MACO Transportation had three trucks when it started three years ago, then it got 15 more, and now it has more than 40.
Any member of the Greater Memphis Chamber can graph that trend line in their head. It shows a steady growth trajectory heading in the right direction. It shows a young company finding opportunities, delivering on promises, investing in the business, and, well, growing. To many business folks, it’s called the American Dream.
Randall Massey and his partner (and brother-in-law) Steve Coleman founded MACO after a stint as fleet owners in their former company, Freightmaster. They were basically hauling freight for other companies but began to get more business and then started MACO, a name created from the first two letters of Massey and Coleman.
Massey was in the restaurant business for a long time but got in on the ground floor of a trucking company owned by a friend. And by “ground,” Massey means “ground.”
“I was pushing boxes and pulling orders and doing grunt work,” Massey said. “I started from the ground up, just looking for an opportunity. I ended up doing sales and operations and all those things before starting my own company.”
It wasn’t a major logical leap. Starting a transportation company in Memphis makes as much sense as starting a tech business in Silicon Valley. We know how to move things and we have the access to do it: runways, river, rail and, of course, roads.
If you want to get a handle on just how big the trucking industry is in Memphis, go sit by the “America’s Distribution Center” sign on Lamar Avenue and count trucks. That’s the advice of John Hudson, manager of MACO Transportation, the Memphis trucking company.
“You’d be in the hundreds of trucks within an hour,” Hudson said. “That tells you how big the market is. It really dwarfs the number of airplanes coming in here or the number of barges going by.”
Research from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) claims nearly 70 percent of the country’s domestic freight was moved by trucks in 2014. Trucking companies hauled nearly 10 billion tons of freight that year yielding revenue of more than $700 billion.
Interstate 40 connects the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and it runs right through Memphis. The stretch of I-40 between Memphis and Little Rock is the third busiest trucking corridor in the country, according to Chamber research. Interstate 55 is the country’s primary north/south corridor for the Midwest and it runs right through Memphis.
The future of road transportation looks great here, too. Interstate 69 will soon stretch from Mexico to Canada and Memphis will be right in the middle of it. Also, Memphis will soon be the starting point of the new Interstate 22 corridor that will make a straight shot from here to Birmingham and Atlanta.
“From Memphis, you can reach a larger amount of the country’s population within two days,” Massey said. “That makes Memphis a great spot for transportation.”
But the industry does have its challenges, including a shortage of qualified drivers. The average age of drivers now is about 55, according to ATA. Many of them are planning to retire soon and there’s not a waiting pipeline of younger drivers to take their place.
“This isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem too,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello said. “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired.”
The Chamber is working to stay ahead of this problem by partnering with the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW) to create a Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) Sector Talent Council to focus on recruiting, training and retaining entry-level and skilled positions in this industry.
The Chamber has gathered five of the leading transportation companies in Memphis for this Council to help direct training outcomes, define the length of training, establish certifications and coordinate candidate referrals to company recruitment. The CDL Council will also work to attract youth, veterans, career changers and other populations into the targeted occupations.
Massey says most of MACO’s drivers are home every night, a powerful tool in their recruitment efforts. But the overall growth of the company depends on qualified drivers.
“It’s a back and forth,” Massey says. “You get enough drivers and then you need to book more freight to support them. But you can’t haul anything if you don’t have a good driver in the seat.”
Massey said he and his partner recently decided they wanted to be more active in the Memphis community, and “the Chamber is a perfect place to start.”
“We know the Chamber will add value to our business through networking and information,” Massey said. “We also hope to add value to the Chamber and give back to our community.”
This article was originally featured in the Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to view the entire magazine.
Story by: Toby Sells
Photo by: Troy Glasgow