Milestone Chassis Doug Hoehn Headshot

Meet Doug Hoehn

Meet Your Milestone

When Doug Hoehn joined Milestone in 2014, he was tasked with the duty of creating the company’s new Chassis division. In a short period of time and under his leadership, Milestone Chassis has grown to 7,000 chassis strong – all brand new, modern and premium – in 29 locations across the US.

The industry veteran (his career spans over 30 years in transportation) shares the most important ingredients in building a team, the biggest challenge facing the industry, and what accomplishments make him proud.

Professional Background

Tell us about your responsibilities as Executive Vice President of Chassis & Managed Assets at Milestone.

I’ve been involved in the startup for the Milestone Chassis business – the newest of the three product lines. In addition to staffing the organization, I’m responsible for sales, marketing and operations, as well as overseeing some of the operational responsibilities for our intermodal trailer and container business.

Beyond the Chassis group being responsible for managing and procuring our chassis and sites, they manage our peak program and ensure the delivery of trailers and containers. We run about 12,000 trailers for customers during peak season, as well as 3,000 domestic containers. Following peak season, we are responsible for storing the trailers during the year, making sure they are maintained, and then preparing them again to go out on the road for the next peak season.

Growth

You and your team built the Chassis division of Milestone. There’s been a lot of growth in this area of the company since its founding in 2015. What was involved in its creation?

It involved developing a strategy to implementing that strategy and putting inventory in 29 locations across the US. The fleet today is almost 7,000 chassis, all brand new, modern and premium, available for daily rentals, short term rentals and long-term lease.

There’s a lot of discussion around new vs. refurbished chassis. Why is this so important?

At the end of the day, a refurbished chassis is still an old chassis. I think of it this way – you can bring in a beat-up car to someone, get the dings hammered out, give it a nice paint job, and make it look shiny and new. But the reality is, it might still be falling apart on the inside. With an existing chassis, you can do the same thing, give it a paint job and put some new tires on, maybe replace some of the mechanical things like give it new brakes – which may or may not have ABS – maybe replace the lighting to bring that up to spec. And this is what a refurbished chassis is – it may look good on the outside but you really don’t know how reliable it will be when the rubber meets the road.

With a refurbished chassis, compared to new, your overall operating expenses will still be higher than a new piece of equipment, and it still lacks modern technology that we would insist be installed on our own personal vehicles. Over time, a new chassis will be cheaper to operate.

Leadership

Let’s talk about leadership. You’ve build a lot of teams over your career. What’s key in creating good synergy?

When you’re developing a team, of course you must recognize that everybody has different responsibilities, different skills and varying levels of training. Part of our job as leaders is to develop that team to be well-rounded and to grow together. One thing our team here in Burr Ridge (Illinois) will say, is that they all work hard and they play hard, and they do it together. I’m proud that we’ve nurtured that kind of culture.

Give us a recent example of your team working together and accomplishing a goal.

Getting all this equipment ready for peak season was top priority for a long time. The team worked tirelessly and around the clock. They found new vendors and managed and improved the process so we had the entire fleet ready. The deadline was Oct 1. But the team got everything ready by Sept 1. We were one month ahead of schedule. And that was possible because of the team working and delivering it together.

Goals

What achievements are you most proud of?

From a business standpoint, I’m proud of what we have built over the past two years. We took an established brand in the intermodal and over-the-road trailer business and added a third product line. On top of that, we also created an entirely new branding for Milestone.

On a personal level, I have two daughters and a son and I’m very proud of my family. I’m also proud of being a doting grandfather to 1 ½ year-old twin grandchildren.

Any goals for the coming year?

Yes, a personal goal: to get my golf score lower than my bowling score!

Separating Milestone From The Rest

One of the things that sets Milestone apart from the competition is its approach to customer service. How do you keep customer service personalized while also growing as a company?

One of the things we emphasize with our employees is that everyone who picks up the phone and talks to the customer is a sales person. There are all these adages about how it’s easier to lose one person as a customer than it is to gain that person as customer. Our team is always looking for new and innovative ways to help a customer. We genuinely want to provide flexibility. We pride ourselves in tailoring our solutions to provide a better product for our customers.

