Commitment to Quality
Following ISO standards and aiming for 100 percent on-time deliveries help Everhart Trucking survive in auto-industry transportation
When Kent Everhart went from being an owner-operator to multi-unit fleet owner, he thought he had it all figured out. The carrier he had been leased to for five years was going to sell or close its doors. Everhart and his wife stepped in and bought it, saving livelihoods for him and nine other owner-operators.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” he recalls about the 2000 purchase. “I thought I knew how to fix everything and make everybody happy. I quickly realized it’s not a possibility.”
The company he bought was going out of business because its total commitment to agricultural hauling of grain and fertilizer had turned against it. The plants they hauled for had started buying their own trucking equipment. “I had to take it in a completely different direction to survive,” he says about his Everhart Trucking LLC in Ada, Ohio.
After buying the company, he had a meeting with a major Honda auto carrier looking for equipment to handle extra deliveries. “The next thing we knew we were in the auto-hauling business,” Everhart says.
From that modest beginning, Everhart has grown to 15 Volvo VN 630s and 670s, 20 flatbeds and 52 53-foot dry vans. The company has leases with 28 owner-operators.
Everhart transports materials between auto industry plants and their suppliers. For example, one of his flatbeds might haul steel coils to a “slitter” plant that cuts the steel to a specific shape. Then one of his dry vans will transport that product to a stamping plant that produces an exhaust system for Ford. Another haul will carry the exhaust to an assembly plant.
When the economy was humming, his company had several dedicated runs. Every six hours around the clock, a truck would make that run. When the market fell off, Everhart’s business dropped from four loads a day on a run to one. Now business has bounced back somewhat, increasing to two loads a day on certain runs.
“As volumes pick up and the economy comes back, we should be able to be bigger than in the past,” Everhart says.
In the company’s second-best year in 2008, Everhart did $6 million in gross revenue. Sales dropped 42 percent in 2009, but the company has recovered about 20 percent of that this year. Everhart projects $5 million to $5.5 million this year.
Rather than branching out into other industries, Everhart says he’s committed to the auto business in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky by recruiting new supplier customers. He estimates 90 percent of his business is automotive-related.
Everhart is an ISO 9000 2008 certified company. Companies such as Everhart adhere to international standards for quality in practices and operations set by the International Organization for Standardization. Everhart says he has a procedures manual “that dictates everything we do as a company.”
His company conducts an internal audit of procedures twice a year, and an ISO auditor performs a twice-annual audit as well. “Basically we’re getting a DOT [type] audit four times a year for traceability and accountability,” he says.
When it comes to maintenance, the attention to quality focuses the company on preventive practices. “If something looks like it’s starting to get worn, it’s replaced,” Everhart says. “There’s no waiting until it breaks.”
Everhart says his decision to buy Volvo trucks contributes to maintaining a high service level. He views trucks as a tool to make money, and Volvo delivers for his drivers and a majority of the 28 owner-operators leased on.
“When you talk about maneuverability, visibility, being lightweight and reliability, that screams Volvo to us,” he says. The combination of safety engineering, steel cab construction and driver-side airbags makes it possible for his drivers to survive “in a worse-case scenario,” he says.
Everhart also likes the fuel economy he achieves with his fleet, averaging between 7.0 and 7.1 mpg.