you can definitely smell the difference.
“When we were hauling garlic using a different trailer brand, we couldn’t haul anything else in those trailers,” Sidhu said. “We’d have to wash it inside and out three or four times—and the smell would still be there. With the new Everest trailers with Microban, we wash it once and the garlic smell is gone.”