CLAYSBURG - After spending more than 30 years in the trucking industry, Dave Ward saw an opportunity to introduce a different kind of trucking company.
In March 2011, Ward, former CEO of Ward Trucking; his wife, Liz; and business partners Ben Stapelfeld, chairman of New Pig Corp. and Mark Barnhart, CEO of NPC Inc., unveiled Price-Tran.
Price-Tran is an LTL (less than truckload) carrier that specializes in affordable rates, less handling, low fuel surcharges and great service, Ward said. The company, whose name stemmed from its plan to offer low-priced transportation, has its technology, communications and dispatching center on the second floor of the former Hoss's Fresh Xpress building now owned by Barnhart on Dunning's Highway in Claysburg.
Two owners of Price-Tran, Dave and Liz Ward, stand beside a Price-Tran truck.
The trucking terminals are in Easton and Mansfield, Ohio.
"We saw an opportunity for offering a new business model centered around sustainability and affordability," Ward said.
Company officials decided it would be best to set up shipping service in Ohio, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which they said are fairly strong markets with population centers.
Price-Tran doesn't own its 12 tractors and 16 trailers - it leases the tractors from Fox and James of Latrobe and the trailers from Aim National Lease of Girard, Ohio.
"The trucks are all leased for five years under a full maintenance lease. The burden is on them to do all service and repair work; it falls on the equipment suppliers," Ward said.
Ward said Price-Tran is a "contract LTL carrier."
"The shipper is buying a space on a trailer. The price is not based on the commodity or the freight classification or the weight," Ward said. "We based it on the airline model - they sell seats, we sell floor space."
Price-Tran has a much lower cost structure and is able to charge lower fuel surcharges.
"Traditional LTLs have full-fledged terminals with staff, managers and customer service people. We operate dark terminals. The drivers do all the loading and unloading, and when they are on their delivery routes, the lights are turned off at the terminals," Ward said. "How we run our business enables us to pass along a lower surcharge, which is appreciated by the shipping public."
Price-Tran also only hauls dry commodities.
"It would take specialized equipment. We don't have tankers or refrigerated trucks to haul other products," Ward said.
Price-Tran employs 20 people, which includes the office and sales staffs and drivers.
"Today we have 14 drivers; we started with nine. Within the next three weeks, we will add two more drivers," Ward said.
Price-Tran is a family business. Ward serves as president; his wife is in charge of market research; their twin sons James and David Jr. are operations coordinators; and daughter, Jessica Farnan, serves as marketing and member relations director.
"This is our family business. We even include the rest of the employees in our family. We are very hands-on and sensitive and compassionate to the needs of our employees. We realize without them this is going nowhere," Ward said
After what Ward called a slow start, business has picked up for Price-Tran, which marked its first year in business March 28.
The company has many satisfied customers.
"They do a really good job for us. They are very reliable and make my job easier," said Jo Ann Smith, freight coordinator for Sabin Robbins in Atlanta, which ships paper products to points in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. "They have dry trailers and that is perfect for us. They have brand new equipment, and they do a good job of getting our products to where they are supposed to go."
Jeff Stieger, operations director for Recon Logistics LLC in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said he had worked with sales rep Bob Kane when he was at Ward Trucking.
"We are one of the top growing logistics companies in the country. We try to create partnerships with carriers and customers that are similar to us, and Price-Tran fell right along with the kind of companies we try to deal with," Stieger said. "Dave's boys are pretty responsive; my customers haven't had any complaints."
Tom Wagner, president of Centran Logistics in Cleveland, had worked with Ward when he was at Ward Trucking.
"Their model is perfect for the business that we do. There is a lot less handling than with a lot of common carriers. The way they charge is by pallet - that is an advantage to our customers," Wagner said. "They are hands-on. You don't get that kind of service from a lot of the larger carriers."
Ward is excited about the future of his company, which recently expanded its delivery service into New York City and Long Island.
"I am the kind of owner that wants to grow, and that growth is one of my driving forces. We are in the planning stages of partnering with other niche players, of like business models, to expand upon our footprint and targeting other metro centers in the U.S.," Ward said. "The plan is to grow quickly and profitably."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.