A Business Built on Speed

Bolt Express
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

In CEO Guy Sanderson’s office is a framed photo of the Pony Express. In 1860, the Pony Express transformed mail delivery in the American West. Young lightweight riders proved delivery could be fast and efficient or time-sensitive, with transit times of days instead of weeks. In short, an inspiration for Bolt Express.

Some 160 years later, Sanderson and his team at Bolt Express proudly educate employees on the rich history of transportation in North America, and how it has led to the impressive expedite industry they are part of today.

“Supply chain management is almost unrecognizable from when I graduated college,” says Bolt’s Chief Executive Officer. “It’s so impressive, the technology we have, and the tools available to our drivers… and the tremendous amount of data and information that we all have access to.”

Proud legacy
Created in 2001, Bolt Express is part of the legacy created by the Pony Express. It was started by Owner and Chairman of the Board Ben Bauman and three employees, two of whom still work for Bolt, 20 years on. Through their combined vision, hard work, good fortune and connections to drivers, the company soon gained momentum.

Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Bolt Express was in the heart of America’s automotive manufacturing industry from the start, supporting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – which still have many production plants in the Midwest – who required just-in-time parts deliveries to protect production schedules.

Bolt Express quickly established its role. If something didn’t go as planned, and there was a problem to be solved, Bolt was the answer. With very little lead time, it would be Bolt there to pick up the parts and deliver them quickly, avoiding delays in production.

“The whole industry was built around automotive, specifically the Big Three,” says Sanderson, “so I think we’re typical of other ground expedite providers. That’s how we got our start.”

While automotive is still Bolt’s number one industry, the company has branched out into pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retail, and general manufacturing, and offers different services including contracted truck-load services, airfreight forwarding, and logistics and brokerage. “We are more than just that one service offering that we were 20 years ago,” Sanderson observes.

Time critical
Dedicated to providing customers with the finest and most reliable transportation services on the market, Bolt Express is proud of its Time Critical™ freight management services, available across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Known as the “Time Critical™ Freight Experts,” Bolt offers expedited ground and air freight shipping solutions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Often working with extremely brief notice, Bolt’s friendly and professional customer support team is on standby to ensure clients prevent, or quickly recover from, unplanned changes to their scheduled supply chain.

“And it doesn’t matter whether it’s an automotive customer that’s running short of inventory and doesn’t want to experience a line-down situation at the plant,” Sanderson says, “or a retail customer promoting a new product that’s got to be on the shelf Monday morning at 8 o’clock sharp, and doesn’t want to disappoint their customer. What it comes down to is this: when our customers can’t afford to fail, they turn to Bolt Express, a carrier they know they can trust and rely on.”

Safe on the roads
To ensure client deliveries are fast, efficient, and worry-free, Bolt Express keeps investing in the company.

With a growing fleet including everything from vans to sprinters, straight trucks and tractor trailers, the company believes driver and public safety are two of its top priorities. Investing in proven technologies like satellite tracking, vehicle cameras, driver assistive proactive tracking and communication tools adds another level of protection and peace of mind with each shipment, no matter how large or small.

In fact, Sanderson says some of the best investments the company has made is in cameras and driver-assist technology to minimize risk and to ensure drivers have the tools and resources they need to be successful. This includes proprietary tools Bolt has developed with its technology partners over the years.

Later this year, Bolt plans to roll-out an exciting new system which will drive efficiencies, and significantly improve the company’s responsiveness to its customers.

“You have to embrace technology to be efficient, to ensure quality for your customers, and to control your risk if you want to be competitive,” says Sanderson. “Just buying a truck and moving freight doesn’t get it done anymore. You’ve got to have strong business intelligence, strong analytics, and share that information with your drivers.

“You absolutely have to embrace them as your partners for them to be successful as well. Their success is our success, our success is theirs — that’s just the way you have to approach it.”

A great believer in teamwork and the power of servant leadership, company CEO Sanderson is quick to praise others. This includes Stephanie Doak, Bolt’s Director of Safety and Quality Assurance. A certified Director of Safety (CDS) with NATMI, the North American Transportation Management Institute, Doak has done a superlative job of expanding their safety program.

Ongoing training
This includes hiring driver trainers to work with drivers – not just during the initial orientation, but with ongoing constant performance monitoring and feedback on how to better operate their vehicles. “We want to ensure a positive experience for our customers and focus on the success of our drivers.”

Highly successful, these driver training programs include instant feedback on driver behaviors such as sudden lane changes, hard braking or excessive speed. The Bolt team also closely monitors and analyzes performance metrics on fuel efficiency, on time performance and preventable incidents or accidents.

“You didn’t have that 20 years ago,” comments Sanderson. “It’s pretty powerful to have that data and instant feedback on where the opportunity for improvement is.”

Highly proactive, Bolt Express started using electronic logging devices (ELD) in 2010, seven years before they were mandated, and incorporated driver-assist technologies and cameras in the past five or six years. By providing drivers with these tools, they are better able to manage visibility on the roads and highways, with alarms and alerts used while backing-up or changing lanes, underlining Bolt’s responsibility to the general public.

“We want to make sure when somebody says ‘I work for Bolt Express’ they wear that Bolt shirt and they are proud to be part of this team,” Sanderson says.

“Our commitment to safety and service are why we have been so successful. Our attitude is that if you are going to do a job, don’t cut corners or compromise on safety. We do it right. We do it in a manner that best serves our employees, our drivers, our customers and the communities we operate in. That is the Bolt Way.”

And for shipments that are late, or at risk of running out of a transit cushion, “our technology and processes proactively identify these potential issues. It builds that relationship and earns the customer’s trust when you can show you’re on top of it minute to minute, not just waiting for things to go wrong.”

Working through the pandemic
Just as Doak has helmed many of Bolt’s safety initiatives, Vice President Michelle Dunn has been instrumental in navigating the company through the Coronavirus crisis.

As the company immediately transitioned to a remote workforce when the pandemic broke, with about 90 percent of employees safely working from home within a week of the first shut down, Dunn was entrusted with maintaining effective communication and keeping the staff engaged and excited about what they were a part of.

Although some workers are coming back to the office with social distancing protocols in place, others will continue to work remotely. Sanderson says, “Work is now viewed as a thing you do, not necessarily a place you go anymore.” The teamwork demonstrated over the past year is a reflection of Bolt’s strong company culture, and its fostering of positive employee experiences.

And while COVID-19 has changed work life, the company has done a great job of keeping everyone informed, enthusiastic, and engaged. Before the pandemic, Bolt acknowledged employees monthly by handing out a version of the Stanley Cup called the Bolt Cup. This recognized employees who have gone the extra mile to ensure quality for a customer, a driver or a coworker.

“To me, it’s all those little things that I think are more important than the big announcements,” says Sanderson. “Press announcements are nice and promotions are great, but I think Bolt is the kind of company where we shine light on every employee and every little thing they do to ensure we are successful. Every position, every job at Bolt Express is important and we want every employee to know how much we recognize and appreciate what they do.”

A moving memorial
Handling many different types of shipments over the years, one of the most poignant was moving beams from the Twin Towers and concrete from the Pentagon to support the 9/11 Memorial at the Air Force Base in Toledo. One of the drivers participating in the move was a veteran.

“There was a lot of pride when we coordinated that move and sent the pictures out to the team,” says Sanderson. “I think every one of our employees and drivers went home and told their families what they were part of that day.

“When we all look on our careers and our time at Bolt Express, we will certainly have our share of accomplishments to look back on, but more than anything it will be memories like that we will be most proud of. I hope every Bolt employee is proud of the type of company they have helped us build.”

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