Founded and headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., Metal Exchange Corp. came to life in the 1970s when five savvy individuals were determined to establish a unique niche market presence in the highly competitive world of scrap and raw metal products. In the more than three decades that have followed, Metal Exchange Corp. has grown from a regional aluminum-scrap trading company to a global marketer and manufacturer of nonferrous metals conducting business in 19 countries with over 500 people.

“It began with a vision to provide customers with a wide range of services across all facets of the nonferrous metals industry and to back up those services with optimal value for customers and the highest degree of integrity,” says Michael B. Lefton, senior vp. “In short, we do what we say — and we strive to do it well, whether it's a single load of scrap or one hundred containers of billet.”

Lefton notes that Metal Exchange Corp. is one of the most diverse suppliers, processors and purchasers of nonferrous metals in the world. The company is a sophisticated broker/intermediary that maximizes the value of these metals for their commercial partners by “making a market” for these products.

A small but valuable component of the company's service pledge is the Metal Exchange private fleet. This operation consists of a fleet manager, a driver dispatch manager, a temporary office assistant, some 20 tractors and drivers, plus a pool of some 250 specialized trailers comprised of high side open tops, low side open tops (dross trailers) and van trailers. “The variety of our trailer configurations gives us the ability to collect and transport virtually all types of metals,” says Brent Pitzer, fleet manager. “We are also licensed to haul hazardous materials such as dross and residues.”

Trailers within the private fleet are customized at a company-owned maintenance facility to meet the demands of the products collected and transported. “We typically spend $15,000 to $20,000 on each trailer,” says Pitzer. “Because of the rugged service demanded of the trailers, the cost of customization is high and the maximum cargo capacity reduced [from 45,000 to 39,000 lbs.]. We have an ongoing project to reduce trailer weight without sacrificing trailer durability.”

With a large trailer fleet configured with a wide range of specialized features, the company is able to “spot” equipment at manufacturer's sites as receptacles for scrap collection and over time reduce what would otherwise be the double handle of product.

The private fleet has very low turnover and their typical range of longevity with the company is 10 to 20 years for the team of drivers. Typical runs range from 400 to 500 mi. “Customer relations are very important to us, and the drivers are key to keeping customers happy,” Pitzer notes. Because of their excellent team of quality drivers, Metal Exchange's Private Fleet has won several National Private Truck Council safety awards over the years.

“While just 15 to 20% of our freight is handled by Metal Exchange's private fleet,” says Lefton, “the unique nature of our equipment and the outstanding service provided by our drivers would be impossible to replicate outside. We've looked at subcontracting the private fleet, but it doesn't work.”

Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council's web site is www.nptc.org. His column appears monthly in FLEET OWNER.