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Industry Insight: Defining the keys to success

By BCShippingNews 11 July 2018
Angie Kalhar, KTL Transport/Euro Asia Transload
Angie Kalhar, KTL Transport/Euro Asia Transload

The first thing that one notices when walking into the main office of Euro Asia Transload and KTL Transport is the many plaques and certificates that hang on the walls recognizing contributions and support for a range of initiatives, mostly focused on education and health for children. “Giving back to the community has always been important for us,” said Angie Kalhar, President of KTL Transport, who, along with her Father, CEO Tanjit Kalhar of Euro Asia Transload, demonstrate how success is a formula consisting of hard work, right place/right time, smarts and a healthy dose of a good attitude. Over the course of BC Shipping News’ interview with Angie, it becomes evident that the Kalhar family has found the perfect balance of these keys to success.

BCSN: Let’s start with some background on you, your family and the business.

AK:  KTL started in 1988, a few years after my Father immigrated to Canada from Punjab, India. Dad drove truck; Mom was the dispatcher; and I did some paperwork (I was about nine years old). We started the business at our kitchen table — it’s still a family joke that Mom didn’t see the top of her dining table for years given all of the paperwork stacked on it. 

I grew up in the industry and have always had an interest in it. On days off from school, I would ride in the truck with my Dad and help with deliveries. On weekends, we would go to flea markets to sell products that my Dad bought in bulk from importers.

Today, KTL has 215 trucks, 1,000 container chassis and moves over 100,000 containers annually (within the Port of Vancouver). Between the drivers, office staff, mechanics and forklift operators, we have a team of 350.

My Dad started Euro Asia in 1995. He saw an opportunity through his trucking work with Eaton’s to get involved on the warehousing side and Euro Asia was borne out of that. At the time, we didn’t have drayage trucks — we started off with five-ton trucks doing P&D (pick-up and delivery service). Euro Asia started with 25,000 square feet of warehousing, and in 1996 we expanded to 80,000 square feet on 13 acres served by CN rail. In 2004, we made the leap to 290,000 square feet in Burnaby. 

In 2008, we completed the first phase of our facility in Richmond which added 230,000 square feet and, in 2013, we added another 265,000 square feet and additional rail capacity to the Richmond location and closed the facility in Burnaby. In 2014, we completed the final phase of our Richmond facility adding another 150,000 square feet.

Today, we have 100 acres of land which includes a warehouse footprint of 650,000 square feet in Richmond as well as two container yards in Queensborough. We have further expansion plans for a 300,000-square-foot facility on Tsawwassen First Nation land on 23.5 acres situated four kilometres from Deltaport (we will share a fence with the new facility being built for the Canadian Border Service Agency). We should be operational by the first quarter of 2019 and have a 60-year lease with the Tsawwassen First Nation.

BCSN: What are the main commodities you handle and, further to that, could you describe some of the logistics involved?

AK: We specialize in pulp, OSB and metal products. The majority of these products arrive to us by rail and the remainder by truck. The logistics are simple movements, but getting the container for export onto the vessel involves solid communication and coordination between all parties (rail, warehouse, truck, shipping line, container terminal) as there can be many variables.

BCSN: What have you seen in terms of trends for the commodities you handle?

AK: We’ve been handling forest products since 1997. If you look at port statistics back then, you will see the upward trend of forest products being containerized. My Father was a pioneer in starting that trend since we had the rail and the infrastructure to accommodate it. Since then, forest products have remained very steady. In addition to that, some of the mills that we work with have been able to increase their production.

As an example of trends, I think the whole industry felt that 2016 was a tough year but it was followed by a strong 2017. All in all, although the markets vary from time to time for all kinds of products, the overall market conditions are favourable to our B.C. shipping industry.

BCSN: Has the technology behind transloading changed very much over the years?

AK: For our industry, like many others, technology is at the heart of our success and our capacity to adapt to the changes that are taking place in shipping. We are continuously looking for new technologies to improve the efficiency of our activities. For example, we are upgrading systems to automate, providing real time information and visibility to our customers and keeping up with technology trends and customer requirements.

As another example, we are considered on the export side as the ‘last mile’ before the product leaves Canada and because of that, we’re the link between CN, the shipping lines, and the container terminals so there is a lot of information exchanged and visibility required. This is why we put a lot of emphasis on our infrastructure and capacity to meet our customers’ needs.

BCSN: Could we look at the trucking side of the business now and some of the issues related to terminal access?

AK: Like any other process, the fluidity of movements in the trucking business is key to our competitivity and viability as well as those of B.C. shipping stakeholders. There have been changes over the last four or five years, starting with the establishment of the Office of the B.C. Container Trucking Commissioner. The government’s objective was to build in more stability by requiring companies to apply regulated rates for truck drivers and implementing a truck tag system. The Commissioner’s office has been conducting audits and they are posting results on-line so we have seen movement in the right direction. That said, it is important to continue to follow the situation closely with a view to continue to improve the system while ensuring labour stability.

The government recently announced that the Commissioner will be given more capacity to enforce and investigate existing regulations with more auditors and, effective June 1, 2018, trip rates and hourly wages will be raised 2.6 per cent for licensed container truck drivers serving the Port of Vancouver. They are also raising the minimum daily call-out rate from $200 to $300 and taking a closer look at the overall rate structure.

We will see with time the results of these measures. The truckers now have an outlet and somewhere to express their concerns. Driving a truck can be a tough job and being able to have an open conversation and hear those concerns is important in ensuring a vibrant industry.

BCSN: What about the Tag Management Policy?

