The Independent Truck Leasing Company is Alive and Well

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By becoming affiliates of the NationaLease organization, two independent truck leasing companies have thrived in a highly competitive marketplace. Executives of each company explain how a strong reciprocal service network, group purchasing power, and a vibrant National Accounts program have enabled them to stay neck and neck with much larger companies. Both agree that their customers like the responsiveness and personalized service of a locally owned business.

Membership in NationaLease gives independent truck leasing businesses the resources to compete with the majors.

Despite the trend towards consolidation and acquisition in the trucking industry which has accelerated in recent years, an organization of independently owned truck leasing companies is proving that it’s still very possible to stay autonomous and remain competitive with the major players operating today.

“Membership in NationaLease gives independent truck leasing businesses the resources to compete with the majors,” said Gene Scoggins, President of NationaLease, an organization of 175 U.S. and Canadian businesses with a combined customer fleet of 125,000 tractors, trucks, and trailers. “Even with the battering our industry has taken lately, our membership has remained fairly steady. Their customers still recognize that dealing with a locally owned business provides them with an extra level of service that’s not possible when dealing with much bigger companies.”

As it approaches its 68th anniversary, NationaLease continues to thrive, with the recent addition of three new affiliates in the last few months. The organization collectively operates more than 600 service locations throughout North America, employing 22,000 people. Its membership roster shows companies that have been with the organization for as long as 66 years and others for less than a year, with the average length of membership at 16 years. Likewise, a wide range of fleet count is reported, from as low as five Class 3-8 trucks to a high of 3,000 power units. The average fleet size at present is 400 vehicles.

Customers of NationaLease members are private fleets and other transportation service providers from a wide range of industries. Services offered by a typical member include long-term and short-term full-service leasing, contract maintenance, and dedicated contract carriage. Many offer daily and weekly rentals. “Customers turn to our members because they want to be able to concentrate on their core business and be free of the time-consuming and specialized tasks needed to run their own fleets,” Scoggins said.


Representatives of two member companies – one which is one of the oldest members of NationaLease and the other one of the newest – explain how the NationaLease business model has enabled their companies to compete in a tough marketplace.

Tom Brown, president of Brown NationaLease in Des Moines, IA founded nearly 70 years ago, leads a company with 1,200 to 1,400 trailers, 2,100 to 2,200 power units, and 20 locations in Iowa and adjoining states. Brown NationaLease is among the charter members of NationaLease when it as established in 1944 in Chicago. “I think the independents are here to stay. We have an excellent opportunity because there are many companies that don’t want to do business with mega-firms. They’d rather be very important to a smaller company than just one of many with a larger company,” Brown said. “Our customers want to be able to talk directly with the owner and not with a business where decisions are made 1,000 miles away. I give my customers my cell phone number and they know they can reach me nearly any time.”

Frank Molodecki is general manager of Diversified Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Member, based in Billings, MT, which became a full member of the organization in 2010. “Because NationaLease leasing companies are individually owned and customers are dealing with upper management, they know that things will get done a whole lot faster since we can be so much more responsive to their needs,” he said. “We hear complaints all the time that when dealing with big corporations, one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.” Diversified runs 90 tractors and 150 trailers.

Both executives point to three primary points of value to their membership in NationaLease: the reciprocal service network, the group purchasing power, and the strong National Accounts program. “Reciprocal service is the glue that holds the organization together,” Brown declared. “We pride ourselves, because we are independent businesspeople, in giving our fellow members exactly the level of service we’d want if we should break down outside our territory. It’s a system that’s very strong and works very well. We’ve had many customers come to us and say the NationaLease reciprocal service system works far better than any other system they’ve experienced.”

Molodecki couldn’t agree more. “One of your challenges as an independent is: what do you do in case of a breakdown? First, you want to get someone out in a timely fashion. Second, you want to know you’re dealing with a reputable facility, third you want to make sure the repairs are done in the most cost-effective way,” he said. “We are share a reciprocal insurance program and know in advance what our rates will be. It gives us tremendous peace of mind knowing we can pick up a phone at 2 o’clock in the morning and talk with a fellow member and know the work will be done.”

NationaLease, due to its relationship with AmeriQuest Transportation Services, can leverage the buying strength of more than 700,000 vehicles in the entire network, earning the same procurement savings as much larger transportation companies. The supply management program extends to 70 makers of thousands of fleet-related equipment, parts, and supplies. “Group purchasing has been a significant benefit in enhancing our bottom line and enabling us to become more competitive,” Brown said. “Since our membership gives us nationwide connections, we’re able to buy from and deal with vendors in a way that delivers substantial cost savings for Diversified,” Molodecki added.

In recent years, NationaLease has intensified its National Accounts program, which enables members to take on business from companies that have a national reach. “There was a time that if when one of our regional leasing customers was acquired by a larger company, we lost the relationship we had with the local entity. Now the National Accounts team not only allows us to maintain these relationships, they search out businesses with national companies for us. They make it possible for us to work with companies’ with headquarters 1,000 miles away,” said Brown, who twice served as chairman of the board of NationaLease. “We not have been able to not only retain business, but get new business we otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.” “The National Accounts program lets us bid for business far beyond our normal seven-state region,” Molodecki said.


Both executives agree that in addition to gaining access to the latest technology, an accounts payable automation system, and marketing, they see a less tangible – but equally valuable – benefit to their NationaLease membership: a free exchange of information among members. “Whether it’s exchanging experiences with maintenance or management issues, the members are very free and generous about sharing their knowledge,” Molodecki said. He noted that Montana was a test state for the CSA program. Diversified, as a result, was heavily involved in the program launch. “I was invited to share with fellow members all that we learned as a result of this at one recent NationaLease meeting,” he said. “Our affiliation with NationaLease has helped make our company the success it is today.”

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Elva Legere Clements
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