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Stallion Transportation bucks industry. (Trucking).

UNEASY ECONOMIC TIMES may have knocked a few Arkansas trucking firms into the ditch or at least sideswiped their revenue.

But Stallion Transportation Group of Beebe, which will soon have its 11th birthday, has stayed between the white lines.

Privately-held STG is led by president and founder Garland E. "Butch" Rice includes Stallion Enterprises Inc., Stallion Express Inc. and Stallion Logistics. After posting revenue of $15 million in 2001, STG hit $18 million in 2002, due to a combination of improved operating procedures, a longtime commitment to keeping costs low and low insurance rates resulting from an aggressive policy of targeting lower-risk loads that have fewer damage or theft claims.

Rice said the company is on pace to have yet another revenue gain in 2003, and the fleet will have a sizable expansion in the coming weeks.

"In the last three years, trucking is in a whole new era," Rice said. "More companies have gone out of business in the last three years than any other three-year period ... but we've been very blessed, very fortunate to have sustained growth, even in the last three years."

STG, which has 22 employees in the office, owns five of its own tucks and contacts with another 65 independent owner-operated tucks. Truck-load carriers typically own about 20 percent of their own tucks. The company plans to invest roughly $1 million in the coming weeks to buy eight to 10 new trucks at about $100,000 a piece. Other recent purchases brought the company's stock of trailers to 110.

Such an investment may be an indicator of better economic news.

"Trucking in general is a pretty good barometer of what's going in the economy," said Robert Young III, chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association board and CEO of Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith. "Whether the economy is up or down, it's evident pretty quickly in transportation."

Jeffrey A. Holt, Stallion's vice president and controller, said at least six new customers have been picked up in the last couple of months.

"I hope it's sustained," Holt said. "I think it's improved a little bit. You just cross your fingers and hope it's not a blip. Whether it's good news or bad news, we're on the front end of it."

Rice said the company caters to customers who "want that personalized service and a carrier that knows their product. We go on site and learn their product -- we just don't haul it.

Stallion customers include Cooper Tire, General Electric, Cabot Corp. and International Paper, Rice said.

Holt said the company focuses on healthy corporate customers -- with contacts unlikely to dry up due to bankruptcy or shuttering -- and on low-risk products, such as auto parts, hydraulic equipment, metal castings and paper products unlikely to break or lure thieves. Rice said that helped drive insurance premiums down 10 percent from last year, while many trucking firms have seen 40-60 percent increases.

Loss of competitors has also played a role in revenue gains, as untold numbers of small tucking companies across the country have gone belly-up, Young said.

"A lot of trucks have been lost in the area," Holt said, noting that as industry. capacity wanes, individual companies can still see gains.

Young said hundreds of trucking companies across the country went out of business in the last few years.

About 75 percent of STG's contact truckers have been with the firm at least three years, Rice said.

Under the STG umbrella, Stallion Logistics offers transportation management services, while Stallion Enterprises offers third-party logistics -- essentially brokering shipments with other carriers that STG can't handle. Trucking operations fall under Stallion Express.

After starting in the tucking business years ago cleaning tucks, Rice said his biggest challenge upon forming the company was embracing a less active role.

"My biggest challenge has been going from employee to owner," Rice said. "Taking myself out of the day-to-day operations was big. For any owner, that's the biggest obstacle. But I've got good, competent people, and I trust their decision-making.

"I just try to keep it between the lines," Rice said.
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Author:Holcombe, Carl D.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jul 14, 2003
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