The U.S. trucking market is massive, with carriers moving over 11 billion tons of freight and generating $940 billion in revenue in 2022 alone.
But from fierce competition among 750,000 carriers, constant market volatility, and high operating costs, the road to success is fraught with challenges for trucking companies.
The allure of profitability often clashes with these demanding conditions, leading to a revolving door of carriers entering and exiting the market. In turn, shippers must constantly search for reliable carrier partners committed to delivering both capacity and exceptional service.
One such carrier is Platinum Express out of Yuba City, California. Their story is a testament to the dedication needed to build trust and cultivate partnerships essential for growth in this competitive industry.
In 2015, Amit Dhugga and Gerardo Aceves, then 23-year-olds and recent college graduates, shared a vision of building a high-growth trucking company. Despite being newcomers in an industry dominated by experienced drivers, they recognized the potential of the trucking market due to its low entry barrier and high earning prospects.
So, armed with nothing more than their education, entrepreneurial spirit, and a modest network of industry professionals willing to help them learn the business, they purchased their first truck on a credit card and set out to find freight.
That truck broke down on its very first load, putting thousands of pounds of fresh produce at risk. But what appeared to be a bad omen turned into their first lesson in the value of establishing strong partnerships.
“The first driver we hired had a lot of experience and was patient even when that first truck broke down,” said Dhugga. “Most drivers would have quit, but he believed in our mission and helped us navigate initial challenges.”
Dhugga and Aceves spent the next few years consulting with industry experts to fill their knowledge gaps while establishing themselves as a viable carrier, ultimately leading to a business philosophy centered on growth, service, safety, and driver well-being.
“Early on, we learned to understand drivers’ preferences and honor them...For instance, we prioritize giving drivers the freight they prefer on the lanes they know, and they deliver excellent service in return.”
Their strategic approach attracted ample new freight opportunities. To keep pace, they devised a plan to scale while operating with limited equipment and capital.
Once again, partnerships played a crucial role. Leveraging their network, they engaged proven owner-operators willing to lease assets to Platinum Express, ensuring reliable capacity while they slowly but surely built their own fleet.
“This fueled our growth by driving revenue and strengthening our reputation,” said Dhugga. “With stable cash flow, we could raise capital, hire more drivers, and secure the necessary financing for additional equipment.”
At that point, Dhugga and Aceves shifted from thinking like an owner-operator-based business to an asset-based business. By 2020, they were firing on all cylinders. With around 60 trucks, 60 drivers, and 75 employees, they set a new growth goal of owning 100 trucks by the end of 2021.
Achieving that goal would require more freight than their team could find alone. Their prior experience with transactional third-party freight brokerages motivated them to replicate the successful partnerships they had with drivers and shippers, this time in the brokerage space.
They found just what they were looking for with Arrive Senior Carrier Sales Representative Bryan Bevelhimer in 2020. At the time, the pandemic had driven demand through the roof. Bevelhimer needed to secure consistent capacity in a tight market, and Platinum Express stepped up.
“They nailed the first few loads, so the trust was there immediately,” said Bevelhimer. “Though they were busy with outbound freight, I learned that most of their trucks were heading home empty, so I started sending them backhaul loads.”
The relationship grew stronger with every load.
“I sent them so much freight that they gave me real time visibility into their entire fleet, allowing me to book loads directly,” said Bevelhimer. “It’s rare for a carrier to give a broker that kind of visibility, but we trusted each other.”
Dhugga echoes that sentiment.
“Many brokers just want capacity at the lowest rate, so they’ll just move from one carrier to the next,” said Dhugga. “But Bryan understood what we were trying to build and was committed to establishing a long term partnership.”
That commitment paid off when Arrive started working with a national internet and cable service provider in 2021. Knowing only a top-tier carrier could meet the shipper’s stringent service standards, Bevelhimer asked Platinum Express to take it on.
However, adapting to those tough service standards, especially amid tight market conditions, presented challenges at first — but their strong and transparent partnership enabled them to learn from missteps and course-correct quickly.
“Mistakes are inevitable, but were able to have honest conversations about what went wrong and how to turn it around…We got back on track and have done over 600 loads for that shipper since January of 2022.”
The accountability, resilience, problem-solving, and dedication to delivering so our customers can exemplify what makes Platinum Express such a sought-after carrier — and the numbers tell an equally compelling story.
Since first partnering with Arrive, Platinum Express has transported over two thousand loads, generating several million dollars in revenue that were reinvested into the business. And their service metrics as of July 2023 — 98% OTP, 96% OTD, and 100% connectivity — are best-in-class.
In turn, Dhugga and Aceves have expanded their fleet from 40 to over 100 power units and 150 trailers, and already have their sights set on a new milestone — growing to 200 trucks over the next few years. Their plan for getting there? Keep following the same Platinum Rule they have every step of the way.
“Success in this business is all about having trust and mutual respect with the people you choose to work with,” he said. “If you understand that your drivers, brokers, shippers, and all the other people who make your business tick have goals of their own, and you do your part to make those goals possible, everybody wins — and there’s nothing more valuable than that.”