Member Spotlight: Russell Leo

Russell Leo and Family/Courtesy of Russell LeoPRESIDENT & CEO, TRANSPORTATION GROUP, RLS LOGISTICS

Russell Leo, CTB, has worked and/or owned RLS Logistics for more than 25 years. While earning his BS in Business Administration from Monmouth University, he worked in every department throughout the company to gain a thorough knowledge of the business. After graduating in 1996, he was named Vice President, Transportation Group. In 2000, he was named President/CEO, Transportation Group and became 50 percent owner, along with his brother Anthony M. Leo, President/CEO of the Warehousing Group. He received his CTB in 2015 and serves as the TIA Foundation Board Chair. As President/CEO, Transportation Group, Leo enjoys the responsibility of ensuring the continued growth of RLS for many years to come. He currently resides in southern New Jersey with his wife Jacqueline and twin boys

Q. How Did You Start Out?
A. It is a family business founded by my grandfather and father in 1968. We were originally mushroom growers when my dad decided to branch out into the cold storage warehouse and transportation business in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I started on the loading docks, sweeping floors and driving forklifts before I moved onto positions in the office. I had to learn every aspect of the business, which is important for any family member entering a family run business.

Q. When Did RLS Become a TIA Member?
A. Around 10 years ago or so. I regret not joining and becoming more involved sooner. Looking back, a lot of what I now know was accomplished through trial and error. Once I became actively involved in TIA, I quickly saw I was not alone in terms of what I was facing in running my business and dealing with the industry.

I don’t think we will see an 80,000-pound truck going over the George Washington Bridge without a driver anytime soon.

Q. What Was the 3PL Industry Like 25 Years Ago?
A. It was completely different, especially the perception of what the broker’s role was. I remember visiting shippers who said they would never do business with a broker. I’ve had phones slammed down on me because we weren’t an asset-based carrier. Today, I believe 100 percent of the Fortune 500 does business with a broker in one way or another. I think what TIA has accomplished helped tremendously to change that image. The resources they provide, such as their ethical standards policy and TIA Watchdog service, has changed the perception of the broker business from night to day. The broker’s use of technology has also helped change that perception. Years ago, it was “Get me a truck, and that’s it.” Today’s broker provides so much more than that, at least the successful ones do. Besides reliable service, today’s shipper wants shipment visibility, BI analytical capabilities and a host of other value-added services.

Q. What About the Future? What’s Ahead for 2019?
A. Barring an economic slowdown, I think that finding quality, consistent capacity will be our biggest challenge in 2019. Today, the successful broker puts such emphasis on the carrier-relationship side that just offering a load at market rate sometimes isn’t enough. Just as shippers are asking more and more from brokers, so are the carriers.

Q. Will New Technology Eventually Replace the Need for Physical Drivers?
A. On certain legs of the trip, in certain parts of the country, at certain times of the day, sure, I believe so. But, I don’t think we will see an 80,000-pound truck going over the George Washington Bridge without a driver anytime soon.

Q. What About Lowering the Eligibility Age to Attract More Drivers in 2019?
A. With the proper training, once again, I think it makes sense under certain conditions. But, just like driverless trucks, there are still a lot of studies that need to be done along with getting public buy-in before any major changes will happen. But, we shall see.