Challenges

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?

The biggest challenge for the chassis industry is the overall age and condition of the existing chassis fleet in the North American market today.

How is Milestone addressing those challenges?

It’s because of this challenge that we have invested in new equipment. The reality is, there is a very large portion of the fleet that operates that is old and outdated and needs to be replaced.

Why Milestone?

What do you like best about your job?

There is no single day that’s the same. Every day presents new challenges. I’m constantly working with people to develop new solutions. I travel tirelessly. I’m always on the road. I’m very rarely in the office. Some people might think this would be a negative, but I enjoy the people I meet along the way. People in the transportation industry are a pleasure to work with. Intermodal is truly multiple modes of transportation and providers, all working together to provide a service. It requires a lot of coordination across divisions and with people all around the world. It’s a very satisfying line of work.

 

 

 

Milestone FEMA Blog Post Featured Image

All Hands On Deck – Contributing to Hurricane Disaster Relief

Hurricane Season 2017

As hurricanes were making landfall in Texas and the Florida Keys, Sarah Johnson’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Disaster relief preparations were in motion and Milestone would play a crucial role in getting emergency goods to shelters and relief centers across the Southern US and the Eastern Seaboard.

“It was a mad scramble, but everybody was on deck to help,” says Johnson, Executive Vice President of Highway Operations. “Whether it was making phone calls around the clock, getting employees out in the field or giving up weekends and nights to make sure customers could access equipment – everyone played a crucial role in making all this happen. Which was pretty awesome. “

The Milestone team worked with carriers hauling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy hundreds of trailers across the country (San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta, Tulsa, Memphis and York, Pennsylvania) to help deliver bottled water and other emergency supplies to evacuees.

In total, Milestone moved some 400 trailers in support of FEMA-related hurricane relief, which was one of the largest in scale the company participated in. Milestone is committed to serving communities around the nation, especially in times of extreme circumstances. This year’s hurricane season proved to be a true test for how local communities, states and the nation would come together to combat Mother Nature. Milestone is honored to have worked with FEMA to provide aid in the areas most affected and will continue to strive to be an industry leader in volunteering efforts.

Milestone Women In Trucking Recap Featured Image

Women in Trucking – Accelerate! Conference & Expo Recap

Women in Trucking

Women from all facets of the transportation and logistics industry gathered together for the Accelerate! Conference & Expo hosted by Women in Trucking. Held November 6th to 8th in Kansas City, Missouri, this year’s conference focused on how gender diversity can have a positive impact on a woman’s career and her company’s success.

The event, which also celebrated Women in Trucking’s 10th anniversary, drew more than 500 attendees from across the country. This made it the largest group ever for the organization.

“What a wonderful opportunity to gather with likeminded peers to discuss critical transportation issues and trends,” says Milestone Trailer Leasing Division Sales Executive Karen Novak, who attended the conference with Sarah Johnson, Executive Vice President of Highway Operations. “We were grateful to attend and represent the Milestone team.”

Accelerate! Conference & Expo

The three-day conference featured 30+ educational sessions. Topics ranged from speed mentoring and improving early stage driver turnover to creating happiness in the workplace and defining successful leadership. Attendees also had an opportunity to choose from four educational tracks: Leadership, Human Resources, Operations and Sales & Marketing.

The opening keynote address was given by author, screenwriter and attorney Valerie Alexander. Her presentation, “How Women Can Succeed in Trucking (Despite Having Female Brains),” examined a woman’s experience in the industry. It also provided practical tips on how to compete on a playing field designed by men.

Presentations

“Valerie is a dynamic speaker who dove into the basic reasons why women are great multitaskers, organizers and how we can take on multiple challenges,” says Novak. “Her presentation centered around ways women hold themselves back in the workplace and how to overcome that thought process.”

