Leonard’s Express: NY fleet owner sets the record straight on safety

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When Ken Johnson read a commentary in a local newspaper titled, “A monster of a trucking problem,” he felt he had to respond. And, respond he did:

“I am disheartened that your newspaper would publish a commentary without checking so much as a single “fact” purported by someone who appears to have no expertise in the trucking industry. Nearly every generalization or statement made is contrary to actual, proven fact.” (Read Johnson’s entire response.)

As CEO of Leonard’s Express Inc. and Leonard’s Transportation Inc. in Farmington, NY southeast of Rochester, Johnson has more than a passing knowledge of what it takes to operate fleets successfully and do so within the rules.

Family-owned Leonard’s provides truckload, LTL, temperature-controlled and intermodal services from 20 offices throughout the U.S. It also has a presence on the docks of New York, New Jersey and Wilmington, Del. They make about 10,000 shipments a month, and will have about $160 million in revenues this year.

The Leonard’s fleet includes 250 tractors – a mix of Volvos and Internationals — and 600 trailers, including 150 temperature-controlled units. They also have six 24-foot straight trucks.

Director of Sales & Marketing Mike Riccio said the firm serves numerous grocery chains. He said Leonard’s also benefits from the recent boom in yogurt making firms concentrated in Upstate New York’s dairy country.

Leonard’s trucks travel routes in several regions:

  • Throughout the Northeast
  • Up and down the Eastern Seaboard
  • Across much of the Midwest from their location in Eau Claire, Wisc.
  • Cross-country from their facility in southern California

Riccio, who has worked for Leonard’s since he was 16 years old, said because of this regional diversity and various services offered, the firm’s 150 company drivers and 100 owner-operators have numerous opportunities.

While there are some options for dedicated line hauls between Farmington and New Jersey, most drivers travel about 2,100 miles a week and are home on weekends. Longer hauls – New York to Florida and back and those out of California – will often cross over weekends.

According to Johnson, here’s how Leonard’s company drivers are compensated:

“… we have several different mileage programs depending on regional or long haul.  We have a significant number of drivers on an hourly pay program, and the hourly rate varies from terminal to terminal.  Overall, our average driver earned just over $55,000 in 2013.  In addition we have a fairly generous health insurance program that includes dental.  We have a 401K program with a generous match and the drivers have paid vacation time starting at their first anniversary date. â€ś

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Johnson explains compensation for the owner-operators with which Leonard’s works:

“For owner-operators, we primarily pay 70 percent of the line if using our plate or 71 percent if using their own.  One hundred percent of the fuel surcharge is given to the truck owner.  We do have a small group (I would like it to be larger) of owner-operators based in Southern California that we pay $1.05 per mile plus 100 percent of the fuel surcharge.  This group requires teams with haz-mat endorsements.”

There also are discount fuel and fuel card programs, and the company provides liability and cargo insurance for owner-operators.

In his guest essay in the newspaper, Johnson summed up the importance of fleets like his and the men and women who work for it:

“Over 273,000 people are employed in trucking in New York State. I am proud to be included in these numbers, as the trucking industry is a vital part of our economy. Ninety percent of communities in New York rely on trucking exclusively to deliver the products they need. Our company and our industry take safety seriously. In the future, I hope that (the writer of the op/ed he responded to) adequately researches his commentaries prior to insulting so many hard working Americans.”