E2: State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott: Giving Back as a Trucking Community
In this, the second episode of the State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott, John talks about how he found himself getting into the trucking industry. From the early days of his family's involvement in the world of transportation, to his first job in the industry, and even a tidbit or two about a monkey and a driver not delivering his loads on time, we'll dive deeper into who John Elliott is and how he came to create and grow Load One.
For someone who has spent so much of his life within the trucking industry, John comes fully equipped with not only the insight and experience that highlight his knowledge of the world of both expedite and transportation, but he is also quite the storyteller.
John talks about his company's involvement with a very special organization that helps to memorialize those men and women who have fought for our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. He'll also enlighten us with what it means to always be prepared for an emergency, highlighting the exact service and usage for expedite companies like Load One and why they'll continue to flourish in the fast freight industry.
John Elliott: Well, yeah, when you look at things like natural disasters and you see all the cars exiting, the highways clogged and that, it's the trucks that are heading into the disaster, bringing the emergency release supplies, equipment, generators, water. All the emergency medical equipment that's needed.
Brandon Baxter: Welcome to the State of the Industry podcast with John Elliott, a third generation transportation professional, chairman of the truckload carriers association, and founder and CEO of Load One. And me your host, Brandon Baxter. We've spent more than two decades in the industry. We've experienced driver shortages, truck shortages, recessions, financial constraints, technological advancements, and legislation. Yeah, we've seen it all. This is trucking news for the drivers and professionals on the ground. This is opinion and insight from the inside. This is the State of the Industry podcast.
Brandon Baxter (01:10): Welcome to the State of the Industry podcast with John Elliott. I'm your host, Brandon Baxter. This is a monthly series dedicated to discussions pertaining to the trucking industry and featuring commentary by the CEO of Load One and current TCA chairman, John Elliott. John, thanks so much for joining me again.
John Elliott (01:28): Thanks for having me back.
Brandon Baxter (01:29): Absolutely. Hey, well this is your show. Of course, we're going to have you back.
John Elliott (01:34): Cancel culture might illuminate-
Brandon Baxter (01:36): Oh no, not this time. Let's save cancel culture for episode 3, right?
John Elliott (01:40): Okay. I don't care.
Brandon Baxter (01:43): Yeah, there we go. Perfect. Well, obviously this is episode 2. For viewers and listeners who joined us for episode 1, thank you. This time around John, we're going to change it up a little bit for this second episode. In episode 1, we talked a lot about what you're currently up to, your role is TCA chairman. Let's kind of recap that real quickly before we really get into the meat and potatoes of things. Do you have any updates as to what you're working on with TCA, currently?
John Elliott (02:11): We just got back from our officers planning meeting and that where we set the tone and what our priorities and our goals are for the upcoming year, pretty excited. It was a really great meeting. I think our officers brought a lot of great ideas, a lot of positive energy to the table. I'm blessed to have such a great officer group around me. The mentorship back and forth for all of us and the dynamics of it are just really great. It's great to see what industry leaders can all do together to work towards common goals. And our staff is just phenomenal in taking our goals and our marching orders and running with them.
Brandon Baxter (02:51): That's great to hear nowadays, because you don't always get that. Am I right?
John Elliott (02:56): That is very true. It seems like there's so much dysfunction in government and organizations and everything, it's really nice to see everyone rowing together in the same direction with the common goals.
Brandon Baxter (03:07): That's an excellent way to put it too. With what you're working on and with the group together, is there anything that you can share with us currently or is this all considered top secret?
John Elliott (03:17): No. It's just prioritizing things like truck parking, other things that are priorities for the year, our legislative goals, our goals for our membership, our upcoming conferences, bringing value to our members in that. So really it's a number of things, but nothing really secretive.
Brandon Baxter (03:38): Okay. Well, that's good. I didn't want to spill the beans on anything if we didn't have to. So, that's excellent. Okay. Well, John, with-
John Elliott (03:48): I would tell you but I'd have to kill you...
Brandon Baxter (03:48): I hate for us to not get to episode 3.
John Elliott (03:51): Exactly.