Novak herself participated as a sales coach/mentor and discussed her sales history followed by an informative Q&A. Topics discussed in her presentation included how to position yourself to grow with your company, recognizing when options for growth may not come in your current employment, and “must do’s” to promote yourself for higher opportunities (ex: dress, speak and behave professionally; know your topic better than anyone else in the room; take on projects that you can positively affect).

Conference Sessions

Some of the conference’s 30+ sessions offered included:

  • Steps Women Take to Become Successful Business Leaders
  • Best Practices in Female Driver Recruiting
  • Succeeding in a Male Dominated Industry
  • A Truck Tour (four different tractors were available to tour with a manufacturing rep available to discuss new innovations)
  • Elevating Your Game Through Personal Transformation
  • Tips to Eating Healthy on the Road

Several daily opportunities to network were available, including visiting vendor booths. Some vendors represented were:

In addition to the sessions, there were multiple speakers, networking lunches and evening receptions. The conference closed with drawings for vendor-provided prizes, the Woman of the Year Award (presented to Daphne Jefferson, Deputy Administrator, US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and a final presentation by Valerie Alexander.

Mission of Women in Trucking

Founded in 2007 to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, Women in Trucking is a non-profit organization that works to educate and raise awareness for women’s issues. This includes promoting career opportunities, improving working conditions for women, increasing the number of women drivers, as well as serving as a resource about women working in the transportation and logistics industry.

“In just a few short years, Women in Trucking has made significant strides for women nationwide,” says Sarah Johnson. “It’s great to see the organization grow and continue to support women’s endeavors in this exciting industry.”

Photo courtesy of Women in Trucking

 

 

 

Milestone Trailer Leasing Sean Ellison

Meet Sean Ellison

Traveling across the country and having an opportunity network and meet great individuals along the way. This is what Sean Ellison says is the best part of his job as Vice President of Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing.

For two weeks of every month, Ellison visits Milestone’s various branches in the company’s national network – consisting of 25+ locations in the US, spanning from the Eastern Seaboard to the West Coast. A member of the Milestone leadership team since 2008, Ellison shares about his typical day, his proudest accomplishments, and what elevates good customer service to the “great.”

Day-to-Day

Tell us about your responsibilities as Vice President of Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing. What does your typical day look like?

A typical day consists of managing our branch network. I oversee/assist with the buying and selling of equipment, coordinating deal fulfillment, and satisfying customer needs across our national network. I also manage the day-to-day personnel of operations out in the field. The great thing is that no day is the same.

When does your day start and when does it end?

My day starts the moment the alarm clock buzzes and goes until I sleep. Customers in the transportation industry have needs that are 24 hours a day. Assistance is needed around the clock. Our operations people are fielding requests at all hours of the day and our team is always there to help them when in a bind.

Core Competencies

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am most proud of assisting and developing our branch network. We started out really small and now we’re capable of serving transportation needs of all sizes all over the country. I’m also very proud of the culture that we’ve established, and the personnel that we’ve built. Our customers will get same service in York, Pennsylvania as they would in Los Angeles. I’m proud of that cohesiveness.

What are your thoughts about leadership? What’s key in building good teams?

It happens with extensive amounts of one-on-one time. When we’re onboarding our employees, we spend a lot of time with them at our branches. We go over best practices and best ways in interacting with our customers. That kind of training takes a lot of time and energy. We are intentional about educating them on the way that we develop services and a lot of that comes from other employees who have been in this industry for a long time.

What is the key to customer service? What separates the good from the great?

The “great” is empowering individuals at branches to make the best decision for their customer quickly and effectively. And giving them the tools to do that. Not having to tell customer, “I’ll have to get back to you with an answer,” and instead allowing our employees to have the flexibility to provide on-the-spot answers and having the confidence to do that.

Challenges

What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today?

The trend toward e-commerce and just-in-time deliveries. The need for everyone to have everything done yesterday. This all leads to the challenge of tying together the right equipment, in the right place, at the right time. But there’s a whole other piece to it – the logistics piece, the moving of product, getting trailers and fixing trailers. There’s the physical part, the “moving of iron,” and melding it with the technology part, that’s the challenge. It come down to meeting and balancing expectations.

