Sharco Express, with its corporate headquarters located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, operates as a family-owned trucking business. Founded in 2008 by George Franczyk, an owner-operator with twenty years of experience, the company has a fleet of seventy-two trucks with seventy-five drivers operating within the lower forty-eight states and into Canada. Sharco also has warehouse facilities in Burton, Michigan, forty miles to the north.
Consider for a moment, the dire impact that would be felt if the trucking industry no longer existed. It is an industry taken for granted, and it should not be. The industry is a nation’s livelihood and an essential contributor to its economic wellbeing.
Aside from trucking services, Sharco Express offers drop trailer services, premium ground expedites, cross-dock services, hazardous materials transportation, third-party logistics, and electronic logging devices (ELD) consulting. Mike Ball, fleet manager, says that the company is capable of, “pretty much anything within the trucking industry.”
“Drop and hook loads make up a good portion of our business,” he says. “Drivers can avoid many potential issues they face at shippers and receivers. We can just as easily drop and hook a trailer instead of waiting to get loaded and unloaded.”
In 2015, the company purchased R&R Freight Lines, “to further expand the customer base and services portfolio,” says Mike. “R&R Freight actually operated as a sister company to Sharco Express for a couple of years.” In 2018, the company purchased a brokerage company and branded it as Sharco Logistics, meaning that Sharco has both an asset and brokerage division.
Sharco Express holds its drivers in high regard, as they are an essential component of being an efficient and reliable trucking provider. “Essentially, it all comes down to our driver-first mentality,” says Mike. “That drives the rest of it. Every decision we make is with our drivers in mind.”
He explains that their drivers are paid, “a percentage of revenue to combat issues of long loading times, multiple pickups and deliveries, heavy loads, and various other factors that impact how much a load will pay.” He believes that being compensated for such factors is realistic since drivers are, “the ones physically dealing with those issues.” If a load pays more, the driver gets paid more, rather than being paid cents per mile and being idle for half a day, for example.
Sharco Express offers its drivers premium pay, 401(k) contributions, per diem, clean inspection bonus, and medical, dental, vision, and life insurance coverage. “We feel that our compensation package, all around, is extremely competitive in this market to keep drivers,” Mike says.
Sharco hires drivers with a CDL-A (Commercial Driver’s License). The company also offers sprinter van services and straight trucks not requiring a CDL-A, as part of its premium ground expedites. Its sprinter vans are used to, “deliver one to four pallets of expedite material,” says Mike, for deliveries to vehicle manufacturers such Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota and Chrysler, for example, when such manufacturers, “need to keep their line running and not shut down.”
When employing these vans, “Drivers are not subject to hours of service rules and regulations,” he says, explaining that drivers can drive for longer periods and faster than when hauling a fifty-three-foot semi-trailer.
In this family-owned business the founder, his wife Joy, and son Alex are all part of the daily operations. “We take care of each other. If we don’t take care of each other, we won’t be able to take care of our customers. So we put our employees first… We strive to be upfront and transparent in all aspects of the business. That’s just a culture that we’ve built here that we’re extremely proud of.”
The company’s well-maintained fleet has received much positive feedback and, “is one of our pride and joys,” Mike says. The average truck is 2.6 years old, and the average trailer is 3.8 years old. “We’re continuously buying new equipment for our fleet to help increase our uptime, but most important, to make it a better experience for our drivers.”
Trucks feature disc brakes, driver’s lounges, leather heated and cooled seats, LED interior lighting, satellite radio, and additional safety features. “These trucks come fully loaded,” he says, and this is a substantial benefit when considering that drivers spend considerable time in this equipment.
Customers need to know that their products are going to arrive on time and safely since business depends on it. Sharco guarantees this through, “our in-house maintenance that we provide for all of our equipment,” says Mike. The maintenance service is provided at the Burton terminal.
“Our equipment actually breaks down once every 400,000 miles, compared to the industry standard of once every 10,000 miles. With our new equipment and our in-house maintenance, our drivers are able to stay up and running without having to worry about breakdowns.”
Technology is a huge help in this. The company uses truck and trailer tracking through Spireon, has electric date interchange (EDI) capabilities, and automated tire inflation systems on trailers.
With its recent partnership with Vector, a digital service provider, paperwork imaging saves the fleet time and money. Transportation management system (TMS) software, also, “provides maintenance schedules for our equipment.” Additionally, technologies are used for automatic invoicing and workflow, “to ensure that the driver has the proper information and can provide dispatch with timely updates.”
There has been some controversy regarding ELDs with some proponents stating that paper logs are much cheaper compared to the costs of ELD installation in a fleet of trucks. Their use requires training sessions, and some feel there will be a loss of privacy since these devices use GPS tracking. Others feel that the systems accurately record drivers’ time behind the wheel, their speed, when they are stopped at a weigh station, for quicker and accurate paycheck processing.
“There was a learning curve going from automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRD) to EDLs. With the proper training and our experienced drivers that have been with the company for a long time, it hasn’t been too much of a pain for us,” Mike relates.
The company is not concerned with the full-compliant mandate slated for December 2019. Sharco is about sixty percent compliant currently. “We hope to be one hundred percent compliant by the end of the summer,” says Mike. “So that way, we have sufficient time to adjust before the actual mandate is in full effect… December 2019 is really the hallmark date for most of the existing trucking companies that have been doing this for a while.”
The company has adopted fuel efficiency strategies in its new truck fleet with some of the best state-of-the-art technologies in the market. Such things as idle reduction, engine energy recovery, advanced flow reduction, and upgraded power trains are some of the efforts toward this.
“We purchase many aerodynamic features for our trucks and trailers… Obviously, with those features, this reduces fuel consumption for our units. When we save money, we can save our customers money, all while keeping the environment cleaner, which is always a win-win for everybody,” Mike says. “In this day and age, it does not make sense to run inefficient equipment as a sustainable business solution anymore.”
Sharco Express has been a member of the SmartWay Program for two years. The goal was to become more environmentally friendly and fuel-efficiency conscious. Mike says that there are a number of benefits to the program. It provides information including reports on the state of the industry, changes in regulations, and what customers are hoping to see from carriers.
“SmartWay is very good about publishing useful information on their website and issuing out to their members. Having access to that information is pretty crucial to us. SmartWay is providing an industry forum – a community – on which the standards for the environment can be built and developed while keeping logistics companies accountable.”
The trucking and logistics industry is constantly moving. One key change Mike notes is a driver and equipment shortage in a strong economic environment. “A lot of consumers are spending, which always has a direct impact on the trucking industry,” he says. “I think the trucking industry hauls about seventy percent of the nation’s freight… That has directly impacted the demand. Unfortunately, the supply of trucks has not kept up with that, whether that’s due to driver shortages or available equipment.”
The market currently is experiencing “a push toward autonomous vehicles in the trucking space. They’re all pushing to develop the latest and greatest autonomous trucks to help combat this shortage.”
One big challenge Mike foresees is related to insurance and legal responsibility as autonomous vehicles enter a driver market. Having autonomous vehicles “coexist with human drivers out there on the road is going to be a huge liability battle and concern that we’re going to have to address.”
Mike envisions Sharco Express will, “continue the growth that we’re currently seeing. I would love to see the company double the size of our fleet in the next two to five years.” He would also like to see expansion in to additional terminal locations to, “provide greater convenience for our drivers and additional services for our customers… Our pride and joy is here at the company.”