Brandon Baxter (03:54): Well, speaking of John, let's transition over to our current episode and what we're doing right now. And I think we live in an age where everyone likes to hear a good story, okay? I'm going to kind of put you on the spot a little bit, but let's dive into what maybe the viewers or listeners want to know about you, your history, your background, your upbringing within the industry. If you don't mind, let's talk about your origin story.
John Elliott (04:24): Oh, fair enough. I'm a third generation in the trucking industry. My grandfather was a coal miner in the Pittsburgh area. Came out of the coal mines, became a truck driver, later became an owner operator. Went through ups and downs in his career, working for different trucking companies. And that then founded a rather large trucking company. It was very successful. Still in my family as well as another carrier. So, that would be the official way, I guess, story.
John Elliott (04:55): I grew up, my first job was here's a broom, sweep out trailers. And let me tell you, there's nothing more fun than sweeping out 150 degree trailers in the summer sun and you're on school break and you're 12 years old. So there's that version. Then the other version is, which is also true, when I was, I think in fourth grade, we live for a very short stint in Howell, New Jersey.
Brandon Baxter (05:22): Oh, wow.
John Elliott (05:24): Griebling Elementary School. Now the only famous person ever graduated from Griebling Elementary School, at least at that time, was an actor named Greg Evigan who at that time had to hit TV series B.J. and the Bear. And I thought to myself, how cool is that? Had a big picture of him in the lobby and everything. And if you remember that show, it was an owner operator who drove around the country, saving all the pretty ladies, he had a monkey as a sidekick. I don't think the guy ever picked up or delivered his loads on time. It didn't seem very relevant. But I just thought to myself, how cool would it be to have a monkey?
John Elliott (06:00): So I also have that. But like I said, really, it was more of a family thing. My father was an executive in the industry as well for a number of years till he retired. I actually thought I was going to get out of the business at one point. So when I went to college, I got a degree in aviation management. I really wanted to focus more on air freight and heavier cargo. I did that for about a year or two after I graduated college. And then I got an offer I couldn't refuse from a trucking company. Was drug back into the world of trucking and have done that ever since.
John Elliott (06:33): I was executive for a trucking company, ran operations. And that at one point was about a 700 truck fleet. During the time I slowly became a fleet owner as a part-time gig. Eventually, I got to 32 trucks on the side, which was determined, was really not a side job at that point. So I did some different things. I ran some regional operations for a carrier. I was a brokerage agent for a carrier, had dispatch office. And then in 2003, decided to make the big leap and become a full motor carrier. And that's when I started Load One, along with my partners.
Brandon Baxter (07:11): Wow. Okay. I'm doing the math in my head. That means we're coming up on 20 years for Load One, doesn't it?
John Elliott (07:16): Yes it is. And March will be our official 20 years.
Brandon Baxter (07:20): Wow. Any big plans for that?
John Elliott (07:22): Not yet.
Brandon Baxter (07:23): Okay.
John Elliott (07:24): Not yet, but I'm sure we'll come up with some stuff. We got a little bit of time.
Brandon Baxter (07:27): Yes, we do.
John Elliott (07:27): A little bit of time.
Brandon Baxter (07:28): Yes, we do. I'm sure we'll cover it at some point. Once, it's ready to go, we'll make sure we put that out there, front and center. I'm curious now. You talking about B.J, and the Bear, I want go back. Did you ever end up getting that monkey?
John Elliott (07:41): No. No, I did not.
Brandon Baxter (07:45): Because I'm with you, how cool would it be to have a monkey?
John Elliott (07:48): I met some interesting people in the industry along the way. It's honestly been a great experience. I've met just a ton of great people. Some great mentors, had some relationships and that made friends and that ups and downs, goods and bads. You make bad relationships. Good relationships. You'll learn from them all, you'll learn from your enemies in the business. You learn from your competitors, you learn from your friends. So it's really overall, I guess, there'd be very little I would change. It's been a great experience and I love the industry and I love what it does for this country.