AK: Again, we have to look at the overall situation as a continuous improvement process. Time will tell the impact of the tag system that was put in place but in any event, we must remain open-minded and creative in the approach. The port has to remain competitive and there is a fragile balance in trying to do that. We’re in competition in terms of costs and fluidity not only with Prince Rupert but also with U.S. West Coast ports and this should be kept in mind at all times.

BCSN: How do you manage issues like congestion and wait times?

AK: This is something that is being managed daily by key stakeholders. The important thing is that a lot of efforts are put out by all to reduce the congestion and minimize the waiting times. It is for the benefit of everyone. For instance, Global Container Terminals just announced a pilot program to normalize their reservation fee. Previously, there was a daytime fee of $50 and nighttime was free and it created at times an imbalance resulting in drivers waiting two or three hours between reservation windows. The fee will now be $35 all the time, and is expected to increase capacity and asset utilization. It is expected to allow for more double-ended transactions (i.e., bring an export in and take an import or empty container out) which would be a huge benefit to the truckers and the terminal. It will mean fewer truck trips and less traffic.  Once again, what is important is that all stakeholders keep a close eye on the results of these changes simply because any improvement benefits the whole B.C. shipping industry.

BCSN: Are there any other regulations coming up that will impact on operations?

AK: Electronic logging devices (ELDs) will most likely have an impact on long-haul truckers. Essentially, the new federal regulation requires all truckers and commercial bus drivers to have ELDs in place by 2020. At present, trucks that travel within a 160-kilometre radius will be exempt from ELDs, but we will still be making the transition over.

There are some concerns it will reduce capacity as has been seen in the U.S. which implemented the system in December 2017. There are some reports that show it has taken out about 20 per cent of the trucking capacity in the U.S.  Consequently, this forthcoming new regulation needs to be monitored very closely.

BCSN: In terms of safety, are there other initiatives you take to keep the truckers safe?             

AK: Absolutely. For us, safety is non-negotiable. We have full-time staff dedicated to safety, including the maintenance of our trucks and on-site red seal mechanics as well as an on-site tire shop and the ability to switch out chassis if needed.

We provide on-going training and hire drivers who have a solid safety record and proven experience. We hold our drivers accountable to the same criteria that Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement does. In addition, we are in the process of obtaining our COR certification through SafetyDriven.

BCSN: Earlier, we discussed congestion and I want to jump back to that and ask about environmental initiatives you undertake.

AK: We’re always looking for ways to minimize our impact on the environment. For example, in 2008, we converted our forklifts over to natural gas (CNG), and have two natural gas pumping stations onsite. We have also just purchased 15 electric forklifts that will arrive in September.

In addition to that, we have yard trucks that run on natural gas and we are also running a pilot project on three trucks that have been converted to run on natural gas and diesel. We are expecting to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 25 per cent (every litre of diesel burned produces 2.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide). Another environmental initiative we have been practising for over 10 years is having the empty containers staged at our loading facility which eliminates a truck trip.

Lastly, when our new facility on the Tsawwassen First Nation lands is complete, we will be four kilometres from Deltaport which will help greatly to reduce truck transit times and our impact on the environment.

BCSN: I want to look now at emerging trends and issues, starting with the availability of industrial lands.

AK: I believe that issue is going to require some creativity to find solutions. While the needs of industry need to be taken into account, there must be a balance with and consciousness of the urban communities and farms that surround the port lands. There needs to be communication, consultation and discussion with all stakeholders to find solutions that work for everyone.

Transportation is the back bone of the economy. Without ports, trucks and port infrastructure, consumers will very quickly feel the impact from a lack of products available. As long as there are ports and ships, the transload function will be needed as well as land close to the port. We must work together in the best interests of all concerned.

Another trend that will continue to have an impact is the size of the ships coming in. Bigger ships mean more volume so we need the infrastructure and capacity to manage that. We must be proactive, ahead of the competition and find means to maintain the B.C. shipping market share and, of course, increase it.

BCSN: What about the future for Euro Asia and KTL? Have you considered expansion into other regions?

AK: We have but at present, we’re focused on the Lower Mainland and getting our Tsawwassen facility operational. We’re very much looking forward to working with the Tsawwassen First Nation and have had ongoing discussions with the community about training programs and the different jobs and opportunities that will be available. We are committed to providing opportunities to the local community.

BCSN: Last question: there are a lot of plaques and certificates on the wall outside — I’d like to ask about the source of motivation to be so involved.

AK: We strongly believe in teamwork and our employees are important to us. Some have been with us since Day One and they are key to our success.

Giving back to the community is very important to us. My Father built a school in a very poor, rural part of India in the 1970s and today, it has over 600 children attending it. It’s something that we’ve always believed — to be a true part of the community you need to give something back. 

About Angie Kalhar

Angie Kalhar started to be exposed at the age of nine to the trucking and transloading industry when the KTL Transport family business was being run from the family kitchen.  After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from Ryerson University, she received her Certificate in Business Management from George Brown College in Ontario. Angie was promoted in 2009 to President, KTL Transport Inc. however also plays a role within Euro Asia Transload where her Father, Tanjit Kalhar, is the CEO.

About Euro Asia Transload and KTL Transport

Euro Asia Transload is Canada’s largest container transload facility privately held and family operated. With a footprint of 650,000 square feet and an additional 300,000 square feet coming online in Q1 2019, Euro Asia is strategically located within the Port of Vancouver with a rail receiving capacity of 85 cars on CN siding.

KTL Transport, established in 1988, currently has 215 trucks with 1,000 container chassis which move over 100,000 containers annually.

For more information about Euro Asia or KTL Transport: www.euroasiainc.com.