Rollin Transport sets itself apart with customized fleet of Petes
Image is important to Vinnie Diorio. The owner of three-truck fleet Rollin Transport since 1999 and the 11 owner-operators leased with him believe in making a good first impression. They have the customized rigs to back it up. “There’s nothing stock about any of them,” Diorio says.
Richfield, Wis.-based Rollin’s operators pull curtain-sided flatbeds hauling structural steel products and industrial machinery such as plastic injection molding equipment. A majority of their runs are in the Midwest and West, and the trucks average 150,000 miles annually.
Diorio says the tricked-out trucks set his company apart from the competition. “I’m a firm believer that we get the kind of work we get and the rates we do because of the equipment we have,” he says. “When we load something for a customer and it goes to one of their customers, it looks good for us and our customer. When they see a load coming in our equipment, they’re more inclined to do business with my customer.”
The shiny image commands higher rates. Diorio estimates he gets 50 cents to a dollar more per mile than flatbed competitors. He says he transports weekly loads for a handful of customers. When a potential customer is shocked by a rate, Diorio asks if he wants the work done the right way: “I don’t second-guess myself at all when I say we’re one of the best.”
When Diorio picks up a new truck, it has bare bones specs — only the engine, transmission, rear ends and wheelbase are spec’d. The truck has no sun visor or cab lights because Diorio wants to design and place accessories his way. The customization in his shop takes about a month before the truck’s ready to hit the road. “Probably 99 percent of accessories we put on the truck are custom-made,” he says.
Operators who work with him share his values. Prospects know better than to apply with a plain truck. “Before a guy starts working for me, I’d have to see what his truck looks like,” Diorio says. “Our company has this image with our customers, and I stick to it.”
Yet it seems to pay off for those who drive for Rollin. Though Diorio declines to discuss exact rates, he says his top company driver earned $74,000 last year. Several of his owner-operators gross well above $200,000 before expenses. “My top owner-operator told me he wants to park his truck in December because he’s already making too much money and is worried he might get bumped into a higher tax bracket,” he says.
In addition to sharing a commitment to showy, customized equipment, Diorio and his operators all choose Peterbilts. In Diorio’s case, Peterbilt’s more traditional models, the 379 and 389. He says he doesn’t care for the aerodynamic look because “it’s not the way a truck is supposed to look.”
After trying other truck brands, Diorio says he likes the Peterbilt look, as well as the fit of the hood, bumper and cab, and he feels comfortable behind the wheel. He says he’s satisfied with mileage between 5 and 6 mpg. His 2010 Model 389 with a 565-hp Cummins engine gets about 6 mpg. “We have our rates figured out so we can make a decent living on 5 mpg. I wouldn’t give up our trucks for 7 mpg,” he says.
Diorio, whose 2005 Pete 379’s mileage of just 300,000 reflects his schedule of not driving in the harsh Wisconsin winters, says his devotion to spotless truck care began early on in his trucking career. When he turned 18, he began driving a dump truck and religiously washed it nightly. His boss opined that the truck earned the same whether clean or dirty. But Diorio countered, “I’m going to look way cooler when the truck’s clean.”
Diorio’s commitment to image extends to his personal appearance. He shaves daily and wears clean jeans and shirts. And he expects his drivers and operators to do the same. They know better than to wear flip-flops or cutoffs.
While Diorio doesn’t impose a speed limit on his trucks, his drivers know to keep speed under control. “We take our time and keep the door closed,” he says. “I tell them the slower you go, the more people can look at you.”
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