The Arms Trucking Company Balances Strategic Diversification, Focused Dedication


Whether you drive Ohio roads in the snow, play golf, or simply root for Ohio sports teams, you have probably benefited from a product or service supplied by The Arms Trucking Company.

Arms Trucking is a company whose name does not tell the whole story. While it is one of the largest bulk hauling companies in the region—with more than 100 trucks available to move dry bulk products such as aggregate in the region spanning from New York and Pennsylvania to Michigan—Arms is also a major supplier of road salt, runs a marine terminal with warehouse and outdoor storage in Toledo, and supplies specialized sand and soil mixes for golf courses and sports fields.

Arms Trucking was founded in 1953. Howard Bates began working there in 1970, greasing trucks and, later, as a driver. Bates, along with two partners, purchased the company in the 1970s. The partners have since retired, and Howard is now the sole owner of the company, said Brian Bates, Howard’s son and company vice president. Brian and his sister, Abbie Logan (who handles administrative duties), started working for the company in the early 2000s.

Brian, who has a degree and background in golf course management, helped steer the company’s 2009 acquisition of Pennsylvania-based D.M. Boyd Company, which supplies bunker sand, topdressing and other specialized blends. Customers have included The Ohio State University, where Arms Turf supplied a mix for the grass practice football field, the Dayton Dragons, as well as dozens of golf courses in the region.

While diversification into salt, sand and soil has cushioned the company against a slowdown in any one sector, Arms has one philosophy, no matter the product or service. “We always put service to our customers first,” Brian Bates said. This is how serious the company is about service: in snow season, Arms dispatchers staff the phones from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. Between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m., any calls automatically roll over to Brian’s phone, which he answers all night long. “At a lot of companies, after 5 p.m. you reach voicemail, but that never happens at our company.”

Having reliable equipment is a key component in providing superior customer service, he added. “We need reliable equipment to load the trucks. If the loaders break down, we can’t get out the salt our customers need.”

For nearly two decades, Arms Trucking has counted on Columbus Equipment Company for reliable, high-quality equipment. The company is a committed user of Komatsu wheel loaders, including a WA470 at its Toledo dock, WA450 at its salt plant, and two WA320s at the D.M. Boyd plant. Arms also owns a Komatsu D39 dozer, PC360 excavator and Takeuchi TL240 track loader, which all move around to different facilities as needed.

“We have an excellent relationship with Columbus Equipment Company. [Columbus Equipment Company sales rep] Todd Hornak has done a real good job of servicing us when we need rental equipment or buy new equipment. He has always been there for us,” Bates said. “In addition to the service, we have been very happy with the equipment.”

At the D.M. Boyd plant in Volant, Pennsylvania, “both Komatsu wheel loaders are very dependable. They always start. They never break,” said Greg Snow, who operates a 2012 WA320 with about 6,000 hours. He previously operated a John Deere model and definitely prefers the Komatsu. “The Komatsu is a lot smoother for shifting purposes, and it has a lot smoother ride than the Deere, which you really appreciate when you sit in one for 12 to 15 hours a day.”

The loaders are used to mix sand and soil, fill bins, load trucks, and load the Trommel screener. “They are in sand all day long, and there are no service problems despite how much we run them,” Snow said.

Arms recently purchased a McCloskey 512 Trommel screener from Columbus Equipment Company to increase production at the Boyd plant, Bates said. The McCloskey replaced a shaker-type screen that Snow estimated was about 30 years old, and it has resulted in production at two to three times the speed of the old setup. “It used to take us 45 minutes to an hour to run a load of 24 tons,” Snow said. “Now, with the McCloskey 512, it takes 20 to 25 minutes as long as the sand is dry.” The plant can now process between 300 and 500 tons a day. “The screener works its tail off,” he added.

Another benefit is that the McCloskey is on wheels, so it can be moved with no time spent on teardown or setup. The previous screener had to be torn down whenever the crew needed to move it. Additionally, maintenance is much easier on the new machine. “The maintenance guys like it because everything is out in the open at ground level. They don’t have to climb around it like they did on the old screener,” Snow said.

Arms Trucking handles most maintenance on equipment, Bates noted, but Columbus Equipment Company responds quickly when needed. “Columbus Equipment technicians quickly resolved an issue with the screener, for example,” Snow noted.

While customer service is Arms’ top priority, giving back to the community is high on the list, too. Arms Trucking Company’s headquarters building in East Claridon was once Claridon Elementary School, part of which is more than a century old. The company renovated some of the building for its offices and dispatch center, and left the rest unchanged, down to the hall lockers. The building is available for community activities in Geauga County.

The company has long been active in the community, supporting 4-H and providing equipment for the county fair, with Howard Bates serving on the county fair board for many years. Further afield, the Boyd division sponsors a scholarship for turf grass students at Penn State, Bates said.

Successful companies adapt and evolve with the times. At Arms Trucking, the formula for success has included thoughtful diversification, dedicated customer service, and investment in the right equipment for the task at hand.

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