Robert Hallahan, president of LaCrosse, Wisconsin-based Hallahan Transport, named his eye-catching show truck and fleet flagship “Occupational Therapy” because it reflects how he feels about operating a trucking company. Getting behind the wheel of his 2019 Kenworth W900L is his truest form of joy.
“It’s not just my workplace, but also where I am reminded of why I am in business, especially during these challenging times,” he said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns brought crushingly low rates, Hallahan credits the size of his fleet as an advantage over larger carriers. In fact, he’s even grown during the pandemic.
“When you only have seven trucks, you are in a better position to pivot than larger fleets with tons of overhead,” he said.
Hallahan Transport focuses on specialized dry van freight, he said, “anything that requires special attention to detail, securement or logistics needs.”
Hallahan obtained his operating authority in 2016, but it was two years later before he expanded. In 2018, he sold his former show-worthy truck, Big Orange, to a buddy who then leased on with him, and bought Occupational Therapy and two additional trailers. By 2019 he had added two more tractors and trailers.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, he scooped up two leased owner-operators who lost their contracts and added a flatbed and reefer. Now with five leased operators, one company driver and himself, Hallahan has seven drivers.
“We have been trying to put as much earnings back into the business to grow,” he said.
He said that even though he began expanding right before what is now one of the nation’s worst economic times, he believes he will come out better for it. “I wish I would have done it 25 years ago,” he said.
Over the years he’s owned trucks, leased trucks and has been a company driver. He said he’s always been goal-oriented and has become meticulous with finances after a bout of trouble.
“I read a lot, attend industry webinars and even took a class on money management,” he said. He’s conscious of staying on top of expenses, making a point of paying repair bills right away.
That fiscal discipline has paid further dividends as he navigates the current COVID-19 landscape. “It has been challenging for everyone, but I believe we can overcome obstacles, make changes and grab opportunities,” Hallahan said.
Adding the reefer early this year was fortuitous, as he’s been hauling frozen bread dough, an essential and popular item during the lockdown orders. Another advantage is his company’s location in Wisconsin, which even in bad times can still be good for freight.
With his fleet still small, he’s a one-man show. “I am the office,” he said. He does all the dispatching and uses brokers, load boards and digital apps such as Truckers Tools to find loads. He uses Triumph Business Capital for factoring services, crucial to his business’s cash flow and ultimate profitability.
Getting affordable insurance has been increasingly hard for small fleets in recent years, especially new fleets with little safety history. When Hallahan began expanding, he had to switch from Great West Insurance to another provider until he had two years under his belt. Then he was able to switch back to Great West, where he said he gets great rates, thanks in no small part to his safety record.
“I already have made it through 19 inspections with no violations,” he said. That’s no stroke of luck. He admits to being hard on his drivers when it comes to DOT inspections, paperwork and maintenance. He requires 10 years of experience before they lease on.
Hallahan is well-known in trucking’s social media world and is a regular on The Driver’s Side, a Sunday night internet radio program sponsored by Truckers Tools. His exposure there led to him finding his latest hires.
When the market improves, he plans to grow a bit more. “I don’t want to exceed 10 trucks. That’s the perfect size and a goal I plan to achieve,” he said.