Determination Drives ATS’s Rollie Anderson
A University of Alabama graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Bentley spent 15 years as a trucking Publisher before becoming the Editorial Director for Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media division.
Anderson Trucking Service, Inc. (ATS) has been in business for more than a half-century, and a recent rebranding effort has the company looking ahead while reflecting on past successes. Driving the charge is their President, Rollie Anderson, a second-generation trucker who has built ATS into a 2,200-truck global enterprise.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Anderson recently to learn more about his business philosophies and future plans.
What was the original vision on which your company was built?
When my father, Harold Anderson, started ATS, I don’t think he ever dreamed it would become the global transportation company that it has become. He started the business responding to the transportation needs of granite suppliers. Since that time, ATS has grown and prospered by responding to customer needs by providing the equipment and expertise to transport their commodities. Back in the 1950’s, that meant expanding into the iron, steel and building materials markets. In 2013, that means providing the latest in technology and equipment to support the wind industry, heavy haul, specialized, and global market places.
Did you have a background in trucking before becoming President?
I grew up in the trucking industry and have been around trucks my whole life. I learned to drive a truck when I was 14 by moving tractors and trailers around the shop facility. My father was emphatic that I learn the business from the ground up. That meant working in the trailer and tractor shop after school and during summer vacation through high school and college. I am so grateful that he took this approach with me. The basic lessons about trucking I learned during those years were as valuable as an education I could have.
After college I enlisted in the Air Force, which provided hands on learning as a Captain – leading a group of 30 men who provided computer support for the Base and Flight Operations. This also exposed me to other types of leadership and organizational structure, which proved to be invaluable for me.
Do you have a personal mantra? If so, how do you incorporate that into your company culture?
“A leader is not an individual of extraordinary ability but rather an ordinary individual with extraordinary determination”. I’ve had this quotation on my desk for at least 30 years. It’s been there so long that I often times don’t notice it, but when I do, it still rings true and still motivates me to do more and to expect more from myself. That’s why I put it there. “Determination”, the topic of my favorite quote is also one of the value words that have been chosen to define ATS in our Corporate Values.
I noticed ATS has a new logo. Why was a rebranding effort needed?
In December 2012, ATS announced a new visual identity for its St Cloud, Minnesota company. At the center of the new identity is the silver and red logo, which features a new typeface. Although this new graphic represents a new visual identity for the company, everything else remains the same. It is backed by the same good vision, mission, and family values that ATS has always offered in our 58 years of operation. The new graphic expresses our identity as a transportation leader. We have the best equipment and team in the transportation industry, and because of that, we are able to deliver great service. It represents our dependable, forward-looking focus while drawing on the shape and style of our vintage “bullet” logo used by ATS in its early years. We are combining the best of the old and the new!
Our foundation for this rebranding – like for everything we do – was our vision and mission and, of course, our values. So as we’ve taken a look at our identity and communications, we’ve examined everything from our website to our logo to our messaging. We’ve grounded ourselves in our values of:
These values are at the center of the new identity and the new message we’ve created for ATS.
Another important part of the ATS identity is telling the story of what ATS does. What ATS does can be described in four simple words:
Highway – Our specialized, heavy haul, and vans services
Maritime – Our over-the-water freight services
Projects – Our ability to manage complete and complicated projects from beginning to end
Logistics – Our brokerage and transportation management services
These words help tell a clear story and demonstrate the power and potential of ATS.
What will you never change?
Our values of innovation, integrity, determination, responsibility, and excellence are the cornerstone of how we do business and will never change. They are specific to ATS, the essence of who ATS is, and the credo by which we conduct all business transactions.
What is ATS’s key to success?
ATS is a privately owned company. Because of that, we can personally know drivers and employees. We have always tried to maintain a strong balance sheet with a good cash disposition. We can make decisions more quickly to take advantage of market opportunities, making good, sound decisions for the long run, not to just meet quarter-by-quarter earnings.
What is your best or most unique driver benefit?
Life isn’t all about work. Granted, work is important…so is relaxation. With that in mind, ATS has put together two different all expense paid fishing trips for 20 lucky ATS drivers.
