Time-sensitive shipments keep the Quest Global Inc fleet running hard. Focusing on those loads has brought steady growth for the Kennesaw, Georgia-based refrigerated carrier.
Revenues have been growing by around 20% per year, and the carrier currently runs 260 tractors and 400 refrigerated trailers. Management is very optimistic that the growth trend will continue.
“We’ll do 20% growth this year, and we believe we will see the same in 2015,” says Jeff Turner, Quest Global president. “We’re working very hard at building this company, and we expect to see continued rapid growth over the next five years. Demand for the type of service we provide is rising, and rates are increasing.
“Quest Global is perfectly positioned to support our customers’ refrigerated freight requirements. Our core service is to provide them with exemplary shipping service by handling their freight needs in a time-efficient manner. We work diligently to exceed time sensitive deadlines with our tailor-made services.
“Our operation is designed to ensure customer satisfaction, and we measure our performance on a daily basis. We have the necessary tools to be in constant communication with our drivers wherever our customers’ requirements take us. Our team of dedicated and knowledgeable transportation professionals is driven to serve.”
Directed from offices in Cartersville and Kennesaw, Georgia, Quest Global hauls primarily dry freight (especially carpet) out of the southeast. Produce and frozen foods have dominated shipments out of the western states.
“In the western states, we are serving customers in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Utah,” Turner says. “We also have some freight movements in and out of the Midwest.”
Cargo variety is becoming more diversified with the addition of certain hazardous materials. “More of our customers are asking us to handle packaged hazardous materials,” says Chris Champion, Quest Global vice-president. “To meet their needs, we have begun offering expedited hazmat service.”
Average length of haul is 2,000 miles, and tractors average 250,000 miles a year. In total, the Quest Global fleet of 260 tractors will run roughly 40 million miles this year.
Meeting customer needs means running a team-driver operation. “Using teams gives us the ability to run from Atlanta (Georgia) to Los Angeles (California) in 36 hours,” Champion says. “Driver teams also give us the ability to squeeze maximum productivity from our fleet. We can keep our tractors running virtually around the clock.”
Drivers stay in close contact with the Quest Global driver managers and load planners. Communications are expedited by Omnitracs on-board computers in the tractors, and efficient fleet management is ensured by McLeod dispatch software. The Omnitracs units also are used for electronic driver logs.
Driver managers coordinate smaller fleet segments to better address the needs of those segments. Load planners are responsible for customer service and for dispatch duties, such as assigning loads to vehicles. Every effort is made to keep the driver teams in the lanes they prefer.
Quest Global uses only company drivers, and the drivers come in as established teams. In many cases, the teams are husband/wife or father/son pairings. “We don’t hire anyone without team experience,” Turner says.
Minimum qualifications to drive for Quest Global include six months of verifiable over-the-road commercial driving experience, passing a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical, passing a pre-employment drug test and have no positives or refusals of drug or alcohol tests over the past 36 months, meet the minimum requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) scoring system, and have no more than one DOT recordable accident in the past 12 months.
Management also wants to hire more drivers who already have tanker and hazmat endorsements. Tanker endorsements are required by FMCSA for shipments that include containers rated at 120 gallons or more with a total capacity in those containers that is greater than 1,000 gallons. Since July 2014, hazmat endorsements have been needed for any shipment that includes products labeled as hazardous materials.
“Many of our hazmat shippers have determined that any carrier handling their hazmat freight must provide hazmat drivers with tanker endorsements,” Champion says. “We would like all of our drivers to have hazmat and tanker endorsements. We reimburse them for the cost of the endorsements, and they can earn 10% to 15% more than drivers without the endorsements. Both members of a team must have the endorsements to qualify for the higher earnings opportunity.”
Turner says the carrier has good success in attracting driver teams and keeping them. “We’ve had no real problems finding drivers because this is a good place to work,” he says. “Our turnover rate is well below industry average.”
Unlimited time off
Factors that help attract drivers include a policy of unlimited time off, high miles and high pay (averaging $1,300 per week for coast-to-coast runs), pets allowed in the trucks, and mostly no-touch freight. Some teams are out six weeks at a stretch, followed by a week at home. Other teams stay out three months or more.
Turner adds that the average age for the carrier’s drivers is falling. “We are aggressively recruiting Millennials and other younger drivers,” he says. “We believe we can offer what many of them want in a career, including job/life balance, a community social focus, and an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology.”
Quest Global has a full-time recruiter who is focused on finding driver teams who are the right fit for the carrier. “Most of the drivers we hire already have more than two years of team driving experience,” he says.
Late-model, well-maintained tractors also serve as a good draw for the fleet, which is an Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Partner. “We’ve been a SmartWay Partner for five or six years,” says James Vogler, Quest Global director of maintenance. “We are responsible to the communities we serve to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint on the environment.”
The newest tractors are Freightliner Cascadia Evolutions with 72-inch condo-style double-bunk sleepers. “We believe this is the most aerodynamic Class 8 tractor on the road today,” Vogler says.
Specifications include Detroit DD15 engines rated at 500 horsepower, Eaton UltraShift PLUS 10-speed and Detroit 12-speed automated transmissions, Meritor drive tandem, Daimler’s Virtual Technician automatic diagnostic system, and a fifthwheel with automatic release.
Quest Global runs 53-ft refrigerated trailers from Great Dane and Wabash National. The trailers have three to four inches of insulation, fiberglass-reinforced plastic interior wall liners, and corrugated aluminum floors. Other equipment includes TransTex aerodynamic side skirts, Hendrickson Vantraax sliding suspensions, Hendrickson Tiremaax Pro automatic tire inflation. The fleet is testing the ATDynamics TrailerTail system that is designed to reduce rear drag.
All of the trailers are equipped with Thermo King SB 230 refrigeration units for low maintenance and ease of operation. “We choose Thermo King because they have the best service, and the most locations for providing that service,” Vogler says.
TransCore Globalwave units track the trailers and provide temperature validation. Temperature tracking and control begins at pickup and continues to delivery. Remote monitoring of container conditions, temperature, and action alerts are performed 24/7.
A small maintenance shop at the Cartersville terminal handles some minor vehicle service, but the overwhelming majority of the fleet maintenance is handled at TravelCenters of America/Petro Truck Stops across the United States. “We selected TA/Petro because they can handle Freightliner warranty work as well as our routine preventive maintenance,” Vogler says.