Big Freight early days WEB.jpg
Big Freight Systems founder Seaton “Red" Coleman stands next to a 1948 Dodge and a 1949 Mercury operated by South East Transfer, the company he and his father bought in 1948. South East Transfer adopted its new name, Big Freight Systems, in 1996.

Big Freight celebrates 70 years hauling across North America

Canadian-based freight management and transit company Big Freight Systems Inc. turned 70 this year.

Big Freight was founded in 1948 as a small, four-truck operation called South East Transfer, which changed to the current name in 1996.

The fleet enterprise consists of 150 trucks and 350 trailers that make hauls across North America. It earned the Truckload Carriers Association’s National Fleet Safety Award in 2016, and in 2017 it earned the Canadian Shippers’ Choice Award and joined Daseke.

The company’s president and chief executive Gary Coleman said for 2018, the company is focusing on maintaining the quality customers count on.

“Our existing clients are asking us to do more, and new clients challenge us to provide creative and profitable solutions for their shipping needs,” Coleman said. “We’ll be ready for both.”

In addition to hundreds of vehicles, including power-sports vans, the company provides warehousing and distribution, maintenance and logistics management. The warehouse, located in Winnipeg, is a 300,000-square-foot storage facility, and distribution has expanded into niche markets to meet varying customer needs.

A new generation Big Freight Systems truck hauls a 1942 and a 1946 Mercury from Big Freight Systems’ early days when the company operated as South East Transfer. The two Mercury trucks are now on display at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba.

Coleman said his father, who co-founded the company, is still involved; it’s an enthusiastic collaboration that has led Big Freight to success,

“The people at Daseke are extremely smart, very hard working and completely supportive of what we’re doing in Canada,” Coleman said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have an equally bright and dedicated team at Big Freight that understands our short- as well as long-term objectives.”

Big Freight executed a continuous improvement program in 2013 to further emphasize safety and productivity. By 2017, driver miles increased and accidents and claims decreased.

“Our company succeeds when all members of our team have the opportunity to excel and reach their highest potential in a work environment that reflects dignity, encouragement and respect,” Coleman stated. “The continuous improvement program encourages everyone to participate, communicate and be recognized for their achievements.”

Although the company has been challenged by the driver shortage, Coleman said, focusing on the current employees makes drivers and customers happy.

“The driver shortage is more prevalent than it has ever been and this creates all sorts of opportunities for well-run companies. At the end of the day, he who has the driver, hauls the load. We plan on Big Freight being the one that has both.”

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