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Brian Kurtz Trucking: Local family business enjoying success, accolades

by Chris Daponte

GUELPH-ERAMOSA - In the annals of family businesses in Wellington County, few ventures have been as successful as Brian Kurtz Trucking Limited.

The company, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has grown from a single driver, truck and trailer travelling 180,000km per year, to a diverse operation now boasting over 100 employees, 72 trucks, 125 trailers and logging about 12 million kilometres annually.

“We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we’re proud of the success we’ve had,” said president Brian Kurtz.

He registered the company in 1981, though he really started as an independent owner/operator in the 1970s, making weekly trips to Florida and the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Surprisingly, the Ariss resident never set out to become a trailblazer in the trucking industry; he started driving trucks part time while he pursued a carpentry apprenticeship.

“It kind of got into my blood,” he said of trucking.

For years Brian operated as  the sole driver, with his wife, Judy, doing the paper work and answering phones. Eventually others were hired to lessen the burden on Judy, who had her hands full with four boys - and particularly with frequent trips from Ariss to Elora for various sporting events.

The year Brian registered the company bearing his name, he also hired outside owner/operators to help out. He was blown away by the short-term growth.

“We grew too fast the first year,” Brian said, noting there was more business than the small company could handle. He explained people quickly realized his company could serve them better than some of the other large trucking businesses in the area.

“Service ran a long way in the 80s when the economy picked up,” added son Trevor Kurtz, now the general manager of the company.

Brian said the company grew at such a rate in the early days that he was no longer able to invest the money necessary to facilitate further growth. That led to a brief slow down and also to the realization the company could make more money by capitalizing on less-than-a-load (LTL) shipments.

That means combining several smaller loads from different companies - many who did not have big enough loads to fill a trailer themselves - instead of full truck loads from individual clients.

Trevor explained  LTL shipments and temperature controlled goods and hazardous goods became a viable way to service the business’ accounts. Those items make up a significant portion of business to this day, but that’s not all they do.

“We haul anything, anywhere, any time,” Trevor said.

In 1984 Brian Kurtz Trucking purchased three acres at its current location on Speedvale Avenue, west of Guelph. The business continually expanded on that site every few years - and today the company owns eight acres there.

In 1987 an office building was erected and in 1990 a 9,000 square foot distribution facility with 10 doors was added. Five years later, another 12,000 square feet, with 11 doors, was added.

As they got old enough, Trevor and his brothers Brent (now the maintenance manager), Gerrad (regional dispatch manager) and Geordie (U.S. dispatch manager) started to work part time and on weekends washing trucks, loading goods and doing other odd jobs.

In 1995 the four sons bought into the business, and a decade later they made more significant investments in the company.

Brian Kurtz Trucking continued to evolve and expand at the turn of the century.

“Many local customers realized the value of service and on-time deliveries and switched to Kurtz,” said Trevor.

In early 2000 the company had about 55 trucks and racked up about 8,000,000km per year. The company had always strived to meet the latest operational, safety and environmental standards, but after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, things became much more onerous.

“Since 9-11 things have totally changed in our industry,” said Trevor. He explained new strict regulations for cross-border transport forced some companies out of business, but the Kurtz company has managed to thrive thanks to its attention to detail and a measured investment in meeting any and all necessary qualifications.

And that dedication has paid off, with many industry awards and accolades, both before and after 2001.

In 1997 the company won a safety award from the Transportation Safety Association. In 2005 it received the Canadian Driver Retention Award and in 2006 the Carrier of Excellence - Gold Award. The company received a 4.8 out of five rating from its insurance provider in 2009 which, Brian explained, is the highest score anyone has ever received.

“We’re proud of our achievements,” Trevor added.

The company also prides itself on being a member of the local community. Brian relayed the story of how in 1992 the business volunteered to ship a lot of relief goods - collected by local church groups - to the Florida area after Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 storm, caused $26.5-billion in damage in the southern U.S.

Trevor noted the company also provided refrigerated trailers to the University of Guelph, local pharmaceutical companies, factories and the residents of Guelph to keep food and drugs at the correct temperature during the infamous power outage in the summer of 2003.

But perhaps the most impressive achievement of all came last month, when the company was named the safest fleet in North America for 2010 in the “Division II” (5 to 14.9 million miles) category by the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA).

“That’s for North America, which is pretty awesome,” Trevor said.

The TCA’s Annual National Fleet Safety Awards recognize trucking companies that demonstrate a superior commitment to safety and accident reduction.

“Safety has always been the top priority in this industry. TCA developed these awards 36 years ago to recognize the top performers,” said Don Lacy, chairman of TCA’s safety and security division, has stated.

“Today, receiving a National Fleet Safety Award has become a highly coveted badge of honor that recognizes and rewards companies for working tirelessly to improve their procedures in the safety arena.”

Last year Brian Kurtz Trucking did not have any reportable accidents in the U.S.

“We owe that award to our safety department and our drivers, who are the reason why we’re the safest,” Trevor said. “Hiring the best drivers is important; we couldn’t be safe unless they are.”

He added the company is hoping to claim the overall top prize for North America at a ceremony in San Diego in March.

Trevor said what makes the award and others like it even more special is the fact the company is often nominated by its own employees.

“That means a lot,” he said. He explained there may only be five actual family members working together at the company, but its entire roster of employees is considered one large family.

“We treat people like people; not like numbers,” Trevor said.

Things have come a long way since the days Brian would  log 100-hour work weeks and was never home. Over the past 42 years as a driver, and 30 years as the head of the registered company, he’s seen a lot of changes in the industry - the good, the bad and the ugly, as he relays.

But one thing that never seems to change is the company’s commitment to service.

“We’re not looking to get bigger,” Brian said. “We’re just looking to service a select group of people and service them well.”

For more information about Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd., call 519-836-5821 or visit kurtztrucking.com.

 

Vol 44 Issue 05

 
 

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