Brandon Baxter (08:24): That's fantastic. I love to hear that. I think that our viewers and our listeners to hear that kind of thing, because it makes everyone feel more relatable. You know what I mean? I know that we live in an age where so many folks are put on a pedestal, no matter what level of importance they might be. And I think that being able to relate to each and every person is very important, especially nowadays. And I think, well actually if you don't mind, I'd like to go back one more time.
John Elliott (08:50): Yeah.
Brandon Baxter (08:51): Specifically, since Load One and its inception in 2003, what might you say would be a favorite story or instance of something that really has sat with you over the last almost 20 years?
John Elliott (09:08): There's so many experiences and memories along the way. Like I said, from the people, the experiences that you went through with that. I think probably the thing that sticks with me the most is our involvement with Wreaths Across America and being in Arlington National Cemetery when our truck delivers wreaths there. And years ago, I believe it was called section 61 or 51 and it was for the newly fallen and this was right in desert storm, too. It was just coming down and that Iraq was still a relative hot zone for our country. And, being there and we carried special wreaths in the day before the big ceremony and they had the families of the recently fallen there, placing those recent tombstones and to see that raw emotion and to realize what these people had sacrificed and their families and their children there and watch children crying and realize what precious cargo you were carrying, it just makes you realize there's a lot more to this industry than just hauling parts from point A to point B and how we can as an industry touch and affect so many lives in this country.
Brandon Baxter (10:22): That's fantastic, John. I can't imagine the amount of emotion that goes into really having to deal with something like that on several different levels, obviously. Can you talk a little bit about that program and how that works and how heavily you're involved in that?
John Elliott (10:41): We've been involved in the program for years? What they do? It all started with one man, Laurel, phenomenal gentleman. He owned a wreath company up in Maine and they had extra wreaths one year at Christmas and he had a friend who had a truck and they loaded them up on the truck and took him down to Arlington and placed them there. And they did that for a year or two. And then I guess it snowed one time and they had covered an area with extra wreaths and a photographer took a picture that became, I think it won a Pulitzer or something like that. Became rather famous.
John Elliott (11:15):And then the charity was born and the whole thing just took off. So we've volunteered, Load One, we've hauled for hundreds of loads over the years, we volunteered for them and our drivers. As well, we coordinate last minute emergency shipments and expedites because again, it's the charity and things happen a lot. And so bit of chaos and confusion at the end and orders coming in last minute and things like that. So we tried to help them smooth over the choppiness at the end there, but now they cover... I don't even know what the exact number is, but there's military cemeteries all across this country, in Normandy, in Europe and Hawaii, in Guam and places throughout the world, US military cemeteries that they get reached to every year.
Brandon Baxter (12:04): Wow. And how long have you been involved with it again?
John Elliott (12:08): Oh, I think we've been doing it for somewhere between 12 to 15 years now.
Brandon Baxter (12:12): Wow, no kidding. Excellent. Oh my gosh. Well, on behalf of those watching and listening, thank you for contributing what you can to the service of our men and women who are contributing everything.
John Elliott (12:26): Well, that's one of the great things about trucking is that we're an industry that gives back, Wreaths Across America. Look at Disaster Relief, is another thing I can say that over the years has really hit home or touched us. We actually now at this point, work with a charity called Draw up in Michigan to help with disaster relief. They load five gallon buckets with cleaning supplies or different supply buckets and they have them stage ready. We've delivered numerous truckloads for them as well. Honestly, we keep a trailer loaded with bottled water, ready to go in our facility that we can donate that truckload of water at any time and send it wherever the emergency need comes.
John Elliott (13:07): So sometimes, you just can't react fast enough. So we said, you know what? We had a customer that did bottled water. So we said, let's buy a truckload of bottled water. We'll keep it in advance. We'll keep that trailer loaded and ready to go.
Brandon Baxter (13:19): Wow. I didn't realize that. And then honestly, for those who aren't familiar with really with the expedite industry, that's in essence what it is, is it not? It's emergency. I know the term time critical gets thrown around a lot, obviously and with good reason, but given what you just mentioned and how you explained that, that is literally it, it's emergency.
