Transco Lines President Fueled by Competition
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.
You know the best thing about competition? There’s this whole strategy game, and when it all works out its like solving that hard math equation. You finally get the answer and you’re so happy.
– Shaun White, 25-time medalist in the Winter X Games and Olympics
Terry Wallace thrives on competition and says he relishes the challenges that trucking provides. “I love the puzzle you put together every day and think our industry is about as close to pure competition as you can get in the business world,” Wallace stated in a recent interview.
“By that, I mean the barriers to entry are rising but are still remarkably low – which means competition can come from someone who just purchased a truck for the first time yesterday and is hauling cheap freight today, or it can be a mega-sized carrier with many thousands of trucks,” he added. “When you add in macroeconomic items such as health care, government regulation, freight cycles, weather and interest rates, it means there is never a dull moment.”
Wallace also appreciates the fact that the trucking industry is a leading indicator of our nation’s overall economic conditions and that we are a very necessary part of the global supply chain. The railroads would have you believe otherwise, but the reality is nothing happens until a trucker delivers the goods.
Wallace’s latest industry challenge is as President of Transco Lines, Inc., a company that he and his business partner, Bill Grojean, acquired in 2012. Transco Lines Inc.’s future success is in capable hands, since Wallace literally prepared to be a trucking executive his entire life.
Wallace grew up in a small farming community in Southwest Wisconsin, where his father left the real estate business and got into trucking by buying a big rig, hiring a driver to teach him and becoming an owner operator. “I grew up with Dad being gone two weeks at a time since he was running to and from the West Coast, so I understand the family side of trucking,” Wallace reflected. “My Mom handled things at home, and I was always intrigued by what my father was experiencing out on our nation’s highways.” While he was in high school, Wallace would spend his vacation time with his father over the road. “I really liked it and enjoyed the interaction with other drivers,” he said.
When his father became a small fleet owner, Terry would scrub fuel tanks and be a lumper from time to time. Simply put, he loved the industry and wanted to pursue a career in the office side of trucking after attending St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin. “Much to my father’s chagrin, I wanted to get into transportation right out of college. He wanted me to take a bank job and spend my free time coaching,” Wallace said. “Needless to say, I went down the trucking path within two weeks of graduation and have been at it ever since. I would not change a thing.”
His first trucking management job was with Schneider National, where he learned about all aspects of trucking before venturing out to go into business with Grojean a few years later. About a decade ago, Wallace and Grojean bought a couple of trucking companies, including Kansas City-based Riverside Transport, which has grown to nearly 400 trucks.
Meanwhile, Transco Lines was a fledgling fleet that had been founded in 1984 by James and Zella Harrell. James passed away in 1992, but Zella continued to grow the company until making the decision to sell the company shortly before her 78th birthday. The acquisition of Transco Lines by Grojean and Wallace in April, 2012 seemed like a perfect fit, because it opened up new customers, services, and markets not included in their other businesses. “The employees at TLI were ready to take the Company to the next level and beyond, so we just took the best of what was already here and added to it,” Wallace said. “Now this team has the service, technology and equipment and they are absolutely driven to win.”
The first order of business at Transco Lines was providing ultra-modern assets for their drivers. “We spent the first year after the acquisition upgrading our equipment,” Wallace said. “The average age of our fleet is now 1 year and 2 months, and these KW, Pete and Volvo trucks are spec’ed with the best amenities like inverters and deluxe interiors.” The company has a new software platform in place through TMW systems, and TLI has also been upgrading Transco’s fleet of 700 dry van trailers. These improvements have helped Transco Lines’ further carve their niche in the marketplace of providing superior service for customers requiring just-in-time performance.
True to his competitive nature, Wallace is also taking advantage of opportunities to develop new customers. “TLI has HazMat authority and expedited services, which we did not have in our other businesses,” Wallace stated. “Regulatory changes, including Hours of Service and CSA, make these attributes even more valuable. Our teams are in great demand. We have double the number of teams to 100 now and want to double it again in the next 12-18 months.” Under his leadership, the company has grown from 186 trucks to almost 300 today.
Transco Lines is headquartered in Russellville, Arkansas, on I-40 between Little Rock and Fort Smith. With additional terminals in Kansas City, KS and Owensboro, KY, these locations afford their drivers easy access and modern maintenance facilities complete with amenities for drivers while they are in town. Treating their drivers right and being considerate are part of Wallace’s personal business philosophy. “I look at our drivers like they could be my father and their families like me growing up,” he added.
Of course, the key to being accommodating is accessibility, and both Grojean and Wallace work hard to be available. “Our drivers take priority, and my other ‘to do’ list is secondary,” Wallace explained. “Life’s too short. My mother passed away while I was in college, and I lost my father not long after I graduated. Both worked hard and learned to enjoy every day, and I try to help others do the same.”
Wallace enjoys working with people of all types – drivers, contractors, customers, suppliers, and bankers. “I especially like dealing with drivers, who I believe are a microcosm of society in general. We’ve had drivers in our fleet from all corners of the earth, including former lawyers, doctors, and rock stars,” Wallace said. “If you don’t like working with these different personalities and backgrounds, you will be miserable in this industry.”
When asked what he dislikes about the industry, Wallace said government intervention is never a fun thing. “It seems like we get it figured out and then there is a regulatory change.” However, Wallace’s least-liked thing about trucking is the overall perception of our industry. “People do not understand the difficulty in living the trucking life and being a safe and productive driver,” he exclaimed. “We also need to increase compensation. All we are doing is swapping drivers with other fleets now. We need to make this industry more attractive to hard-working citizens.”
Transco Lines gets a lot of word of mouth advertising from their own drivers, and Wallace realizes the company’s biggest competitor is themselves. “If we bring value and deliver on time, our customers reward us. If we treat our drivers and office personnel right, they stick around,” he added. “The art in that is doing it efficiently despite downward pressure on rates year after year so we still make money and can reinvest capital to support growth.”
For 2014, Wallace says they want to grow the fleet by 20-30% but keep asset utilization high. “We are brokers of time for our drivers, and we have to make effective use of their hours so we both make money,” he added.
Wallace loves what he does and still has butterflies in his stomach when he goes to work everyday. His family is the source of his energy and acknowledges that they have made their share of sacrifices so he can fulfill my passion for trucking. “I love to provide for my family, and my wife, Cindy, is so supportive,” Wallace stated. “She is a true champion like my mom was, and I couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Away from work, Wallace describes himself as “the King of Boring” and enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, outdoor sports, and following Wisconsin college and professional sports teams. Make no mistake about it though, Wallace has no designs on slowing down at Transco Lines. “Bill and I just turned 50. We both love the industry and are committed to it,” Wallace stated. “If something happened to either one of us, the other would continue. We will be at this for a long, long time.”
That’s good news for experienced drivers who don’t want hand-holding but desire a company who can provide steady freight and plenty of miles. For your opportunity to work for a competitor like Terry Wallace, call Transco Lines at 866-979-4955 or apply online.