Expedite Now had a chance to sit down with Mike Lawrence, General Manager at Tri-State Expedited Service, Inc.
Q1) Thank you for spending time with us today! First things first, who’s the favorite sports team in the Tri-State Expedited community?
No problem, we’ve been looking forward to telling our story! Favorite sports team? We are based near Toledo OH, which is ground zero for arguably the greatest rivalry in sports, THE Ohio State University, and the University of Michigan (or That School Up North). Our office is pretty evenly split, and that’s pretty much the demographic of our area too. Although we are in the great state of Ohio, we’re closer to Ann Arbor. I will say over the past 10 years, it’s been a lot easier being a Buckeye fan around here!

Q2) With the pandemic and everything that came with it, what was the year 2020 like for you guys?

Is there a better word than “challenging” to use as an answer? I know that’s what most people and companies would say; and it was certainly true with us. At first, the fear of the unknown hit, and a precipitous drop in business at the end of the first quarter occurred, and we had some workforce reductions. At the end of the 2nd quarter, business unexpectedly spiked, and just kept going up! Expedited is such a great leading economic indicator, right? Lots of expedited freight means factories are producing quickly and people are ordering even more than they can produce. We finished the year with outstanding growth, and more importantly with a team that produced far more than they thought possible (and mostly with a smile on their face!). We’re very grateful for the position we ended that crazy year in.Q3) What are some of the struggles you all needed to work through with your drivers?
Our struggles with drivers are really in just learning to coach them better; we do our best to work through the inevitable day-to-day stresses of the job with our drivers, and to learn from all of those interactions. We are not perfect at it, but we’ve made great improvement. Everyone’s short on drivers because of the freight environment we are in; we want to really focus our efforts on retention and feel we can organically grow by strategically adding good new drivers to keep growing our company. Two areas that we’ve made great strides in are in recognizing our drivers’ accomplishments through bonuses and on social media, and adjusting our business to try to mesh with a driver’s needs by developing new routes around them where we can.Q4) What are some of the things that Tri-State is excited about as we’re now well into 2021?
Honestly, what’s not to be excited about in 2021? The freight market is very hot and looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Rates have increased significantly. We’ve added a ton of quality staff to an already deep and seasoned team. Our focus on improving our technology is paying big dividends. Coming from where we were last March, we couldn’t BE more excited!

Q5) With all that being said, would you say this is the most exciting time in your company’s history?
Is this the most exciting time in our company history? I haven’t been here that long to say; this company has operating since 1978, and once was named GM supplier of the year, so believe me that’s a tough one to top! I do feel that right now is a pivotal moment in our history. We have new senior management with a lot of new ideas bearing fruit, and bringing more cohesion to the team. These managers believe in change, teamwork,  giving maximum effort and especially positive attitudes. Attitude is everything – something we talk about to our staff constantly. So again, I don’t know if it’s THE most exciting time ever, but damn it’s gotta be up there.

Q6) What would be a piece of advice you would offer to drivers working to navigate the 2021 Expedite landscape?
Tough for me to comment and offer advice to a driver, because I haven’t been in their shoes. They are heroes, and were honored as such during the pandemic when they kept grocery stores open. That was a long-deserved recognition. Some advice I give our current drivers is if you want respect, then give respect, because it’s not just you who have a stressful job. Our safety and compliance team is busy and stressed. Our dispatch and operations teams are busy and stressed. We are all working hard, and we’ve got to do it together, and figure out and fix problems to keep the company moving forward. Be honest with your employer about your needs and your ability. And, because I tell everyone this…have a good attitude (people are so tired of me telling them this.)

Q7) Is there anything else you would like our audience to be aware of at this time?
You bet! Tri-State Expedited Service at this moment in time is an awesome mix of trucking industry experience and knowledge with new senior management, new technology, and new ideas. We’ve got a great reputation in the industry, competitive pay packages for independent contractors and company drivers, and a very hard-working staff pushing us forward through 2021. It’s really, truly a great place to be.
For more information, visit https://www.tstate.com/