In business, it’s inevitable that one will come across situations that require quick thinking and the ability to balance assets, jobs, and employees to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Chelsy Looker, owner/operator of Carli Trucking in Puyallup, Washington, knows this all too well. However, it’s this very fact that motivated her to start her trucking company and try her hand at something a little different than what she had grown accustomed to in the world of fitness.
Carli Trucking is a rental trucking company assisting with the transportation of asphalt, dirt, and aggregate to local construction companies to help meet their trucking needs. The company provides extra trucks when needed on various jobs, assisting other businesses to avoid the extra overhead that comes with truck payments, hiring drivers, and purchasing fuel.
After Looker sold her hot yoga studio a few years ago, she looked for a challenge that would take her back to her family’s roots. Her father owns an asphalt business, as had her grandfather. She got her CDL and started driving dump trucks. It was then she decided she was going to start her own business and purchased a truck with an OSW Super Solo dump body to start Carli Trucking in 2018.
With four Kenworth T880 Super Solos (and two more on the way), the company has a single mission: to provide high-quality services promptly with a team that caters to each project’s specific needs to ensure excellence.
Spec’ing to Handle More
Looker primarily uses the trucks to pave, grind, and haul aggregate. However, due to wet Washington weather, they also do some dirt work.
To ensure they have vehicles that can handle the job, Looker says a vital part of their specs is the extra axle they include on the top of the truck. This enables them to haul a higher payload, making it almost equivalent to a truck and trailer.
“We’re getting 25 tons in a straight truck, which is easier to maneuver and capable of hauling more material than a standard solo, which only carries 15 tons. It’s quicker versus having the truck and trailer,” she explained.
The seven-axle Kenworth T880 is a popular truck in the asphalt business because the combination distributes weight to be compliant with bridge laws so truck operators with super dump bodies can haul a maximum payload.
Looker recently ordered two new trucks but hasn’t received them just yet due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. There was a shortage in microprocessors on the engine manufacturer side. To keep business on track, Looker plans to fly to Ohio, pick up the trucks, and drive them back to Washington to get the boxes put on with the extra axle.
Retaining drivers is challenging for many fleets, and it’s no different for Carli Trucking. Maintaining rates that reflect the value the company brings amid competition has also been difficult.
“We have a ton of overhead in this industry, and we are trying to sustain the appropriate rate with our customers,” she said. To support this, the company continues to let its stellar work speak for itself, revealing customers always get what they pay for.
Balancing work during times of both feast and famine can also be a struggle. Ensuring drivers have enough work no matter the time of year can be hard, depending on the workload coming in.
It’s also challenging to pave in the rain.
Challenges Bring Out the Best
Looker says the best part of her job is that the company gets to do something different almost every day, so it’s hard to pick something she’s particularly proud of. One specific point of pride is the fact she has participated in the improvements being made on I-5, I-90, and Highway 18.
Looker has never been one to shy away from a challenge. She doesn’t like to stay in her comfort zone and enjoys getting out and learning new things. Her advice to others is to be proud of what your company can accomplish. When you are, she believes, your work will reflect that mentality in the service you provide, leading to increased customer loyalty.
“Stand behind what you have to offer, provide the best service you can, and be loyal to those who are loyal to you."