The first 2013 trip occurred in late March for 8 of our Million Mile ATS Drivers. All the names of our 150 Million Mile drivers are put into a hat and 8 lucky winners were drawn. Each won an all-expense paid fishing and hunting trip in the Port Charlotte, Florida area. This two-day trip was a combination fishing/hunting trip, pairing snook, shark, red fish, and tarpon fishing the first day, and hunting for wild boar on the second day. This trip was exclusively for our active million mile drivers and was hosted by professional guide Tom Fischer (fish) as well as ATS’s own Rollie Anderson, Brent Anderson, Scott Anderson, Gary Stang, and Jeff Potthoff.
The second trip takes 12 additional drivers to a Northern Minnesota destination for two days of walleye, muskie, and northern fishing. This year’s trip will be held in early June and will be located at the famous Lake of the Woods. All active drivers, company, owner-operator, or lease purchase operators, are automatically entered into the drawing. A total of 12 winners, 6 from each of two categories will be drawn: 30 – 90 days driving for ATS and 90+ days driving with ATS. Once again, this trip is hosted by Rollie Anderson, Brent Anderson, Scott Anderson, Gary Stang, and Jeff Potthoff.
Both trips are all expense paid, including transportation to and from the event site. Food, lodging, equipment, licenses, and any special clothing needed is provided. Provisions will also be made for weekly pay/revenue, so the winners can relax and enjoy the trip.
What’s your favorite driver story?
I can think of many stories about the great team of ATS drivers we have here at ATS. One that comes to mind is a gift I received from Mike Vasseau, one of our million mile drivers in ATS Specialized. Mike’s nickname is “Military Mike”. He served two tours of duty in Iraq in the Army, with the second ending shortly before the Million Mile fishing trip last year. Mike’s name was drawn to be one of the participants and we had a great time on the trip. Shortly after returning from our trip, Mike stopped in at our St Cloud office to deliver a package to me. Mike presented me with a new uniform that he had carried with him throughout his second tour. Mike said that this uniform had been with him throughout his second tour and that he was happy that he and the uniform had survived. He gave it to me as an expression of his appreciation for the trip to Florida.
As ATS has grown, I’m sure it is a bigger challenge to interact with your drivers. How do you reach out to your fleet on a personal level?
It is a challenge to stay in touch on a personal level with our drivers. The geography of our business alone makes it difficult to see them on a regular basis. Over the last year, we have instituted driver lunches with the owners or division leaders. Any driver at the corporate office on Wednesdays or Thursdays is invited to have lunch with one of the owners or one of the division Vice Presidents.
This venue allows ATS management to share what’s new at ATS with the driving staff while gathering feedback and concerns from drivers and contractors about equipment, loads, communication, facilities, and business in general. Members of the management team rotate their participation at these meetings so that visiting drivers are able to meeting with different managers at each visit.
At the heart of this program is the fact that we want to have direct communication with drivers. I look forward to these lunches. It gives me a chance to see the drivers and express our appreciation to them for what they do, let them know what’s going on in the organization, and hear directly from them what they are seeing out there on the road. It also gives us a chance to answer any questions the drivers may have. We have set up a listing of these questions and the responses on our driver website so that all of the drivers are able to see what the interaction has been.
What is the biggest short-term challenge facing our industry?
I think the biggest challenge facing our industry is finding and keeping good drivers and owner operators to haul our freight. Our drivers and owner operators are the lifeblood of the organization. A good solid driver or owner operator is invaluable to the organization. They are the only representative of the company that the customer sees on a regular basis. They have a tough job.
We believe it’s important to provide our drivers with the best tools available to help them do their job, and providing good, up to date equipment is one of the ways we can do this. ATS has one of the newest Class 8 fleets on the road with the average tractor age less than 2-1/2 years old. The average age of our trailer fleet is 4 years old.
Where would you like to take the company now?
As we plan for the future, we remain flexible in order to quickly adjust to market conditions and opportunities. We aspire to be constantly looking and be financially able and managerially capable of responding to an opportunity, even before it’s clearly visible.
What do you wish you could do over?
There’s not a lot I would change. Making some mistakes is part of learning to do something well. Without those mistakes, I would not be who I am today and ATS would not be what it is today. We try to take decisions one at a time and make them as a team effort. As a team, we win some and we lose some, but approaching decisions as a team keeps egos from getting involved. We win as a team or we lose as a team.
If you are interested in joining the ATS team, call 866-693-7097 or visit atsinc.com.