Carrier Profile: Titanium Transportation Group

Marilyn and Ted Daniel did not come from a trucking background. The vision they brought to their trucking venture came from other industries. Ted, a Chartered Accountant by Profession, has worked in financing and on corporate turnarounds. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and an Honours degree in Business Administration. Marilyn has an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto and she worked for the Attorney General for eight years.

Titanium Transportation Group started as a freight brokerage business in 2002 moving just 10 brokered loads in the first week. After about 2 years Titanium moved to larger quarters that included some warehousing. Wanting to expand the warehouse space, they purchased a straight truck to obtain some freight. Quickly realizing that a straight truck was not the direction they wanted to go, they bought five tractor trailers and hired a person with experience and a background in trucking, who is still with the company today.

In 2007, they partnered with the Zzen Group, a Toronto billionaire who continues to be their largest shareholder. “We needed the Zzen Group because we knew that banks were not going to help us grow by taking on any risk”, states Ted. He continued, “We needed a strong private equity partner who could help fund our growth”. At this point, Ted became the full time President and CEO at Titanium armed with about 25 power units and a plan to become a large trucking company.

In 2011, Titanium made its first acquisition: Flex-Mor Industries, a fleet twice the size of Titanium at that time. Marilyn stated, “We were unknown for the most part, so much so that drivers would tell me that they heard Flex-Mor had purchased Titanium. Flex-Mor was a really transformational acquisition,” said Marilyn. “It moved us from a little company to a much bigger company.”

In 2013 they made three more acquisitions and to date they have made a total of ten acquisitions.

Today they operate out of Bolton, Ontario with 430 power units comprised of 60% Company Drivers and 40% Owner Operators. Their headquarters span 72,000 sq. ft. with 58,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space. Titanium is one of Canada’s few, publicly traded transportation companies.

In 2005 Ted obtained his AZ licence so he could better understand what a driver experiences every day. He feels it gave him the perspective of how to improve a driver’s environment and he now knows and understands their core values. While it is not possible any longer to know every driver due to the size of the company and aggressive growth, Ted and Marilyn are still closely connected to the fleet through the team they’ve built around them. Everyone is rowing in the same direction; everyone with a vested interest.

Ted explained that he is modeling the company with the West Jet philosophy in mind wherein every employee is an owner of the company. They want the people inside the walls and the Drivers and the Owner Operators at Titanium to be part of the team for all the correct reasons. The Titanium culture is embedded in each terminal as well as an overall safety culture. Ted states, “In addition, our culture is based on our technology innovation which is part of my background. We demonstrated this through winning the TMW Innovation award in 2015”. An open-door policy ensures this will continue. Ted elaborates, “We have implemented a stock purchase plan and I believe it is the only one like it in the trucking industry. The plan is for everyone, including all Drivers and all Owner Operators to be owners. Other trucking companies have a similar plan for executives but we are determined that all who carry or wear the Titanium name can purchase stock. We match the purchase one for one on every Titanium stock that they purchase.

Marilyn adds “We want staff and drivers to be happy with the company logo on their shirt or their truck and my personal motto is: ‘we want you here if YOU want to be here.’ In this way, everyone has a vested interest in the company and in the company message which carries through in all of our recruiting. We want the message to be spread that we are growing, that we have above average pay, that we have the best people and that we want to have the best drivers”. Ted feels that the company has instilled a positive corporate culture that drivers appreciate.

One strong indicator that Titanium is on track with its goals is its annual turnover rate. As a publicly traded company, the published rate is 13% (2016). A huge variant from the norm when you consider the Canadian average turnover rate is somewhere between 40% and 80% per annum. Marilyn is well aware that drivers are in high demand. “The first thing I tell Drivers and Owner Operators is that Titanium has always been very driver-centric. We really try to make sure we remember where our business happens. It happens on the dock and I often tell drivers that we have high driver retention and a very low turnover rate for a reason. In most cases they like what they hear”.

There is a strong sense, in Ted’s mind, that there is a revolution now occurring in trucking. He references the ‘driver shortage’ that ‘never was’ that is now here! E-logs are here as well and by January, 2018 they will be 100% implemented at Titanium. Ted feels our industry is overdue for serious modernization and it is time for trucking companies to insist on being paid what they are worth; that shippers should want to deal with quality driver fleets and with fleets that invest in safety, equipment and training. He further states, “We will pay the money to have the best drivers and owner operators but the shippers need to take their part in this. If other fleets follow our lead, it can change the direction of trucking. Our industry does not need to be turned upside-down but it does need to get better”.

Ted also feels that since many drivers are now shareholders, they are sharing in the company’s success and its amazing culture. “Our low turnover is one indicator and it has also resulted in safer operations; in having the best administration technology which in turn produces better customer service and improved profitability”.

Other changes are in the wind. Titanium has just ordered five, all-electric Tesla Semi Trucks. Recently unveiled, the all-electric truck will reportedly possess a 500 mile range on a full charge, a 400 mile range in a 30 minute charging time, a better ability to maintain a high speed when traveling up a high grade than a diesel semi, and a “payback” period of just a few years.

Since Titanium has a world class lease program that does not include any mark up on the tractor or on maintenance, if a driver or owner operator stays with them, they will own their unit in short time. They receive a low interest rate and have a 5 or 6-year lease option on new trucks. Marilyn feels that, especially for younger drivers, it is a great way to plan for their future by owning their own truck and owning and keeping shares in the company. They help drivers work for today and plan for their future.

The future certainly looks bright for Titanium Transportation Group, Inc.