American trucking company Fraley & Schilling Inc. (F&S) has worked with its suppliers to create a combination of trucking and hauling equipment that allows the company to take full advantage of the amount of payload it can move, which usually amounts to “ten to fifteen percent more than the average trucking company can handle,” says Executive Vice President Ryan Schilling. He believes that the key to the company’s growth has been forming its identity as “the premier lightweight fleet in America.”
Fraley & Schilling Inc. was founded in 1955 by Jack Fraley and Earl Schilling. Earl’s farming background led him into the trucking business, which expanded slowly over the following decades. The company began by hauling tractors for agricultural equipment manufacturer Massey Ferguson.
Then, in the early 1980s, Earl’s sons Kenny and Robert took over the business, and by the end of the decade, the company was carrying shingles and roofing materials for Owens Corning. Since trucks can pull a certain amount of weight, using its lightweight fleet of trailers, the company could move more cargo with fewer trucks than the competition. Through these loads of shingles, the company managed to make an impact by transporting seventeen skids of shingles when most other trucks could only haul up to fourteen, getting the most revenue per truckload and distinguishing itself in the market for decades to come.
Now in its third generation of management, Fraley & Schilling employs around 670 people at five locations, including its main southeast location in Rushville, Indiana, additional offices in Ohio and Tennessee, and smaller terminals in South Carolina and Alabama.
Ryan cites a conservative financial approach as an additional boon to the business. By keeping a tight rein on its fiscal outlook, the company has not accrued much debt, which has prevented it from unsustainable or uncontrollable expansion.
The company’s growth has been steady in the last five years, and its signature lightweight hauling is touted as one that can be applied to any sector or business. This has secured the company’s finances through both good and bad economic pictures, with enough work to lower operational costs while also meeting high demand and keeping driver positions and equipment filled. It also benefits the company’s drivers, allowing them more job stability, and customers get quality service and a product that competitors in the marketplace cannot provide.
Ryan Schilling says that what attracts customers most to the company’s truck fleet is the cost-per-pound reduction. “If you’re shipping fifteen loads a day, and Fraley & Schilling can do it in ten trucks instead of fifteen, that means less trucks on site, less paperwork, and your load-unload time is better.”
Another factor in Fraley & Schilling’s success is an emphasis on maximizing its partnerships, particularly with its valued suppliers. Today, suppliers like Kenworth and Peterbilt have been more involved with the company than ever and have been working closely with F&S for the past several years with executive meetings and more team interaction. This gives the company new solutions to take more weight out of its trucks leading to an even greater edge over the competition.
Fraley & Schilling concentrates just as much on the internal running of the company as it does on trucking. Ryan breaks down the company’s values into several categories, the foremost being safety. He says that drivers are equipped with considerable training as well as awareness and feedback on how they can improve their driving habits. The latter has been helped more recently by the use of inward and outward-facing cameras in truck cabs to allow tangible feedback, giving drivers the opportunity to improve their performance.
Innovation is important to the company, as the question of how to attract both customers and drivers to the company continues. Ryan says that many drivers come into the company with a history of mistrust of management, for one reason or another, so there is a strong need by the company to prove how it differs from the competition. He believes that it is vital to show appreciation to drivers and give them a foundation of trust in all that is done, by transparency and keeping promises.
A commitment to its workforce is something that Fraley & Schilling Inc. asserts as part of its company culture. Ryan says that a big change in the last few years is the use of social media as a means of communicating with drivers, citing a private Facebook group for drivers and their families to participate in company decisions and communicate thoughts and opinions on the decisions of and directions for the company.
This has yielded exceptional results, he says, and has led to a cut-off for recruiting drivers based on a high volume of applications versus a low unemployment rate. Ryan says that the company simply cannot get trucks quickly enough because the current fleet is full and that from drivers to office positions and fleet managers, the quality of the company’s workforce is “hitting on all cylinders… due to great reputation and word-of-mouth.”
Fraley & Schilling’s commitments do extend into a much larger environmental picture as well. The company is acutely aware of the significance of lowering its carbon footprint, as it seeks to haul the same amount of weight while burning fewer diesel gallons through its entire fleet. To this end, since the 1990s, F&S has partnered with SmartWay, an organization dedicated to helping businesses manage logistics in an environmentally responsible manner.
Ryan says that the company’s goals fit in with SmartWay very well and that the company saves between ten and thirty percent of diesel fuel gallons through lightweight trailers and newer equipment while having the same amount of emissions. He says that Fraley & Schilling Inc. is committed to “a pretty strong approach with reducing emissions and carbon footprint outcomes.”
The company’s methods are not without challenges, as he notes that smaller trucks and trailers simply cannot hold as much fuel as larger ones. Ryan says that the company overcomes these particular tough spots by continuing to find areas of business where value can be added, and by focusing on a culture where drivers can feel like they are a part of something rather than just another cog in the machine.
Ryan proudly states that the company is currently at one hundred percent capacity for its trucks and is beginning to limit its recruiting team, as the goal to get to five hundred active drivers has been easily met. Fraley & Schilling will be looking to maintain this positive turn throughout 2019, as it is on track for similar growth to that seen in 2018 – a twenty-three percent increase. The goal, he says, is for Fraley & Schilling Inc. “to be the first choice among premier drivers and transportation professionals.”