By Al Muskewitz
While businesses all across the country were trying to figure out ways to keep their operations afloat during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, one Tennessee-based trucking company was positioning itself for growth.
Back in May when TLD Logistics president and chief operating officer Jim Peters shared with the company’s work force his belief the worst of the pandemic was behind them and they could look forward to “better days to come,” the company was on the verge of introducing some major advances to keep their employees working and meet the needs of the customers.
The Knoxville-Tenn. based carrier already had business plans to expand into a new state-of-the-art building, launch a new brokerage division when the year began. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything considered normal at the time changed. Some businesses might be reluctant to embrace that kind of growth in such an uncertain climate, but TLD continues to search for opportunities to grow. It proceeded cautiously when COVID-19 surfaced and ramped up its approach when prudent to do so.
“One thing we as a team have developed pretty well is a culture of really looking for the next opportunity and make sure we’re aware of what’s happening in our industry, but also be looking for what are the things we can do within TLD to try to make TLD a better company in the transportation industry,” Peters said. “We’re constantly trying to understand what do we have to do better in order for us to be a better company, a better employer, a better service provide and I think that’s really kind of the culture of what the top management team here has built as we really continue to try to build on the whole success story at TLD.”
And a success story it is. The company now known as TLD Logistics was founded in November 2008 as an independent subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho in what, COVID-19 aside, was probably the most challenging economic environment the country had faced in the previous 20 years. It has grown from a fleet of about 100 trucks to 450 with the expectation of reaching 600 in the coming years.
“We have a team of people that I think are constantly looking for the challenge and then trying to figure out how can we be the best at this,” Peters said. “That really drives the whole team.”
When the pandemic first hit, TLD, recognized as a Best Fleet to Drive For five years running, took a two-tiered approach to keeping the business vibrant.
The first was geared towards its employees, doing all it could to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all concerned. Only a handful of its drivers requested or were granted furloughs and all of them either have been or are in the process of coming back.
If a driver had a concern about COVID, he could opt out of a load. They did have a driver coming through Knoxville who thought he had COVID symptoms and wanted to get tested. The management team fully supported the driver and, with input from other drivers, developed a checklist of protocols to make the relief driver as informed and comfortable with the situation as possible.
“There are really maybe two things that you’re looking to try accomplish, especially when you encounter some things that you’ve never seen before, like this pandemic,” Peters said. “Obviously, the first thing is what do we need to do to keep our people safe and try to make sure that we protect them in every way we can protect them from the things that we know happen within our industry. That was a challenge because you’re writing new SOPs and also having to think about things in all honesty that are not things you’ve experienced before.
“The second objective is really trying to keep every employee and every independent contractor that works for TLD, keep their routine as normal as we can possibly do and allow them to continue to earn an income. Let’s face it, one of the biggest disruptions people experienced is from a financial perspective in addition to the obvious health concerns. We tried to keep everybody running and busy and get as close to if not exceed the income they were used to trying to make in order to keep their life from that perspective as normal as we could.”
The second part was geared toward the business. TLD already had a business plan in place for expansion and it proceeded slowly but confidently through the landscape of the day.
It moved into a second building, located about eight miles from the main campus on Everett Road in the east Knoxville suburb of Farragut, just off Exit 369 of Interstate 40/75. The building houses the accounting department and the newly created brokerage division. The main campus supports the home office, a training school, dispatch, maintenance, HR and shop operations.
“There was no reason for us not to do anything but full steam ahead on the plan,” Peters said. “That’s where we are today.”
In the next three to four years, TLD anticipates adding nearly 40 employees to the brokerage operation and expand other divisions. The thinking is when the COVID-19 crisis is behind the nation, TLD will be ahead of the game.
Al Muskewits is Editor of Wright Media Corp. He can be reached at email@example.com
To learn more about TLD Logistics, visit www.tldlogistics.com