“We’ve gone into other areas like live-haul turkeys and putting trucks on with other freight companies. The software is very adaptable to anything we’re doing. We’re in a real financial crunch here with the BSE.”
Luckhart Transportation Ltd.
Sebringville, ON N0K 1X0, Canada
In the spring of 2003, Luckhart Transport Ltd. of Sebringville, Ontario was a successful trucking company specializing in hauling live cattle. Then disaster struck. In May 2003, the US/Canadian border was closed to the transport of live cattle, due to the BSE (mad cow) scare. Most people in this situation would be paralyzed by the shock of losing much of their business overnight. Not Doug Luckhart. As he says, “The best defense is a good offense.” We asked him about his Axon Software experience.
My names Doug Luckhart, I’m the Owner of Luckhart Transportation Ltd. located in Sebringville, ON.
Up to May of 2003, before the BSE, we were livestock haulers running approximately 25 tractor-trailers and five straight trucks. We have several Ontario yards and an office in Virden, Manitoba.
Usually, Thursday nights were our busiest nights in Ontario, cleaning up, getting the cattle out of the province by Friday. The Thursday night before BSE, we had our 25 trucks running and we had 18 other hired trucks helping us. The Thursday night after the border closed, we had nobody hired and we had nine trucks sitting at the fence. This is what we’ve had to come back from and of course we’re stuck with all of these specialized trailers and personnel to haul livestock and not freight. Like I said, that night we had 18 hired, so we were rocking – and then one phone call does it all.
The day the border closed, we lost $2.4 million in sales. For a small trucking company like us to take a hit like that.
It was almost like a gift from above — I’m not saying a gift, because I paid for it — but it was almost a direction. You know, your advertisement came in, and I remember I took all your propaganda up with me in July to the cottage.
I sat there on the dock and digested this thing and I was thinking, I’ve got to do something. We were clumsy in administration in the office, and I knew that. It was just at a time when, financially, I shouldn’t have been moving, but at a time where I needed to move, and it appears to me that it has been a good move.
We started with Axon Software on October 1st of 2003. Prior to that, we were running on AccPac. We had no dispatching software; everything was manual.
Well, I have to say money. To go a little in depth, it was at a time we shouldn’t have been spending the money, but we knew we had to do something with the border closing and we had to tighten up on our costs. So automation had to come into the picture to try to squeeze down our man-hours and our outside accounting time. The primary drive was dollars and cents. The automation and the simplicity was secondary for us.
In the first year, we were able to save $10,000 just on our outside accounting. Once we got the personnel trained in-house, we were able to save approximately three hours a week for each person in the office. We started October 1(that’s our fiscal year-end), and a year later our accounting fees were down $10,000.
I hate computers, okay? I go kicking and screaming into the 21st century. But I have people hired who have to learn to like them. And that’s just being honest. There was frustration in the first couple of months, just like anything new. It took a few months to get every little quirk out…whether it was the accounting, getting people trained. But I have to say that Danielle [Axon] has the patience of Job. The end result is that we get it done.
The support is excellent. Good response. I don’t hear a lot of complaints from my staff, and usually they’re in my face if they have a problem.
We’ve gone into other areas like live-haul turkeys and putting trucks on with other freight companies. The software is very adaptable to anything we’re doing. We’re in a real financial crunch here with the BSE. We had to think long and hard about spending the money on this program, but we believed in the long run it was going to save us money and we know we’re not going to get it on the income side so we’ve got to look on the expense side.
It’s like that old adage — the best defense is a good offense, and that’s where we went with this one. We were second-guessed by accounting and banks and stuff like that about spending the money, but I don’t hear these people chirping at me anymore so they must be satisfied.
At this point, we’re running with the same number of staff, but they’re running on less hours. We used to run about 50 hours a week for everyone, so we’d have 10 hours of overtime. So when we cut off three or four hours off of everybody here, that’s equivalent to six hours, because those were time and a half hours. And there’s seven of us in the office here. You know, it’s just been a good thing. There’s a savings there. Even with increased dollar sales and with increased time looking for loads and stuff, our office hours… our office dollar hours remain no higher or somewhat less.
I’ve had 5 of the 7 staff come in and say, ‘Yeah, this was a good move,’ and that wasn’t prompted. I’d have to say it has made very bad times bearable for us.
The experience with Axon has been great. The people are friendly; we seem to hit it off, Axon seems to be a very personable company. Our company is a family business for the last 54 years. I was probably the most negative person, even though I ordered the program; but you have to understand, I hate computers. I’d have to say that within six or eight months though, I was sold and away we go.
I think any problems we’ve had with the system, with the attitude of our company and your company, we always get through them. We might have frustrating moments, but not for long periods of time. We’re demanding, we want things to be the way we want them, and you guys do bend over backwards. It’s like fine-tuning an automobile. If we change things, you have to still tune it, and you know, we’re tweaking it. I know my numbers were far better off by going this route, and once we get back to expanding, this software has the capabilities to grow with us, so that’s the key thing.