“Payroll is important. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re able to do in Axon, is use the system to properly pay the guys on time… You have to keep up, and make sure that the guys are paid correctly, on time, and in full. The Axon payroll system is definitely an asset for that.”
VP of Operations
Black’s Transfer Ltd
Saint John, NB E2R 1A3, Canada
Black’s Transfer Ltd. has been a familiar name in east coast trucking and logistics for over half a century. One of their impressive claims to fame is their driver retention, but it doesn’t stop there. We dropped in for a visit with Dale Black to chat about the secret to running a successful, long-lasting, and competitive trucking company.
My name is Dale Black. I am the VP of Operations at Black’s Transfer Ltd., from Saint John, New Brunswick.
We are a small fleet that my father started in 1964. He began this company with one truck and a dream. He drove for a long time and then the company started to get a little bit bigger. We got some trucks, some drivers, and really just went from there. We’ve had some difficult financial times, we’ve had some great times, we’ve won some terrific awards, and we’re very, very proud of what we’ve built here.
The port of Saint John is strong, with a couple of great shipping lines here. We are the primary trucking company for both MSC and CMA. We’ve been extremely proud of that partnership we’ve had for 55+ years. We are very happy with our little elite fleet.
We started with Axon in 2010. Prior to that, my father, who is a self-diagnosed dinosaur, used a coil notebook because coil notebooks never crash. He loved his coil notebook and did not like computers. When my sister and I came along and decided that the typewriter was not the most efficient way to put out invoicing… we just decided, okay, it’s time.
We did a little research, looked around. Axon seemed to fit our needs. The outreach was fantastic. We could always call and find somebody who could help us when we were first starting. We do all of our invoicing, payables, receivables, and payroll through Axon. We’ve had great luck with it.
I have not yet received information that hasn’t been correct. I haven’t yet talked to a person who hasn’t been able to say, “You know, I can help you, or if I can’t help you immediately, I can get back to you.” – and they always do. That’s nice.
I like the different modes of being able to contact them. You can call and get information right on the phone, or you can send a message through Axon Software and they can respond in that respect, so it’s very convenient.
Well, Axon certainly grew with us. At the time when we were doing invoicing on a typewriter, we could bill out maybe 20 invoices in a day, and as the company grew that pile also grew, of invoicing required to be done. The typewriters were not efficient. Now, I’ve put out 120 invoices in a day without even blinking an eye.
It’s very convenient. I love the copy-invoice idea, the orders, and everything. You really can’t mess it up, and we’ve tried. You can almost always fix the problem you had, and if you can’t, you can call. It works.
The payroll system, same thing. We were paying somebody to do our payroll for us, and since the Axon payroll system came in, it’s all done in-house. It’s easy to do, easy to understand.
When we started, we were mostly company drivers and we had a few brokers [owner-operators]. Now we’re half and half. I think the biggest thing with brokers is that we have a different pay scale, and Axon has been a huge asset for being able to put the orders in and isolate broker pay versus the company driver pay. We’re able to structure that. It’s very easy to understand and to do, and we’ve had no issues changing the company model from having mostly company drivers to half and half with brokers.
It certainly keeps us more organized, that’s for sure. Payroll was never an easy thing when we were doing it out of house. It has certainly helped and managed that. In this business it’s very hard to have driver retention, and we’re extremely fortunate, because we have a great group of guys. Some of them have been with us almost 30 years, a lot of them have been with us for over 10 years. That’s big.
Payroll is important. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re able to do in Axon, is use the system to properly pay the guys on time. We’re also one of the few companies around that still actually pays weekly. There’s a lot to it. You have to keep up, and make sure that the guys are paid correctly, on time, and in full. The Axon payroll system is definitely an asset for that.
I can prepare for invoicing and be ready. The bill of lading or PLD will come in, and my invoice is done and gone before the load is delivered. That’s big for us. It used to be that some of our invoices lagged by four or five days before we could get them out. Everything has changed with it. We can email now – we don’t mail like we used to. There are a lot of different things, and Axon fits in with all of those.
We have had some ups and downs with our management and staffing here in the office. Sickness, vacations, that sort of thing. It’s simple and easy to use and we are all cross-trained, so that has been a huge, huge help.
We had a lady who worked with us a while back, for a number of years, and then left. She came back a month and a half ago and picked up where she left off like she had not missed a day. She got back into the Axon system and said, “Oh yeah, I remember how to do this. This is good.” Within a day, without training, she was back working with it, even after two years of absence. It’s just an easy, good system. That’s testimony to how user-friendly it is.
Accurate billing is important. We do our payables and receivables in Axon and our customers like the ease with which they receive their invoices, and the invoices are nicely laid out. It gives you the option of writing your own story, so to speak. We have a very individual group of customers, and I can write up a very individual invoice for each of them. I think that the more information we give them, the better off we are. I have not heard anybody say anything except, “Your invoices are clear and concise and easy to understand.
I would say that Axon definitely did pay off. Certainly, within the first couple of years, for sure.
The reports are one of the easiest things I find with Axon. There literally hasn’t been a report yet that we haven’t been able to find through trial and error, or by calling up Axon support. Very, very simple.
We actually have quite a few people who ask what we use. We always tell people, “If you’re looking for something new to try, to see if it’s a good fit for your company, then you should give Axon a call.” They’re friendly and easy to talk to, helpful, and it’s worth a try.