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Danny Mullins Builds Career From One Truck, $3,000

Wed December 07, 2016 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Danny Mullins, president of Daniel Mullins Trucking Inc.
Danny Mullins, president of Daniel Mullins Trucking Inc.

Danny Mullins, president of Daniel Mullins Trucking Inc. built a successful career from one truck and $3,000 from his retirement fund.

“I started out as a truck driver for the sanitation department in Temple Terrace, Fla. In 1999, I went out on my own and started with one truck with no huge aspirations, but to get out and do something for my family to where my wife could stay home with the kids. I wanted to do something on my own instead of the grind of working for someone else. I didn't have aspirations of running multiple trucks, I just wanted to get out and drive. That is what I enjoy doing.

“Things went fairly well. We had taken $3,000 out of my retirement fund and that is what we started with. We didn't have a whole lot of money outside of that. It was kind of a hope and a prayer and we went for it. We started out working mainly for one company in Bartow and worked for them for a period of time and then worked for some other folks.

“By 2005 we had gotten up to four trucks then back down to three. I was still driving. At that time we were working for brokers and then landed my first home customer and we still haul for them. It was (BondAll) America in Tampa. We then went up to nine trucks and added seven owner operators who worked for us. I still drove full time up to about 2007,” said Mullins.”

Then, Mullins stepped back and took a look about how the company had to be run.

“I had to handle dispatch, maintenance, and all of those things. My family did everything,” Mullins said. “My in-laws were doing my billing. Then hard times hit and we were able to keep going and keep the owner operators busy. We kept it lean but we made it through. In 2011, we decided that something had to change. People were giving equipment away. It was dirt cheap. So we started buying used equipment, refurbing and painting it. I felt at the very least we could sell it and get my money back out of it. We paid cash for everything.”

In 2011, the company grew from nine to 25 trucks and has continued to grow. Today they have 85 company owned trucks plus about 35 owner operators. They also utilize outside trucks and that can range from 5 to 50 trucks a day.

“We use triaxle dumps, single axle tractor trailers, and tandem tractors with triaxle trailers. We also use some tandem trailers with frameless end dumps. They are all class 8. We do spec our triaxle dumps so that if we don't have a lot of site work we can use them hauling plant to plant. That has been our bread and butter through the years. This is our kind of get the trucks out of the gate type of work. As the economy improves we moved to site work and road work. The single axle dumps we work for tighter work and the tandems we work with the 88K permit the 10 percent over permit to maximize loads.”

When talking about what has most contributed to their success Mullins said, “We build partnerships. That is paramount to what we do. Customers can have anyone haul their freight. They can find tons and tons of people to bring them what it is they are looking for, but at what cost. One of our sayings is 'We may not be the lowest price but we are the lowest cost.' Between our dependability, our safety, and our communication with our customers at the end of the job we have kept them efficient enough to keep their savings coming in. By keeping their labor costs down, their safety cost down, and things like that. But partnership's is the key. That is not cliché with us. We have business partnerships, we don't just have customers. That has been huge for us.

“That is true with all of our business relationships including our vendors. We have partnerships with those who supply us with anything, things like tires or fuel. When we deal with someone and they take care of us we stay with them.”

The company does all maintenance in house unless they get backed up.

“If our shop gets backed up and we need something done then we will take it to the dealer,” said Mullins, “but otherwise we do it ourselves.”

The company works hard to maintain a family atmosphere.

“A multiple of our employees have been with us a long time,” said Mullins. “My wife works for the company as well as our two sons. One son works in the shop and the other, who is in high school, works for us part time. A lot of folks who work here are acquaintances who I have known outside of work. My dispatcher had his own company and we worked together. When things got tough for him we bought him out and he came to work here. We treat our employees as business partners. We are in this as a shared game. They want to make a living for their family and we want to help them do that at a profitable level for us. We want to get them home at the end of the day safe to their family.”

On any given day you will find Danny Mullins Trucking trucks working from Gainesville to Miami and coast to coast. The company has regular hauls to West Palm Beach and Ft. Pierce in south Florida and to Sumterville in north Florida.

“We will go anywhere if we can make money at it with any of our trucks. We aren't afraid to go out of state if there is money in it. We haven't yet but would if it made sense for both the customer and us we would go,” said Mullins.

The most challenging part of the business according to Mullins is the regulation.

“Some of the regulations are good and some bad and there are some coming down the way that will make it harder on us. Some of the regulations don't impact us yet since we are an intrastate carrier. But it is not a level playing field. We have a stringent eye on us all the time and it doesn't seem like a level playing field here locally. The more exposure you have the more attention you get. It makes it tough.

“As hard as we try to be a premier hauler in the dump industry the regulatory part of it is that you have a lot of tickets written by people who don't know the rules. Those are the challenges we face especially with insurance and credit companies looking at the CSA scores. Of course being in the construction industry we are in a severe duty application. It makes it difficult since we are in and out of mines and job sites and sometimes a light gets knocked loose and inevitably that is the day you get pulled over when they are checking things like that. As some new rules come down, if they are evenly enforced, they are great for the industry because they promote a safer industry.”

Working with Mullins to manage the company are Mark Hammer, fleet manager, Todd Martin, fleet dispatcher, Melinda Santiago, office manager, Jeremy Ketchum, operations manager, and Mullins' wife, Lori.

Looking to the future, the company will be opening a Lake Wales branch office late in the year and the company just opened an office in Bushnell.

Mullins' first love is still driving trucks, and he keeps doing it when he can get away from this desk.

“I tell people we hire that I am a truck driver, said Mullins. “That is my trade. The benefit to our drivers is that I am a driver and our dispatcher Todd is a driver so we know what they are going through. I am a lucky man, I get to do something I love and to make money at it.” CEG

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