When John Wilbur is home and hears real gunfire, artillery shells bursting and grenades blowing up in the distance, it’s music to his ears.
Wilbur lives in San Diego, CA, near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, thus the sounds of Marines in training. He is CEO of Roadmaster Group, headquartered in Glendale, AZ, which specializes in hazardous waste, time-sensitive and high-security cargo.
Wilbur formed the company in 2011 after having been a principal in a private equity firm. Roadmaster acquired Tri-State Motor Transit Co. in 2016. Then in 2017 Roadmaster itself was acquired by Daseke Inc., a Dallas-based, publicly listed trucking company.
Hearing the constant rumblings of ammunition fired means Tri-State trucks are running smoothly, because transporting bullets and more for the military is the fleet’s bread and butter.
“Anybody that lives near a military base that has a training component, you’re gonna hear and see a lot of that stuff being blown up every day, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Wilbur.
Such a high-wire type cargo gives the company an edge compared to most other fleets.
“It’s the reason we play in the pond that we play in,” Wilbur told American Trucker. “In this industry you either need to be very specialized, which we are, or very big. Everything we do is either hazardous, sensitive, highly valuable or difficult to do. So we’re constructing our own barriers.
“We don’t have the same competitive dynamics that you would find in general freight. For us we usually compete more on service than we do on price. What we deliver is service and capacity. Not a lot of people know how to do hazardous waste or commercial explosives. Everything we do is difficult to do. The tradeoff is if we can gain expertise like we have then we just don’t face the same competitive dynamics that a general freight carrier would. So we’re not tied to the economic cycle.”
Tri-State employs hundreds of two-person driving teams. Each trucker must have hazardous materials hauling experience and get government security clearance.
Asked what it’s like doing business with the military, Wilbur made a joke before turning serious.
“I’m not sure we have enough time, and I don’t have a bottle of Scotch in front of me, and you probably need both,” he cracked. “Seriously, it’s an honor to support the war fighter. And everybody in my company feels that way. That is what we do, and we do it well. We’re the largest carrier in that sector. I know my drivers feel great when they pull into a military base to pick up or deliver. We’ve got a lot of husband and wife (driver) teams that have kids in the service.”
Wilbur noted that military trucking maneuvers are crucial to Roadmaster’s bottom line.
“They are our largest single customer,” he said. “And frankly, they’re great to work with. We serve all branches. Military transportation in North America is essentially managed by the Army unit for all the branches. It’s the SDDC, Surface Distribution and Deployment Command.
“The cargo is classified. Most of our military freight is supporting Marines and soldiers training at bases. I live near Camp Pendleton. Marines are training every day there, shooting bullets, artillery shells and grenades. We have a supply chain that is constantly going into Camp Pendleton, or Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, NC) or Fort Bliss (El Paso, TX) or Fort Hood (Killeen, TX). So the majority of what we do for the military is just feeding that arms, ammunition and explosives supply chain to the training facilities around the country. We also take stuff to ports that go overseas.”
Like a well-trained soldier, Wilbur was tight-lipped when it came to discussing security matters regarding his trucks and their cargo.
“All I can tell you is it’s high,” he said. “A high security protocol. A very high security protocol. The security the drivers follow, the tracking, and what the government and our company does.”