Penn’s Best Inc.: Over Three Decades of Safety and Service

Penn’s Best Inc. (PBI) was incorporated in 1979 by Meredith Ruark, the owner of a stone business in Wyoming County, Pa. “He started off very small, with two or three trucks to haul his stone, and developed into a small trucking company,” says Patrick Healey, current president and CEO of PBI. Healey started working at PBI in 1981 as a dispatcher. “I just kind of fit into the mix.” Meredith and his son, Bill, needed to take on some extra operational support as the business began to expand, and Healey found himself working his way up the line to management.

In a matter of only three to four years, PBI had purchased several hundred vans and 100 tractors. “We built a business around safety and service,” says Healey. The company’s fleet has grown to include 560 trailers as PBI continues to expand.

Bill left PBI in 2000 to take over the stone business, and when Meredith retired in 2004, he asked Healey to step in as president. Aside from the company’s excellent track record in safety and service, PBI stands out as an entirely employee-owned company. The initiative started in the early ’90s to give employees a larger hand in business, and developed up through Meredith’s retirement, which was funded by selling his stock.

In order to ensure each of those treasured employees go home safely every night, PBI embraced safety as its number one priority since the company’s inception. In the early days, Healey and the Ruarks hired an outside consultant to aid in development and ensure that the company grew with a solid program of safety standards that were also a fit to Department of Transportation guidelines.

“Making compromises in safety only drives up your insurance costs and makes you look ugly to the Department of Transportation,” Healey says. With a full-time staff of 120, plus a team of owner-operators, PBI hires only drivers with records that fit its tight standards. “We’re very particular about who we hire,” Healey adds. “We won’t back down on our standards just to put drivers in trucks.”

Keep on Truckin’

The team at PBI has managed to stay busy throughout the years. “We’re at capacity every day,” says Healey proudly. “If good, quality drivers come through our door, we’ll find a way to make work for them.” PBI hauls a wide range of products, but holds major contracts with businesses in the paper product industry, which Healey has found to be quite reliable.

PBI has no trouble keeping contracts and finding work, but Healey admits that pressure comes from the other side. As a transportation company, PBI’s biggest expense is fuel, and the price per gallon on fuel seems to be on an endless uphill climb. Healey says, “You can’t keep up with it.” The company has imposed surcharges on mileage, but since most deliveries are regional these charges don’t make up for PBI’s expenditures. Healey has also found that insurance and labor costs are on the rise. “The profit margins in this business are very thin,” he explains. “There’s not a lot of room for error here. It’s pretty tough to operate.”

A Bright Future for the Best

PBI is surviving and looking toward a future of slow and steady growth. “A lot of small- to mid-sized trucking companies like ours are no longer on the books,” Healey says. But PBI’s commitment to service and safety has kept customers coming back for more. “There are some big companies out there looking for good quality service carriers,” he continues. “We’ve developed relationships with them and they’ve stood by us through this thing because of our service record. We aren’t always the lowest price in this business, but we always deliver on what we say.”

A progression of growth is on the horizon for PBI. “It’s tough to expand in this market right now,” Healey admits. “But in the next year or two we’re looking at slow growth; that’s all we’re looking to do. We’re not trying to knock down walls or anything.”

The company already offers additional services to its customers, including an 82,000 square-foot warehouse operation that offers storage and some assembly services. PBI also boasts a heavy vehicle repair facility, 87 Sales and Service, which services the company’s vehicles as well as owner-operator trucks and machinery for other companies.

PBI currently serves almost exclusively the East Coast of the United States, and has no plans to expand its geographic footprint. However, PBI is implementing programs and new technology to make trucks more efficient and better for the environment. “We just bought 50 new trailers with aerodynamic wind skirts,” Healey reports. “We’re starting to purchase new tractors, also aerodynamic, designed to increase fuel efficiency. They’re equipped with auto-shift transmissions, which helps too.” The company is doing everything feasible to save fuel, and strives to keep its carbon footprint as small as possible.

PBI’s dedication to quality, expedience and safety has pushed the business through hard times. The same qualities will continue to promote growth and support greener initiatives in the transportation industry as the years press on. The company promotes positive relationships with not only its clients but also its employees, building jobs for generations of local families. Penn’s Best Inc. is a name in trucking that proudly stands for safety-conscious and service-oriented transportation.