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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Taking a different route to transportation success

Sunday, January 15, 2006

(Photo)
Howard Parker, operations manager, checks on the location of the trucks.
BENTON - Goods shipped by the Benton-based trucking company Ohio Pacific Express crisscross the country sometimes without even a driver.

Ohio Pacific Express is the first company in the area to combine its shipping efforts, using rail and truck, according to Howard Parker, operations manager for the company.

Established in 1977, the main terminal is located at 2618 County Road 401, just visible from Interstate 55 at the Benton exit. Today the company, owned by Kenny McCormack of Cape Girardeau, includes 42 trucks along with 53 trailers which are used to ship produce from the West Coast to the Midwest and dry goods and frozen foods from the Midwest back to the West Coast.

"The trucking industry is evolving tremendously," said Parker. He added by concentrating on intermodal transportation, Ohio Pacific Express has surged ahead of many competitors.

Packed into an Ohio Pacific Express trailer, the items are trucked to rail terminals in Arkansas or Illinois in the Midwest and to California terminals on the West Coast where the trailer is removed and stacked onto a rail car. From there it crosses the country where another Ohio Pacific driver will pick up the load and deliver it to the customer.

While in the past the rail and trucking industries competed for business, Parker said integrating the modes enhances the economic performance by using the most productive manner of transportation. In the end, it is the customer and the consumer who benefit.

By using the most efficient methods of transportation, such as depending on rail for long distances, then providing the local delivery, the trucking company is able to offer customers a better rate, Parker said. "We keep the costs down," he said, adding in turn companies can provide better prices to their customers.

Technology has enabled the company to make changes, Parker explained. Tracking devices are attached to trucks and trailers letting Ohio Pacific keep tabs on every delivery. The devices even sound alarms if, for example, a refrigerated unit begins to deviate its temperature.

The tracking system will soon allow the staff to dispatch and deal with problems inside and outside the office. "If there is any problem we can immediately take care of it. We will know 24-7 if there are any problems or will be able to get a status update," said Parker.

The drivers have e-mail capabilities inside their trucks. It is a technology advance that drivers enjoy because they can keep in touch with the office as well as their families and even from truck to truck. For the company it allows them to provide information on everything from directions to route changes to billing.

"I don't see how we could function without it," said Parker about the new technology. "It would be hard, really hard."

Combining shipping methods have prompted questions, Parker admitted. Some people worried it could put workers out of jobs by shipping with rail. On the contrary, he continued, it keeps drivers working and working more efficiently.

Currently Ohio Pacific Express has some 65 employees but Parker added he foresees continued growth to meet customer demand. And there is a demand, according to Parker the company is already shipping for many major companies as well as smaller firms.

Service is considered essential not only to the customers, but to its employees. Parker explained the management at Ohio Pacific Express strives to remedy concerns and problems whether it is a call from a shipper or one of the drivers of a OPX truck.

As for the future, Parker predicts continued growth at OPX. "Our goal is to grow not only our fleet but our intermodal business," said Parker. "Our two-

year goal is to be up to 75 trucks and trailers and another 50 rail trailers."

And in the near future, Ohio Pacific Express is adding a Web site, which should be available this spring. In the meantime, the company can be reached at 1-800-325-8387.

"OPX will be around a long time to continue serving the Heartland," Parker said. "We are working hard internally to improve not only how our business operates but how the industry operates."