Breaking the Mould

Carmen Transportation
Written by Pauline Muller

Carmen Transportation runs on passion, sincerity, and a great love of performance. Here, value is added to transform clients’ operations in sweeping and lasting new ways. President and Owner Vince Tarantini listens to clients’ messages rather than their words – a priceless skill in a world of information overload. The company is reimagining transportation through its acute awareness of how its decisions impact all stakeholders.
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Carmen Transportation offers commodity transportation from office furniture to power tools, chemicals, air conditioning, and a host of other commercial products. For this group of industry specialists, business is not just about the bottom line.

“Our sincerity of interest makes us very different, and that goes for our employees as well as our clients. We are very well diversified in both our client base and in the commodities we move around North America,” says Vince.

Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the company started by serving Southern Ontario, and later expanded into the rest of Canada and the United States. Its three distinct services include local cartage that ranges from one to multiple loads per customer, as well as truckloads and partial truckloads into the U.S., which make up around sixty percent of its enterprise. While it does not offer flatbed or temperature-controlled transportation, it does focus on drive-in freight collection and transportation.

The company is particularly proud of being proactive when it comes to safety. Its most important addition to its safety measures are electronic logs that record driver activity, ensuring they are compliant with all legal industry standards and do not exceed the time that they are allowed to spend behind the wheel.

“In business, ethics are one thing, but if your goal is only to make money, compliance becomes an afterthought. If your goal is to be compliant and profitable, you need to have the skills to do both,” says Vince. His company certainly measures up to that.

“I like to start with compliance. My question is how we can remain within all the regulations and still make a profit in the end,” Vince adds.

“It is important for us to know that we’re giving them everything they need for peak performance and to make the job more enjoyable. We also extend this sentiment to our customers. It is our job to understand your business,” says Vince.

This company is committed to working with clients to optimize their operations, making them more competitive, profitable, and viable for the future. This means complete transparency regarding its stronger and weaker capabilities during the vetting process. Despite slowing the process down slightly, it guarantees clear communication, so clients’ requirements are met fully.

This company does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach. New clients are assessed and accommodated according to their needs. For clients with leanly staffed logistics departments, regular shipment status updates and system generated notifications addressed to key partners provide effectively communicate crucial information. In situations where clients have smaller shipments heading out to low-population destinations with limited service delivery, Carmen Transportation can either supply the service or arrange for a third party to fulfill the final journey.

“It is always about full disclosure and ensuring that the customer gets exactly what they need in a way that benefits them. Unlike typical trucking companies, I like to learn more about is their whole supply chain process. If there’s a more efficient way of streamlining this, we like to point that out,” says Vince.

These improvements naturally come with very beneficial side effects. “This is an opportunity to share some best practices and ways in which systems could possibly be optimized. We live and learn through our clients, and in this way, we all help each other and grow together,” Vince adds.

I was interested in learning what inspired the company’s beautiful name. It turns out that it originates from Vince’s father Carmine, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. in the late sixties. In the late eighties, Mr. Carmine Tarantini started his cartage business with a single truck and, in 1990, he purchased the next truck for his son Vince. The two worked side by side, and when the time came to incorporate in 1991, the company needed a name.

Perhaps more familiar with the classic Spanish name, locals pronounced Carmine, Carmen. The father and son team recognized that customers were more comfortable with this, and Carmen Cartage was launched. They started by working for a single client in Toronto, changing to Carmen Transportation as the business grew and Vince expanded into a variety of commodity markets during the late nineties. Now, the company was not just a local business anymore but a significant presence in Canada and the U.S.

When starting, Vince had no business plan. That changed in his mid-twenties when he realized that, with every promise made to his six or so clients and the commitments made to the people working for him, a business was taking shape. By the late nineties, he decided to give wings to what had already become a business by laying down and formalizing the standards that the company has run on since.

“I wanted this business to run like a company that I would have liked to work for. To this day, we treat people the way we would like to be treated. That means rewarding our 130 team members with generous remuneration packages, courtesy, job satisfaction, and showing respect at every opportunity,” he says.

This culture extends throughout the company and to all customers. As a trusted advisor, Carmen Transportation has become an indispensable extension of scores of large and small business throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The way a carrier treats its drivers says a lot about how it treats its customers. “Often, drivers are an afterthought, but when we carry a client’s cargo, the driver is the point of contact at the final destination. As such, we represent our clients’ business when we get to their customer’s delivery point,” says Vince.

Looking at it from this perspective, it comes as no surprise that Vince still has his own truck that he uses to drive loads across the country a few times a year. This keeps him in touch with the drivers’ experience and the industry. It is also why the company appreciates how tough the job is and how much time is spent away from loved ones. It compensates its drivers for all the functions they perform.

When trucks break down for several days, many companies turn a blind eye to this time spent out of action, yet Carmen Transportation still pays its drivers for this time spent off the road. It also goes for time spent in the U.S. while waiting for return loads. Here, all time is paid for. The company also ensures that drivers’ futures are provided for with pension plans. “I don’t want to only invest in where our people are now. I want to invest in where they are going as they age,” Vince says.

Carmen Transportation’s secret to being a thoughtful, compliant, and profitable employer is planning. A lack of planning results in unnecessary and increased pressure on drivers, and the company has proven that risking public safety by overworking drivers can always be avoided. And this can be done while still making the deadline and even saving money.

This involves getting drivers onto the road and back at home as quick as possible to create a work-life balance that is very important to the company’s president. Through intelligent planning, the company has demonstrated that deliveries can arrive up to six hours early without stopping and still being compliant.

Even after a long car journey, one can appreciate the fatigue and pressure that comes with driving through all kinds of weather and heavy traffic conditions. To add to this, drivers have to meet deadlines and must get products to market safely. The company is breaking the industry stigma with humane and respectable working conditions for drivers.

“Merchandise doesn’t just appear in retail stores by chance. Professional drivers deliver those goods. We appreciate and respect that and treat our drivers accordingly,” says Vince.

For this reason, the company’s carefully planned work and rest cycles generate better working conditions and road safety by curbing fatigue and illness related to the sedentary nature of the job. “The moment anyone is burdened by another’s decision, we know we have to review the process. Business is about people and processes. We must constantly look at how processes affect people,” says Vince.

It has received its share of accolades for its commitment to improving the industry. It is also listed as a top fleet employer with Trucking HR Canada.

Several factors contributed to this honour, such as its early adoption of e-logs eight years ago, when these logs only became compulsory by law a year ago. Another of its winning aspects are its use of predictive analytics to measures driver performance, its trademarked Carmen Cares philosophy, mandatory monthly training for all employees, and much more.

Vince believes that increased technology and safety features on trucks may change drivers’ function, but will not eliminate them. Having begun an undertaking to end the industry’s old ways, the business looks to welcome a new generation of drivers who never have to work under such harsh conditions again. All thanks to thinking enterprises like Carmen Transportation which make the world a kinder place in which to be.

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