Trusted Service and Family Values

Star Cartage
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

For almost 50 years, Star Cartage has provided first-class transportation and logistics services to its many customers worldwide. Building on the foundation set in place by truck driver and visionary Clarence “Cotton” Rutherford, Star Cartage’s family ownership is a point of pride and a key part of the company’s values and commitment to clients and staff alike.

“As a family-owned business, we stand for more than just picking up and delivering goods,” says Human Resource Manager Kellee Collins. “Our company isn’t just a service or just a job; it’s tradition through years and generations, and we take pride in that.”

Family matters
Since it was founded in 1976, the company has continued to build on the values established by Clarence. Led by his son, CEO Dennis Rutherford, Star’s team includes Operations Manager Joe Collins and Kellee Collins.

“My dad always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Dennis. “We let customers know our responses come from a family point of view and are positive. We take that mindset, and we relay that to our customers through our culture.”

This extends to drivers, who are Star’s eyes and ears with shippers and customers. Their input is appreciated and vital to helping the company be as efficient as possible.

“Family ownership makes everything more personal,” says Joe. “We take pride in the services we offer our customers and how we follow through, and that’s a direct reflection on us.”

Safety-conscious
Providing experienced milk-run, truckload, supply chain, cross-docking, returnable dunnage, and warehousing services, Star Cartage prides itself on timely delivery, open communication, transparency, and not only meeting but exceeding safety expectations.

At Star, safety is embedded in the company’s culture. Like others in the industry immediately after the pandemic, Star experienced a shortage of drivers, which has improved somewhat. Nevertheless, in the steps Star has taken to remedy shortages, safety—of workers, drivers, and other highway users—has always been the first consideration.

Although the company works with some schools providing commercial driver’s license (CDL) training—required for operating large, heavy vehicles—they’re monitored very closely. “You don’t want to bring in inexperienced drivers in a very safety-conscious industry,” says Joe. “You don’t want to overwhelm your training staff with too many newcomers.”

To ensure consistency, even the most experienced drivers coming to the company are required to go through a month-long training period. A trainer rides with drivers, documenting strengths and any weaknesses that need improvement.

In addition to human monitoring, Star began using onboard computer technology in its vehicles about four years ago. Similar to data-collecting devices used in cars, this safety-sensitive equipment monitors hard braking, sudden turns, and proximity to other vehicles. The information is used for teachable moments with drivers to improve their abilities and to help keep insurance rates low.

“With our approach to safety, we’re getting ahead of the curve,” says Dennis. “Training also brings the drivers into our culture, understanding how we operate. We find that’s a good tool for both parties and creates a better environment.”

Relationships first
Combining safety training with strong family values has created other benefits for Star Cartage, including low employee turnover. “We have employees who recently retired that worked with the first generation,” says Kellee, “and we have good relationships with our employees and our clients.”

In fact, some businesses have worked with Star for decades because of the company’s on-time delivery, friendly customer service, outstanding communication, and level of respect. “It’s that extra bit of care that doesn’t always happen with big trucking companies where things fall through the cracks,” adds Kellee. “That’s what makes us different from larger trucking companies without that family name or background.”

Recently hiring a salesperson from Dallas, Texas, the team at Star says that much of their new business still comes from word of mouth, trade groups, involvement with transportation groups, and through talking to other carriers.

Wide-ranging services
Based in four locations with a head office in Springboro, Ohio, Star Cartage covers the Great Lakes Region, the Midwest—where the company is heavily concentrated—the Southeast, and the South. Always looking for sensible growth opportunities, Star is considering expanding its operation in the Southern and Southeastern U.S. in the coming years.

With a fleet of almost 150 company-owned vehicles, Star handles all types of transportation and logistics projects. Although the company considers itself small, Star is constantly making significant investments in its people, equipment, and technology. These include a sophisticated transportation management system (TMS) integrated with other systems in trucks to provide valuable information in real time.

Offering much more than simple delivery, Star also has a team of skilled analysts who access and create custom-tailored supply chain solutions to optimize efficiency. Along with the ability to handle complex shipments, Star provides its customers with warehousing solutions for short- and long-term storage, cross-docking services to eliminate warehousing, milk-run, and dunnage management services.

“If something changes midstream and they can’t take a delivery, we’ve got the capability to bring it back to our dock, warehouse it, and supply as they need it,” says Dennis. “And if some places don’t have floor space, they can bring in parts as they need them. With the ability to review the customer’s less-than-truckload (LTL) versus their truckload freight, Star can get a better look at how to optimize a customer’s supply chain.

The right stuff
Investing in the business and its people continues to pay dividends for Star and its customers. Professional and dedicated to all its clients, the company consistently ranks in the top 35 to 45 percent of carriers in on-time delivery by a worldwide international company, while its safety rating is above industry standards.

Building on the vision of its founder, Clarence ‘Cotton’ Rutherford, Star Cartage remains a family-owned and operated transportation and logistics services company—and one of the best.

Loyal to its staff and clients, the team at Star realizes they are more than a business, but part of a much larger community based on reliability and respect. “You don’t want to ever have your business looked upon in a negative light, because ultimately it reflects upon our family,” says Kellee.

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