Turning the Page
The respected theologian and scholar Thomas Fuller once observed that there is one “great distinction” which separates great men from little men, a critical aspect essential in accomplishing almost anything – “invincible determination.” Such is the force that has fostered the fortitude of a New York-based transport and truck-services enterprise that not only determinedly refused to yield when confronting roadblocks in life, but drove so effectively forward it is renowned today as one of America’s leading bulk haulers.
Whether it is the transport of agricultural and industrial commodities, hazardous and non-hazardous wastes or general freight, Page Trucking is recognized as the go-to source of solutions and is sought out today by Fortune 500 companies and smaller firms alike. With more than 100 trucks in its corporate fleet, Page also deploys a driver network comprised by more than 200 owner/operators. It additionally maintains more than 400 trailer and container profiles enabling it to efficiently accommodate virtually any kind of transport requirement. Its extensive network, excess in material resources and expert insight into the range of regulatory requirements overarching every kind of operational process uniquely position Page Trucking to impart the kind of counsel and customized alternatives that connote to sparing customers from unnecessary expenditures in costs, time or worry.
Page Transportation is, however, one arm in a trucking trifecta which encompasses an additional identity of Page ETC and Exit 40 Truck and Trailer Repairs, such that when all are put together, the collective also capably specializes in truck or trailer sales, and a variety of truck-related services which includes all manner of repair or preventative maintenance. The parent company is known as Keith Titus Corporation and it has been in operation for more than 35 years.
Established in Weedsport, New York, the enterprise was the hard-earned handiwork of the late Keith Titus. To put things in a proper context and more fully account of all that has been accomplished to grow the business into what it is today, Keith Titus’ daughter, Piper, provides important perspective.
She explains that her father, Keith Titus, was raised in Cato, New York, on a family farm where beef cattle were raised. The family also thrived from their running of a respected feed and grain business. Titus, with the loving mentorship of his grandfather, grew-up learning all about the trading of commodities, but he also became particularly adept in mechanics. Following high school, he went on to get certified in diesel engine repair and started working in the transportation side of his family’s feed & grain enterprise. Piper says his business was launched with only a few trucks operating from a base near the family farm. Titus grew that operation one truck at a time. She says while dump work was always the bread-and-butter of his business, by the late 80’s, Titus acquired a small company called Page ETC, Inc. which then gave him capability to service other markets such as that involving the hauling of hazardous wastes. Along the way, he married and with his wife, Debbie, went on to raise two sons, Dan and Bill, as well as Piper. While his wife occasionally helped with needs at the business, more often than not, she could be found working for the local school district as a bus driver. As for Keith, having been raised on a farm, he was no stranger to hard work. He dedicated himself to tending to duties and saw to it that company staff were being equally diligent in fulfilling customer expectations. As time passed, the company fleet expanded right along with its driver network and terminals were opened in eight other states. His was a hands-on managerial style, but he was also fair and a man of his word who committed himself to following through with anything he pledged to do. Keith Titus was the kind of man who inspired loyalty and maintained friendships once they were made. By the late 90’s, Titus had more than ten offices throughout the southeast and a fleet of more than 130 trucks which serviced agriculture as well as industrial and hazardous markets. Yet, for all the health of the business, Keith Titus had begun to suffer physically from ongoing flu-like symptoms. Tragically, misdiagnosis by doctors failed to discover he was actually afflicted with a form of leukemia and by the time this was realized, it was far too late. Keith Titus’ final days were filled with illness.
The family, along with their family of employees, had tried to prepare for the transition, but this would prove difficult. While Titus had bequeathed the company to his wife who still worked as a bus driver, another woman who had served as vice president of the company had now been appointed to lead the operation. Piper concedes, at that time, the male-dominated industry may have not been so ready for her. Business slowly began to dwindle and drivers started seeking out opportunities elsewhere. During this same time, the family learned of other businesses Titus had acquired prior to his death. One company specialized in making modifications to snowplows while another was based out of Pennsylvania and had a union workforce. Piper says these companies operated at such a loss as to not only distract, but siphon profits away from the primary operations. Two years following Keith Titus’ death, the business seemed on the verge of doing the same. “It became increasingly hard after my father died, and I think many people considered him as the glue that kept everything together. In the time that followed, we had lost more than fifty trucks and closed a few terminals… and then one day, the lawyers went to my mom and said it is time to liquidate, not sell, but liquidate all the assets,” recalls Piper.
For Debbie Titus, the recommendation was just too impossible to follow. “My mom said it would be too unfair, unfair to the staff and unfair to my father,” says Piper. So, against all legal advice, Debbie Titus poured all she could financially afford into the business to keep it afloat. The snowplow and PA based enterprise were closed down, some assets were sold off, money was borrowed and new people were tapped to help run the operation. Among those new hires was Keith Titus’ son, Dan, who had been working in the financial industry. Dan was newly married and his father-in-law had extensive background in business, and even though that was more involving retail operations, he too stepped-in to help run the trucking company.