How is Milestone addressing those challenges?

The best way to do it is by developing the best network – An excellent group of repair and delivery vendors and employees. Both in the field and at our head office. I’m confident that we have that in every network and that we set realistic expectations with our customers. I’m confident of the vendors that we’ve chosen to partner with. Our repair vendors provide the backbone to our capabilities.

What sets Milestone apart from the competition?

Having a vast network of experienced and knowledgeable transportation professionals who are empowered to make quick decisions benefits Milestone customers. It really comes down to the educated people in the field who can take our vision and our customers’ requests and put them into action.

Why Milestone?

What do you like best about your job?

I like the fact that technically it’s a big industry, but the country gets smaller and smaller with technology. Being able to network with people around the country is something I love. I get to travel around the country and meet with people. My favorite part is being well traveled and connecting with fantastic people along the way.

What is a great story about Milestone Trailer Leasing that you love to share?

I always enjoy sharing Milestone’s history. The original founders and how they came together from across the country to create the basis of what we work with today. When knowing how we got here, it makes working towards those same goals, on a much larger scale, much more enjoyable.

 

Milestone Trailer Leasing - Peak Season

Staying Ahead of the Game During Peak Season

We are in the midst of peak season – the months of August through December. This is when customer sales explode, particularly as holiday product comes in on ocean containers. This requires trucks to transport merchandise to the box stores in time for holiday shopping.

Because of this surge, many shippers and trucking companies need to supplement their fleet with rental trailers to meet the demands of peak season. With trailer availability at the tightest point of the year, shippers can expect it to be difficult to fill their needs. Milestone plans ahead by making sure all trailers are ready to go as capacity gets tight during this time of year.

“We recommend planning ahead and letting us know what their anticipated needs will be,” says Lori Crider, Sales Manager at Milestone Trailer Leasing. “The earlier they are reserved, the better.”

Milestone’s mission is to provide transportation equipment under the most creative, cost effective and flexible structures to optimize the value of our customer’s supply chain. Consider the following checklist as the first step in fostering your demand during a busy peak season.

Peak Season Checklist

Milestone has your back. Below is your checklist to prepare for Peak Season:

Confidence During Peak Season

Your Surge in Business, Our Dedicated Capacity

  • Secure your trailers only as necessary to satisfy peak demand
  • Visibility into expenses allowing you to avoid unexpected costs

All of Your Transportation Needs – One-Stop Shop

  • Choose the Right Equipment: Over the Road (OTR) and Intermodal Equipment (trailers, containers, chassis)
  • Connect with Your Local Branch: Our Nationwide Network includes 25+ locations across the US, stretching from Las Vegas and Southern California to America’s Heartland and the South to the East Coast

Choose Your Customized Program

  • One or multiple years
  • Lease and rental
  • Expand or contract with business requirements
  • Maintenance, parking and delivery options
  • Flexible terms and options

Dry Vans – Milestone Means Unparalleled Accessibility and Service

 Scale of Dry Vans

Dry freight over-the-road domestic hauling is the most common type of freight transportation in the US., with over 65 percent of freight being moved by truck. At Milestone Trailer Leasing, our expanded trailer fleet features over 53,000 dry vans, flatbeds, specialized flat beds (single drops, double drops), reefers, local cartage vans, storage trailers and specialty equipment. Our extensive inventory of 53’, 48’, 45’ and 28’ trailers, coupled with unmatched personal attention is what makes us one of the nation’s leading trailer lessors.

“Our large-scale capabilities and excellence in customer service speak volumes about who we are,” says Lori Crider, Sales Manager at Milestone Trailer Leasing. “As the country’s second largest trailer lessor, we have the resources and equipment availability to provide what our customers need – but we also have that personal touch without being a too-large, slow-moving corporate machine.”

Personal Touch

We have a complete range of equipment to fit any application – factory direct new 2018s, mid-range model years for economical over-the-road use, and well-maintained older units for cartage and storage use. Our national network includes 25+ locations across the US, stretching from Las Vegas and Southern California to America’s Heartland and the South to the East Coast. Our customers benefit from equal access to trailer inventory all around the country as well as open architecture agreements and flexible lease options.