John Elliott (13:44): Well, yeah. When you look at things like natural disasters and you see all the cars exiting, the highways clogged and that it's the trucks that are heading into the disaster. Bringing the emergency release supplies, equipment, generators, water, all the emergency medical equipment that's needed. Really trucking does an amazing job for this country in ways that people don't always realize. They saw a lot during the pandemic, but during natural disasters, it's another huge case on what we do as an industry to help.
Brandon Baxter (14:23): I know we touched on your family background and how your grandfather started and then how you got into it. Did you ever think in the long run that this is where you were going to be? That this is where you were going to sit every single day in this role that you're in, Load One, TCA chairman, everything that's brought you to this point, did you ever imagine that?
John Elliott (14:46): I was always an aggressive young man. Now, I'm not young anymore. So I guess I had dreams or goals. I don't know that I ever saw the company growing to the size it is or having a company the size I have today. I don't think that having a national presence or role in the industry like TCA or ATA, being a vice president there as well, were things that were on my projections for my future. But I'm really glad that I was able to experience those things and be part of it and leave my little stamp on the industry and the world, I guess, as far as that goes, in the trucking world, at least.
Brandon Baxter (15:24): No, that means a lot. Whether we realize it or not is just as individuals walking this earth, we all leave our stamp in some way, shape or form, right?
John Elliott (15:33): True. There's thousands of trucking companies out there and someone's got to step up and help be the voice for our industry. And these organizations do a great job of it, but they need leadership from within the industry. So it's nice to actually get out and do something and try to make a difference. And sometimes it's frustrating, government and things like that can be a very difficult process, but you have to try. If you don't try then you're just another person complaining about something that you made no effort to change.
Brandon Baxter (16:04): That's absolutely true. And with the idea, you mentioned leadership and I kind of want to steer back here for a second back to your team at Load One, you've had a couple of new additions here recently. Are you able to talk a little bit about Shaun and Lou and what their roles are going to be within the company? What's the plan for them in terms of Load One's growth?
John Elliott (16:24): Yeah, I can touch on that. We're on a great growth trajectory and we've got big plans to continue to grow this company and grow bigger and faster than what we've done it in the past. We recently partnered with a new private equity partner who's on board with that. Like our ideas, likes our plan and wants to see me go at it full board. Shaun's coming on board to help expand and build out our Mexico operations. It's going to be a vital new service for us. We dabbled in it before, but we're going to make it one of our core competencies now. And we're assembling a team that will be best in class for that.
John Elliott (17:01): We want to be the go to in the [inaudible 00:17:04] reefer industry for international transportation, not only to Canada, but now to Mexico as well. As well, Lou is coming on board to our board of directors. Lou has a great past in many industries, very well known as the former president of Panther Expedite for about I believe eight years before the ArcBest purchase. So he comes with a wealth of experience and on top of that, he's just a great guy. And it's really nice to sit with a guy who was my competitor once upon a time and be able to sit on the same side of the table now as the largest carriers in the industry and share that knowledge and common goals and be able to really continue to Load One forward to make us the biggest and best in the industry.
Brandon Baxter (17:48): Now, speaking of that, do you and Lou swap any war stories or anything like that?
John Elliott (17:54): Yeah, we can't reveal all those, but yeah. There's some funny ones, like I said, when you were noble competitors, you didn't have the love of each other the way you do when you were working on the same team, that's for sure. But again, they were a great competitor. They were a great competitor company and everything. So we respect them very much, they do things right for the most part and run a good ship. It's always good to have good competition. It only helps you to be even better as a company and strengthen the steel.
Brandon Baxter (18:32): Hey, I know I'm interrupting your listening here, but I want to ask you three important questions, okay? And I want you to be real honest with me. Are you sick of feeling like you're just a number? Like you're a small cog in the big machine. Do you wish your company afforded you benefits like basic layover pay and paid moves or help with paying for scales and tolls? Would benefits like a fantastic driver's lounge and complimentary hookups at the yard so you don't have to run your APU. Would it make your job better, more enjoyable? I think I know what your answers might be. And I can tell you, these are just some of the benefits offered by John Elliott and his company, Load One.
