Who do you call when you need a 2,000 pound machine picked up and delivered to your plant at 4:00a.m.?

When you open the doors to the nerve center of a courier company that makes emergency deliveries to industry, you expect to see a frenzy of activity. Instead, you are greeted by Blue the playful English Setter, and dispatchers calmly reading newspapers.

In the basement of a residential-looking building in Scarborough, Ontario, Bill Quinn and his crew at Industrial Breakdown Couriers Ltd. act as if everything is under control. That`s the way Quinn, the bearded and rugged veteran of the courier business likes it. He says by covering all of his bases, he can relax–a bit. “We are the best, all-around direct drive courier that I know of,” says Quinn, unashamedly boastful about his company`s success. Quinn says he spends lots of money to make sure his drivers and dispatchers have the best communications systems on the market. His portable two-way radio units also link up with cellular systems, a pager network, and even have fax capabilities.

Quinn needs the best communications systems to keep in contact with his drivers because his customers are among the most demanding in the courier business. “These maintenance people have sweaty palms waiting for their parts to come,” says Quinn, who started the company on his own 14 years ago, and now has 30 drivers spread out across Ontario. “If we had jets out there sometimes they wouldn`t be fast enough for our customers.”

Quinn says the company`s average pick-up time around the Golden Horseshoe region in southern and southwestern Ontario is about 30 minutes, depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. How do they do that? They have drivers posted at eight strategic locations in the heavily-industrialized sections of southern Ontario corridor who wait for calls from the dispatch center. Then, the drivers do the pick up and deliver direct. Drivers don`t handle any other calls, or do multiple deliveries at once. “Every job that we do here is almost exactly the same–the customer`s are counting the minutes,” says Quinn. “The customer doesn`t have to tell us what level of service the job is, we only have one–we do it now.”

He says he sometimes gets frantic calls from maintenance mangers who are desperate to get a part delivered quickly to get their production lines back up and running. Quinn says some callers say things like, “Our plant is shut down, and we need you to do this right now, and if you don`t do it for me right now, I am going to lose my job,” says Quinn with a roaring laugh. “They`ve got their plant managers breathing down their backs making sure they are making the right decisions.”

“If we had jets out there sometimes they wouldn`t be fast enough for our customers.”
-Bill Quinn, owner of Industrial Breakdown Couriers

He says his drivers learn how to hurdle the barriers that sometimes make it hard to deliver goods to people within big industrial complexes. “We learn how to avoid security guards, and shipping and receiving departments, and get it right to the man who really wants it,” he says. Many of the company`s deliveries and pick ups are at airports, and his drivers figure out ways to get things on and off planes quickly. They also do pickups and deliveries in the U.S., and he says his drivers understand how to get the goods through the border crossings. “We are real good at machinery parts. We pick up machinery parts and take them anywhere, at any time of the day, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. We are called even on Christmas day to do deliveries.”

He says most of his customers wouldn`t use his services on a daily basis, but only when they have emergency and serious deliveries. “We are not the answer for every job,” says Quinn, whose company charges 87 cents per kilometer in the greater Toronto area, (which includes cities on the outskirts like Markham to the North, Pickering in the east and Oakville in the west) 75 cents per kilometer beyond those areas. The charges are based on the mileage from the pickup point to the delivery point and there is no weight charge.

The company`s fleet is split evenly between pick up trucks and vans and can pick up and deliver anything from 45-gallon drums, motors, gear boxes, steel shafts–any piece of equipment or machinery up to 2,000 pounds. “You get these industries running 24 hours a day, they get broken down at four o`clock in the morning and they are waking up their parts suppliers. Then, they are waking me up,” says Quinn. “Sometimes they don`t even ask for prices.”

One time, an Oakville company hired the company to deliver a 15-foot-crate to a mine in Fort Nelson, in northern British Columbia because the airlines refused to carry the piece. A driver named Bob loaded the part in his pick up truck, drove across the country in three and one half days and earned himself the nickname, “Big Job” Bob. His son split the driving with him, but “Big Job” captured the title for the longest delivery in company history. The Oakville company paid $5,500 for the delivery.

-Todd Phillips