This means answers to peak capacity problems and door-to-door solutions to empower our customers for the long haul, last mile and everything in between.

Capabilities

Whether shipping foods and beverages, textile and clothing items, industrial goods and automotive parts, or plastic and building products, we know our customers. Milestone asks the right questions is at the heart of providing world-class service.

“Our customers have specific needs, particularly around the specs of a trailer,” says Crider. “They might need a smooth-sided interior, an aluminum roof versus a translucent roof; or they could be loading at night; they might need a swing door versus a roll door. It’s all about customization and personalization of the equipment.”

Milestone is There for the Long Haul & Last Mile

While the growing strength of e-commerce has been putting pressure on the transportation industry, Milestone Trailer Leasing is committed to keeping pace with the changing market.

We are committed to partnering with customers to search for more efficient ways of leasing dry van trailers. We can look at a dedicated trailer pool, a minimum quantity capacity guarantee, or any customized trailer solution that allows flexibility in day-to-day business. While the industry continues to shift toward major growth in e-commerce, Milestone is committed to supporting the companies operating in that space and building a rental or lease package to match.

“Milestone can provide new trailers that are reliable on the road in the long-haul application,” says Sarah Johnson, Executive Vice President of Branch Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing. “Our network of dedicated trailer vendors and after hours service providers gives assurance that we can provide maintenance support 24/7. We are dedicated to keep you moving and on time.”

The long-haul freight model has changed dramatically over the past several years. For example, the size of driver pools has not kept up with the rise in freight volume. Isolation and long periods away from home associated with long distance trucking is often a deterrent for a new generation of drivers. Experts watching these trends predict truck fleets will adopt short-haul, regional and “last mile” routes – taking advantage of port expansions on the Gulf Coast to get drivers home sooner while also effectively managing freight deliveries.

Milestone recognizes this is where Last Mile deliveries, when a package makes the final leg of its journey to the customer’s requested location, make that critical difference. We understand and do everything we can to find ways to get our customer’s goods where they need to go in the shortest amount of time possible.

“Milestone is supporting the wider transportation network; from manufacturer, to warehouse, to fulfillment center, making sure the last mile delivery works more quickly,” says Johnson. “We are open to understanding the last mile and the technological enhancements that may be on the horizon, such as drones or ground-based delivery bots and we remain committed to supporting the process and making it more efficient.”

Why CARB Compliance is Important

At Milestone Trailer Leasing, we believe saving money and protecting the environment don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Ensuring our trailers meet stringent emission standards not only reduces our carbon footprint, it is beneficial to our customers’ bottom line.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the “clean air” agency in the state of California that regulates emissions standards. The term “CARB compliant” means that a product meets these requirements, which are the most rigorous in the country.

“Meeting CARB compliance is very important – it’s fuel efficient, it’s green and ultimately it’s good for business,” says Jason Pahules, Regional Sales Manager at Milestone Trailer Leasing. “Not getting on board is only going to limit you.”

In order to meet emissions standards, our dry vans are fitted with aerodynamic equipment compliant with all current regulations. Depending on our customers’ needs, we will fit our trailers with equipment including side skirts, spoilers fitted behind the back doors, and two panels on either side of a trailer; fitted across the top. Depending on the configuration, these systems can deliver 5 to 10 percent more fuel efficiency.

Reefers are fitted with state-of-the-art technology, known as forever filters.

“This is new technology that won’t have to be continually updated,” says Pahules. “It will make the refrigerated unit be Carb compliant forever.”

California is the leader in green and is paving the way for the rest of the country. Transportation companies are following suit and accepting that this is the direction the majority of the country is moving, and it’s important to drivers, too. As the regulatory environment regarding emissions standards become increasingly stringent, going green will become more important to our customers – even to those who don’t currently travel into or throughout California.

Milestone is proud to deliver these value-added services for our customers in today’s market.