RACINE — On a given day, an employee at ZMac Transportation can be found chipping plastic golf balls. Another can be found playing darts.
It’s not that business is slow. Quite the contrary, business is booming at the Downtown Racine-based company. But there are challenges facing the freight transport world and, along with that, employees have found little ways to cope with stress and increase revenue at the same time.
The company at 510 College Ave. has grown to about $25 million in annual revenue, an 80 percent increase since 2015, so far by growing within its industry niche of delivering oversize and flatbed loads. Delivering “overdimensional,” or OD, loads is a multi-billion-dollar industry annually, said Matt Ziegler, president, and Jeff McMahon, CEO, equal owners of ZMac.
OD freight includes large power generators and their enclosures, construction and agricultural equipment, brew tanks, liquid-storage tanks, silos, resold machinery and “anything from a boiler tank to a real tank,” McMahon has said. An estimated 15,000 dealers or manufacturers in North America move OD loads, he added.
ZMac has no trucks of its own — it subcontracts deliveries to smaller trucking companies.
“At our core, we’re a sales staff for small and mid-size carriers,” Ziegler explained. “Ninety-five percent of trucking companies are companies of no more than five trucks.”
Carriers of that size usually can’t afford a sales staff, McMahon has said, “So ZMac gets them the freight.” ZMac’s promise for every job is that it will have a truck within 48 hours.
In the transport industry, there are plenty of things that can happen outside of ZMac’s control. “It’s a very stressful business, whenever you’re counting on someone else to perform,” Ziegler said.
The hardest part of the business is: “Handling of stress due to issues that happen in transportation,” said ZMac Sales Manager John Miller, who has been with the company for five years.
But Ziegler said ZMac doesn’t pass on the cost of every setback to its clients; it only changes a quoted price when the customer changes the job, such as the destination.
“Our No. 1 rule,” he said, “is that getting a truck may not make money.” But for ZMac, keeping and adding new customers is more important than avoiding the occasional financial loss, Ziegler says.
ZMac tries to give its 47 employees many ways to cope with that workplace stress. For example, on Thursday afternoon in the company sales pit Carl Prough was chipping plastic golf balls at a net as he talked to a customer on a headset.
“He does that when it’s a long, stressful call,” McMahon explained.
All around the second- and third-floor ZMac offices are more ways of letting off steam or staying a bit entertained on the job. The TV monitor on one wall in the sales pit was showing the Golf Channel on Thursday, a toy basketball hoop hung on one door, a large basket of snacks sat on a corner table, and another table held pastry. Later, two employees played darts side by side on two electronic dart machines. Ziegler said the ZMac dart league just ended.
Miller remarked, “This company really wants you to succeed.”
New trucking regulation
Newly implemented federal regulations now require electronic logging of truckers’ hours on the road, and that’s going to mean mounting challenges at ZMac, Ziegler and McMahon said. Truckers who hit their maximum road time in another city will no longer be able to cheat on a paper log and drive home before another work day arrives (the drivers ZMac uses did not do that, Ziegler emphasizes).
Industry estimates are that will mean a production loss of 5 to 10 percent, Ziegler said. “It will be very difficult to find trucks,” he predicted.
Ziegler and McMahon are trying to grow their company by an all-out effort to add and train good salespeople. They want to add close to 50 this year and that would require 10 to 15 additional dispatch and support people. To help accomplish those goals, last month they hired in-house recruiter Stephanie Kuehl, who came from Nestle.
ZMac recently added as clients two large manufacturers, Ziegler said. That has the potential to double the company’s business, he said.
McMahon said ZMac’s growth will only be limited by the number of people it can hire.
“At our core, we’re a sales staff for small and mid-size carriers.” ZMac Transportation President Matt Ziegler