Debbie Titus stayed busy too, working some 80 hour a week between her bus route and Page Trucking. Unfortunately, things got worse before they got better. A driver was carrying a load when a tire blew, causing the truck to crash into a vehicle operated by another driver who tragically died in the accident. The matter was eventually settled outside of court, but Piper says the family was almost convinced it would result in the close of their business. Yet, Debbie Titus pushed-on, as did her son, Dan, who eventually took over the reins of the company. Very much his father’s son, Dan had been raised to understand almost all aspects of operations. Describing him as a consummate “problem-solver,” Piper says Dan could readily match client needs with corroborating material resources to effectively maximize on payloads and impart solutions congruent with customer expectations. He also understood the complexities of logistics and the significance of relationships with quality drivers. Piper says he logged thousands of miles personally visiting with truckers and logged an equal amount of mileage over the phone lines to secure new accounts. The business not only survived, but blossomed and ultimately went on to surpass Keith Titus’ best year of sales.
And when Debbie Titus determined it was time to find a new controller for the company, she didn’t have to think too hard about who to appoint. Piper had just earned her CPA license when she got the call from her mother. “I had originally planned to work somewhere else, but my mother can be very convincing… she told me I had ten minutes to make-up my mind or she was going to hire someone else and it would be years before I would have the opportunity again,” says Piper.
All in the Family
Today, for all its range of equipment, market penetration and vast network of owner/operators with which it works, Page Trucking functions as a family business. The family values of respect, trust and commitment are imparted to customers and staff alike – in fact, it is this, perhaps, that has been most integral to growing the company.
“We value every driver here as part of our family… we feel that we have an obligation to them and we have to ensure that they’re successful because when they are, everything else falls in line, and our business can be successful,” explains Piper. In accounting of those drivers, Pipers concedes there are some who were especially supportive when her father died, who stayed loyal to the company even when life was at its worst. As this is something that she and her family has never forgotten, Piper explains that respect and admiration for truckers isn’t simply measured in professional terms, but a quality she regards as profoundly personal.
In helping to ensure that drivers stay successful, Page Trucking went as far as establishing a million dollar fund at their local bank to assist those who might need loans to purchase new equipment. Piper explains that a number of drivers had encountered problems when they tried to access small vs larger financing plans. Banks might offer financing in the $100,000 range, but not necessarily for smaller purchases of $30,000 and less. To bypass that issue, Page Trucking created a low interest program specifically to accommodate the needs of these truckers. “One of the rewarding aspects of our job is getting to help people start or grow their business,” says Piper. The program has allowed owner/operators to expand their fleets or invest in their own trailers and build equity in their small business.
On the operations side, where as some transport companies are investing heavily in the purchase of sophisticated monitoring technology to systematically track and measure driver performance, Piper says Page Trucking relies less on such processes, likening it to micromanagement. She says the company places more value on investing in quality people than quality technology. Technology is essential to company operations, as Piper explains that the operation went digital years ago, but the significance of technical systems are never viewed as more important than the human assets. By working toward their success, maintaining honest and frank atmosphere of respect and understanding of expectations, and empowering drivers to fulfill their duties, she says Page Trucking has fostered a team that is highly loyal and high achieving. This, in turn, has helped the company maintain long term customer relationships.
“We’re very cooperative here and that carries over to the customer… and when we make a commitment to a customer, our team will follow through,” says Piper.
Page Trucking’s ability to “follow through” is a byproduct of the fact that it maintains such an extensive array of transport alternatives. With more than 400 trailers and containers of every shape and purpose, Page Trucking can effectively deploy solutions for every kind of customer need. Yet, their knowledge of equipment may only be outmatched by their knowledge of regulatory mandates governing all forms of material transport. In addition to staying at the forefront of changes that impact the industry, Page Trucking is equally rigorous in maintaining quality of its equipment. Page Trucking goes above and beyond federal guidelines by conducting quarterly fleet inspections. Maintaining their equipment is another vital aspect of maintaining customers. “Customers know what to expect with us,” says Piper. “We may not have the lowest rate on every bid, but we’re not the most expensive either, and in the long run, we help save customers money. Other companies can charge less, but then can’t provide the trucks, or meet the schedule, or always break down and that downtime has a cost. Our focus is getting the right specifications of equipment in place, on time, where it needs to be, to get the highest payload and benefit for the customer.”
As for the future, Piper says Page Trucking’s approach relies more on attraction than promotion. “We don’t chase,” she says “Our focus is to continue serving our core customers… as their business has grown, our business has grown by staying true to their needs.”
Otherwise, she says Page Trucking will continue to rely on the same principles that have helped deliver the company to where it is today. By constantly refining its operational processes, maintaining an extensive range of material resources and dedicating itself to the success of its human resources, the legacy of Keith Titus is alive and well in this titan of the trucking industry.
For more information, please visit their website at: Page Trucking
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