Trekker is a multiple-service logistics, transportation and asset-capacity provider that builds long-term customer relationships.
By Stephanie Crets
Trekker provides transportation and logistics services across the United States through a family of companies that serve a diverse range of industries. The company has been using the Trekker name only since last year, but its sister companies date back to the 1940s and 1970s. The Trekker family consists of three separate transportation companies serving a diverse customer base through multiple fleets (dedicated, temperature controlled, dry van, etc.). The company was formed by four partners with more than 85 years of combined industry experience at public and private companies, both large and small.
“We come from a variety of backgrounds, and we all thought there was a better way to give customers a better experience,” President and co-owner Cliff Beckham says. “So, that’s why we formed Trekker. We describe ourselves as a broker with assets.”
“We wanted to blend the fleets together, which helped us develop the idea of Trekker,” Vice President of Business Development and co-owner Jaimey Malone adds. “We came together fast, furious and successfully. Our customers and prospects like our story, and we’re growing while we’re watching publicly traded companies shrink.”
Trekker has 400 trucks and three trailers for each truck to better serve its customers. It serves several industry sectors including food and beverage, manufacturing, agriculture and paper goods. Its geographic footprint is primarily east of the Great Plains, while its “beast fleet” can cover a lot more ground than the regular fleet. “We’re expanding upon those because we have other capabilities through our brokerage,” Malone says. “We laid out a priority list of industry and geographical targets and we’ll continue to go there.”
Trekker has grown from four customers a year ago to more than 50 today, adding at least one per week. Beckham says this is thanks to the company’s ability to be nimble and available any time, day or night.
“We have completely integrated our customer service area so that each of our customers truly has a single point of contact for whatever their freight needs may be,” he continues. “We answer our phones 24/7/365, and it’s not a weekend crew or night crew; it’s always their contact at Trekker. We make decisions quickly. We know our customers so well we can anticipate their needs.”
Being a new name in the industry was an initial challenge, one that it has overcome through social media, innovative marketing and meeting people face to face. But the challenge of name recognition is minor compared to industry-wide challenges like driver shortages and the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.
“One of the reasons it’s so important for the ELD mandate to happen is that industry can generate better returns on its investment and the compensation level for the professional truck driver can rise, enabling us to attract more qualified drivers into the industry,” Malone explains. “Most people that go to Walmart or Kroger to shop don’t realize how difficult it was to get that product on that shelf. The professional truck driver really makes this country go, particularly from a retail standpoint. Finding and keeping qualified drivers is extremely difficult because there are not enough to meet the demands.”
All of Trekker’s drivers use ELDs because they give the company better visibility into each driver’s capacity for any given day. The ELD allows Trekker to effectively match drivers to loads to ensure things are delivered on time and safely.
“We think that the mandate for all trucking companies to be governed by ELD systems is going to help our industry quite a bit,” Beckham says. “It will get truckers off the road that aren’t safe, and it will rationalize capacity in the industry. That helps all of us make the investments necessary to serve customer needs. We think 2017 will be a stronger year in freight volumes. But in the longer term, this industry is pretty dynamic and there are challenges that come up constantly that we have to manage through. Oil prices will rise and that will be a big challenge we’ll have to overcome. There‘ll be lots of things down the road that we’ll have to deal with.”
“We’ve seen some tough times and we’ve seen victory on the other side of it,” Malone adds. “The challenge we had here of startups, acquisitions, mergers, thrown on a rapidly deteriorating freight market – it’s been challenging but we’ve been successful despite that. We’ve seen several landmarks along the way that are indicators that we’re on the right track. We’ve added a ton of customers, grown the fleet and added incredible talent.”
Trekker looks for passionate people who want to plug into an energized, fun culture. Beckham says it is a “work hard, play hard” culture. “We want our people to operate day to day with a lot of energy,” he adds. “That energy translates into saying yes to customers and taking care of their needs. Building that energy is the culture. But we can’t just work around the clock as hard as we want to without taking a break and doing something a little less serious. We have a lot of activities in our office designed to break up the day.”
Some employees play basketball outside every day at lunch, which allows people to focus on something different for an hour and come back even more energized for the afternoon. “They get rewarded for that energy, both monetarily and through a fun culture,” Malone says. “I’m most proud of our team members that stuck through the company’s initial launch and the team members who want to be here for a long time to come. It’s all about the people on our team.”
Aside from finding more energetic team members and qualified drivers, Trekker will focus on further establishing its name in the industry and growing the company. “We’ve come a long way from people not knowing us,” Malone says. “Now, it’s becoming harder and harder to find prospective customers who haven’t heard of us. The continued growth is what I’m most excited about for the future, and we’re here to make a dime, so we’re excited about that as well.”
“I’m also looking forward to seeing it grow and building the brand,” Beckham agrees. “It’s exciting to be in a startup and entrepreneurial environment. I’m most proud of the way it’s gone from zero a year ago to where it is today, especially considering the challenges we’ve been through. We’ve worked hard; its been stressful at times, but we kept our head down, kept at it. And now, when we look up a year later, we see that we’re building a business that’s meaningful, serves a lot of customers and employs a growing number of people.”