Pinnacle Freight Systems was named one of the fastest-growing companies in New Jersey in 2013, and it’s not hard to see why. The company was a small freight brokerage when President and CEO Mike Ravallo took over in 2009. In early 2011, Pinnacle added motor carrier authority greatly expanding the services it could offer to its loyal customers. Today the company is known as a leading provider of transportation services. The company recently opened offices in St. Louis and Texas and has plans to open in several major markets.
Ravallo says the company’s rapid growth is due to its winning culture, strong relationships with other carriers nationwide and quick response time. With all of these advantages at its disposal, Pinnacle Freight Systems will be positioned to maintain momentum for years to come.
Ravallo is a 30-year veteran of the trucking industry, including a long stint at Gemini Traffic Sales, where as a partner he helped the business grow from a single truck to $70 million in revenue by 2007. That was the year Gemini was purchased by a private equity firm, and two years later Ravallo got back into the game at Pinnacle.
Pinnacle provides truckload and less-than-truckload services among numerous major markets across the United States, with an emphasis on the eastern half of the country. Ravallo says the company also has carved out a successful niche for itself in shipping temperature-controlled and hazardous materials. He says the company’s primary goal is making sure it provides trucks to its customers when and where they need them. “We need to focus on the shippers that need capacity, and we need to focus on the shippers that have surges in demand and need trucks,” he says.
“We’re capacity providers – we’re the organization you turn to when you need trucks,” he adds.
Pinnacle does this primarily through its network of partner carriers across the country. Ravallo says this network provides Pinnacle with a distinct advantage over other carriers because while others are limited by the number of trucks they own themselves, Pinnacle can reach out to its carrier partners to fill virtually any capacity need its customers may have. By remaining a relatively small company with a large network of partner carriers, Pinnacle can respond with greater speed to its customers’ needs. “We need to be nimble and we need to be prepared,” Ravallo says.
Pinnacle doesn’t rely only on its carrier partners, however. The company has its own fleet of trucks, and Ravallo says this is important because it helps build trust among the carriers Pinnacle works with. Too often, he says, carriers become wary of working with brokers because they don’t bear any of the risk out on the road. By having its own drivers and trucks out there, Pinnacle can prove to its partners that they are dealing with a fellow carrier that understands the business and will be working in everyone’s best interests, not just their own. “We really think it’s a win-win situation,” Ravallo says.
The integrity with which Pinnacle deals with its carrier partners comes from an innate culture of success within the company, according to Ravallo. The company has a strong core of quality people on its management team. Each manager is focused on driving growth thoughout the organization and confident that the company will be successful in executing its growth strategy.
Ravallo says the company wants to maintain its “family atmosphere” to help attract new drivers, but Pinnacle also is looking at other alternatives.
One of those alternatives would be a lease-purchase program in which the company could arrange financing for trucks for owner-operators. This blended approach, combined with managed growth of its company owned fleet will help the company balance its overall capacity with demand. “I think you have to keep it tight, and the volume has to be well ahead of the trucks,” he says.