DanBraatzDan Braatz, President of FTI got his start in trucking as a summer job. He learned the business working in an LTL Teamster operation from the ground up, paying his dues as he studied and graduated from the University of Western Ontario. He entered trucking as a career just before deregulation and worked in dispatch, then sales and then as an LTL terminal manager. He worked at JB Hunt setting up their Canadian operation until they sent him to the US for several years. While in the US he also worked for Builders Transport and Schneider National and then returned to Canada in 2003 to work for FTI.

FTI currently has 220 Owner Operators out of Dundas, Ontario and 120 Owner Operators out of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. By strategic design, they have always been a 100% Owner Operator Company. The company has a long history of operating in both countries and Dan states that not many Canadian based trucking companies are experienced at operating in both markets. “We have the normal problems of fluctuating exchange rates and both markets can ebb and flow independently of each other. The company has a strong automotive focus and serves the heavy haul world with open deck work on farm implements and steel which helps diversify the company’s market penetration,” says Dan. He went on to say that the company was formed in 1928 and for the majority of its history has been a privately owned, family business. But that has recently changed. Dan explains, “Part of my job is to be aware of opportunities so when I was approached in 2013 about selling the company at a meeting in the USA, I told the person who approached me that the company had never been for sale so any proposal would have to be the right deal for all concerned. I agreed to an introductory discussion with HCI Equity Partners, a mid-cap private equity firm based out of Minneapolis, MN. After discussion, I felt the fit might work and took it to my owners/shareholders for consideration. What they saw was a company with strong management that was going to look after all FTI associates – which is exactly what the former FTI shareholders wanted so the deal got done. HCI owns 100% of the company and FTI is part of six other trucking interests that HCI has ownership in; the other five are USA based.”

The buying group FTI participates in is comprised of over 2,000 power units and all the Presidents meet annually to share synergies, market applications and best practices. Everyone in the group believes that their future strength is to stay close to their customer base and to their Owner Operators. All decisions at FTI are supported with real time data – managing revenue, costs and the bottom line so that they can support every Owner Operator. “At FTI, we look at every Owner Operator’s bottom line and we host business improvement meetings to help our Owner Operators to be better business people”. Dan continued, “We need to manage safety & risk management and we tie in profit sharing. When an Owner Operator is hired, we place $1,500.00 in a gain share account and they get it back at the end of the year if they have received no CSA points and have had an accident free year. Each year they are with us, we increase the amount by $150.00 and currently, some of our Owner Operators are receiving $7,500.00 per annum from this safety and longevity gain share account”.

FTI has an annual turnover of 35% (consider that in the USA the current published turnover rate is 102%) and this can be attributed to the fact that they are a 100% Owner Operator company plus their strong lease purchase program which they have always had. FTI will assist selected applicants to get into their own tractor and become an owner operator for no money down. They currently have many Owner Operators who have been with them for over 25 years and are now working on their 3rd leased purchased truck. 100% of the USA operators are currently using electronic logs and by year end, 100% of the Canadian fleet will too. “FTI has a strong safety culture and some of FTI’s Owner Operators have chosen on their own to test forward facing cameras as they buy into and delve deeper into our shared safety culture. Technology will continue to be a major component of a strong and effective safety culture” says Dan.

FTI will continue to grow its Owner Operator and lease operator fleet. They are growing their dedicated solutions business by becoming the exclusive carrier for companies that currently use their own private fleet. This gives the private fleet the benefit of lower costs and FTI does a better job for them looking after their freight business. They are also growing their 3rd party logistics business in both Canada and the USA. They have a yard in Laredo, Texas right on the Rio Grande where freight comes in from Mexico, is sorted and forwarded. FTI plans to expand this part of their business. And they recently opened an office in Kingston, Ontario.

Dan believes the future of our industry is resilient but that it will continually surprise us, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not. Dan lives with his wife Marjorie in London, Ontario and they have four children, ages 21 to 29. His number one hobby is playing harmonica and singing in the award winning blues band NoBones – he and his band mates are currently writing and producing a new album. He concludes, “I’m enthusiastic and excited about the future. I plan to remain here and hands-on with FTI!”