1980s Freight Matching Secret Weapon: High School Students

When Jim Syfan, CEO of Syfan Logistics, first started working in the freight brokerage business in the 1970s, there were no load boards, no desktop computers, no internet. When he launched his own brokerage, Turbo Transport, in 1984 he would send his two high-school-aged sons down to the local truck stops to talk to truckers to see if they needed loads to get them back home.

Steve, Greg, Jim and Gloria Syfan. Steve serves as Executive VP, Greg is President, and Jim is the CEO of Syfan Logistics

Syfan’s hometown of Gainesville, Georgia is a major poultry market, so they needed trucks to haul chickens, turkeys and other fowl from Georgia to population centers throughout the U.S. “The truckers helped us out, and we kept them from having to deadhead back home,” he said.

A new kind of load board

One of Syfan’s customers frequently shipped to Portland, Oregon. “I think it was one of our regular carriers who first told us about the Dial-A-Truck load board at Jubitz Truck Stop in Portland,” he said.

Instead of posting loads on index cards and pinning them to a bulletin boards in truck stops, Dial-A-Truck (DAT) was a new, electronic load board. It featured a wall-mounted monitor that scrolled through available loads and included the broker’s phone number. Dial-A-Truck started in 1978 at Jubitz, but quickly spread to hundreds of truck stops throughout the country.

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Dial-A-Truck monitors replaced hand-written notes pinned to bulletin boards in truck stops.

The desktop transportation terminal

A big breakthrough came when DAT introduced its Transportation Terminal in 1995, which allowed brokers to post their loads to the DAT monitors directly from their office.

“I think we had one of the very first DAT Transportation Terminals,” Syfan said. “They came in and set it up for us. It had a little green monitor and a keyboard. It was slow, but it worked.”

DAT was one of the many technological advances that helped his company grow. By 2005, Turbo Logistics had grown from its four original employees to around 300, and had gross revenue of $150 million. At that point he sold Turbo Logistics and signed a 5-year non-compete agreement.

The day after his non-compete agreement ended in 2011, he began the process of starting a new brokerage: Syfan Logistics, along with his two sons. After seven years in business, Syfan Logistics has grown to more than 200 employees and gross revenue of $100 million. The asset side of the business has 26 trucks and about 100 trailers.

Partners in growth

Syfan acknowledges all the “business partners” that have helped him succeed. He includes DAT in that category, as Syfan Logistics uses DAT Power for posting loads and searching trucks, DAT RateView™ for checking current lane rates, and DAT Data Analytics for custom data mining.

“I don’t like to use the term vendor because that sounds so one-sided. I consider DAT a business partner,” Syfan said. “As DAT grew and became more sophisticated, they enhanced our ability to grow. And any technology that helps us grow, we build a relationship with and we’re eager to make them part of our team.”