Since the initial entry period
officially closed last month, we've continued gathering information relevant to the dozens of entries in Overdrive 's Small Fleet Championship, sponsored again this year by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies. At NASTC's annual conference November 2-4 in Nashville, Tennessee, we'll recognize two finalists each in two separate competitive divisions -- companies with 3-10 trucks and those with 11-30 trucks at the end of 2022. Today, we're announcing five semi-finalists in each category.
Over the course of this month, we'll be featuring stories about all of them ahead of announcement of the final four who will be attending the awards ceremony in Nashville, so stay tuned for those features starting next week. And ...
Without further ado, competing in the 3-10-trucks category: Til Friday Trucking was but a one-truck carrier in 2018, and after a couple of years began to focus on lean operation and expansion to where they are today, notes Michelle Hefner, with a variety of duties at the primarily dry-van-pulling company. This marks their second-straight semi-finalist recognition in Overdrive's Small Fleet Championship program, as they've held the line against rising costs and declining rates where possible, seeking out new opportunities with direct customers this past year even as they lost a couple. Similarly, D. Weaver Trucking owner Dannel Weaver was a one-truck owner-operator in 2019, before he and his significant other, Lisa Turley, decided to invest not only in trucks and end dump trailers but other families in their region along I-77 in Ohio, toward what's been sixfold growth since 2021. The now six-truck carrier specializes in industrial steel byproducts run from plant to plant, working mostly with a specialized broker along lanes in the Midwest and upper South. Larry Wallace is a third-generation trucker with a versatile skill set, a knack for working on old Detroit and Caterpillar engines, and a sweet little niche carved out hauling bulk bakery residuals with the three rigs in his fleet. The owner got his start pulling end dumps, then off the deep end into another one of Virginia's hot trucking niches: Land clearing and logging. Here Wallace had his trial by fire, hauling timber up and down mountain roads and becoming a master of his machine in the process. He traded a windshield and shifter for a desk and mouse a few years back with his Wallace & Sons Transport business, but keeps a close eye on operations from his Henrico, Virginia office. Butterfly Xpress, Silt, Colorado Bill and Karen Barhite started Butterfly Xpress in 2013 and have steadily grown the business to a 10-truck fleet today. The Barhites and a bevy of leased-on owners hauled reefer freight solely on the spot market from the start of the company until 2021, when Bill was able to line up some direct customers. Now, most of the operators, along with Bill and Karen, haul coast-to-coast with loads out of Miami taking them to the West Coast, then loads of apples out of Washington back to Texas, utilizing the spot market to get back to Florida from there. BFX prides itself on the benefits it offers to its leased owners, which includes insurance, taxes and fees paid by the carrier. Grayson Transport Service, Loganville, Georgia Scott Donaldson's three-truck Grayson Transport Service operation moves both raw and finished auto parts for two dedicated shippers in his area. He and his drivers all operate under the 150-air-mile short-haul exemption. Donaldson bought his first truck in 2010 and put another driver in it, leased to a carrier until 2018, when he was approached by a new customer to expand. He added two more trucks and jumped in one himself.
Related: A new era for CAP Trucking, Overdrive 2022 Small Fleet Champ] And in the 11-30-truck division: Adam Johnson is a fourth-generation truck operator and third-generation owner managing the K&D Transport family business. K&D has emerged from a situation requiring creative thinking with flatbed load consolidation in 2012, staring down the barrel of closing the company's doors, to thrive when so many other Midwest fleets and others around the nation were struggling just to get by. Since that time, Johnson's assumed management of operations at K&D as his father has stepped back from the day-to-day. Over four years, K&D Transport doubled in size to 12 trucks as of the end of 2022, adding more operators this year even as freight volumes have softened. LNL Trucking, Bedford, Indiana In 1981, LNL Trucking owner Larry Limp got his first trucking job hauling grain locally from his hometown in Orleans, Indiana, before eventually going over-the-road in 1983. He bought his first truck in 1984 and has remained an owner-operator almost continuously since. In 2001, Limp filed for his own authority, and he's been operating as LNL Trucking out of Bedford, Indiana, ever since. His growing tanker business owns 12 trucks and employs as many drivers in addition to himself, moving animal fats and other commodities from four direct shippers in smooth bore, rear-unload trailers. In 2022, Limp (pictured here with wife, Nancy, and the 2000 Peterbilt 379 he drives about a third of every month) served as Chairman of the Indiana state trucking association's board. “I feel the importance” of being a member of a state trucking association “is that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Limp said. “Larry Limp from Bedford, Indiana, tries to call his U.S. Representative or Senator, he doesn’t get much traction. But with the state association, it’s no longer talking to one person, you’re talking to all of us. IMTA is currently 400 members strong.” A fleet of roughly a baker's dozen International LTs and a diverse set of more than 40 trailers might fit LB Trucking owner Larry Bredewater's comfort zone these days, but he said he'd never rule out expansion for the right candidates. In a time-honored formula when it comes to small fleet expansion, the driver comes first for Bredewater. "I'm really happy where we are now, but if I'd have somebody that I thought was a local person, a good driver and wanted to work, I'd have no problem with buying a truck for a guy if I think he's gonna be around a while," he said. "But he has to convince me a little bit that he wants to work. I'd buy one or two more. We could grow a little bit more if we find the right people." Vickery Transportation, Columbus, Indiana 19-truck Vickery Transportation hauls hazardous waste in fiberglass-reinforced Comptank trailers with vacuum pumps. In the last three years, the company, a front-line carrier for one of the biggest waste services providers in the nation, has added one truck and provided hazmat services from upwards of 250 points of origin all over the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. Operators bring it all back to a Waste Management deep-well injection site. More growth could be on the horizon as Waste Management expands and business picks up with infrastructure improvement spending. The Waste Management terminal Vickery services is shared by other carriers, and can only handle upwards of 125 loads per week -- about 50 of which come from Vickery. Maple Lane Transport, Philadelphia, New York Mostly flatbed carrier Maple Lane Transport was born with a need to serve owner Luke Martin's organic hay and row crops Maple Lane Farms in upstate New York, in 2010. Martin drove himself a lot of the time, still does, in fact, though addition of dispatch manager Chelsie Reynolds in 2021 has seen the fleet double in size from six to 12 trucks with a few owner-operators and some additional equipment investment. Revenues incoming from the trucking operation, even with the last year's challenges, have risen similarly.
Related: Small Fleet Champ John McGee Trucking: Almost 100% uptime for 24/7 oilfield-services biz]