Brandon Baxter (19:11): Now, I'm thrilled to let you know that Load One is currently recruiting. That's right. If you're looking for your next move, you like the sound of working with someone like John Elliot and his awesome team, well, now's the time to jump on board. Load One has openings for a wide range of drivers, solo straight truck drivers, team straight truck drivers, tractors, both truckload and specialized. Take a look at Load One's website, okay. Load1.com. That's load and the number 1.com or you can apply directly through expeditersonline.com. And when you discover the power of Load One, you're discovering the power of freedom. And I can tell you, that freedom tastes real good. All right. Now, back to the podcast.
Brandon Baxter (19:59): Well, John, thank you so much for sharing all that. There is something else I want to get to here and it's really on a congratulatory front. Let's talk about Load One and you're recently being named carrier of the year by TEANA. Now, I know you and I have talked about this in the past. I know this is your favorite award, but tell us really why this is your favorite award to win.
John Elliott (20:21): We've been named a top three carrier for TEANA for the last probably, I guess 7, 8, 9 years. This year we were named of the year by TEANA. And for those people aren't familiar with TEANA, TEANA's The Expedite Association of North America. It's made up of probably the majority of the leading expedite carriers in the industry are members. And there's something special about an award when it's your competitors, your partner carriers, who are voting on it. So when your peers are awarding something, I think it has a lot more meaning to it. The symbolism is much greater. It just means a lot more than a lot of the awards that oftentimes are gotten by sponsorship or different things like that. If I look at the expedite industry, I think it's probably the most coveted award in our industry.
Brandon Baxter (21:16): Well, congratulations on that. I think that's fantastic.
John Elliott (21:20): I would love to take credit, but it would really come down to my team. I've got a great, amazing staff and really our driving force. Our driving force is out there on the road. They're the ones that represent us on the dock. They're the ones that represent us to our partner carriers and that. Because we move freight for them every day. So they're really the front line and they're really the face of our company as much or more than any sales person or operations person is.
Brandon Baxter (21:46): Well, you just made the perfect segue because I wanted to make sure we covered that before we end our episode this time around. The drivers, John, you guys are looking for drivers. We know how the idea of driver shortage is always bandied bout in the industry, but you guys have prime opportunities at Load One for drivers and owner operators. Just give us a couple seconds or a minute or so, and talk a little bit about what you've got going for your drivers and owner ops.
John Elliott (22:14): Right now, we're really looking for owner operators, straight trucks, tractor trailers, or sprinter vans, OTR expedite. We run all 48 states, also in Canada, Ontario. Driver's not required to run Canada and so that's not a limiting factor. As well, we have some great fleet owners. Our owner operators that have trucks open or available that we can help a driver to match up with a fleet owner and find a home of us. I think we have some great programs. We have a great rewards program. We just do a lot of things for our fleet and we really try to take good care of them.
John Elliott (22:50): Our technology is by far, I think the best in the industry and that hands down gives our drivers a lot more of a competitive edge. When they have good technology and they have good data, they can make good decisions. Good decisions, equal more revenue. And that's what they're here for. Really they're here out there on the road to make money, to provide for their families and to get home safely.
Brandon Baxter (23:12): Well, John, thank you so much for sharing all of that information; your story, your background, talking about your leadership team. Obviously, Load One, lots of good things happening over there right now. Thank you so much for joining us today.
John Elliott (23:25): Thanks for having me, Brandon, always appreciate it.
Brandon Baxter (23:27): My pleasure. And thank you so much for joining us for the State of the Industry podcast with John Elliott. I've been your host, Brandon Baxter. Join us again next month as John and I will continue the discussion, all topics transportation. And don't forget to check out expeditersonline.com and justcdljobs.com for access to over 150 carriers who are actively hiring. And that includes Load One. Until next time, this has been the state of the industry podcast with John Elliott. For more information on Load One and how to apply for one of their posted job opportunities, go to load1.com. That's load, the number 1.com. And, as always, be sure to check out our show notes for more information regarding Load One, expediters online, justcdljobs.com and any other tidbits that were mentioned during our show. Until next time.