by Mary Lou Jay
Lyons J. Heyman started 7 Hills Transport in 1981 in Rome, Georgia, to take advantage of the opportunities created by the newly deregulated trucking industry. The company’s name refers to the seven hills of Rome, Georgia, which was named after Rome, Italy. “I wanted a name that reflected the area that I was from, and that people would be able to remember,” said Heyman, now president and co-owner.
Although Heyman had earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina and had worked in banking and a family business, his first months in the trucking industry were difficult. “After I was in the business for about four or five months, I realized that I needed to find somebody with trucking experience,” he recalled.
William Donald (Don Moore), who had been a traffic manager at Congoleum Floor Coverings, joined the business as co-owner and vice president in January 1982. Moore had a unique blend of trucking and floor covering knowledge, and knew many people in the industry. He also had the leadership experience that came with quarterbacking a high school football team and serving as a Green Beret with the 3rd Special Forces in the United States Army.
The company’s first office was in Heyman’s home, but it soon outgrew that space. In 1986, the partners built an office/terminal/shop in Cartersville, located halfway between Atlanta and Dalton (known as the carpet capital of the United States). Heyman remembers that Moore asked for two doors in the new terminal. “Don said, ‘If you give me two doors, I can bring freight in and rearrange it to build LTL loads…we can make a lot more money.’ That made a lot of sense, so when we built the facility, Don got his two doors. We’re now up to 27 doors,” said Heyman. In addition to the Cartersville location, 7 Hills Transport today has terminals in New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
Today the company’s primary business is providing truckload and LTL services for all types of carpet and tile. Its customers include Mohawk, Shaw, Engineered Floors and other leaders in the floor covering industry. In recent years, the company has diversified into transportation of general commodities such as food products and plastics as well.
“We try to transport products that our drivers don’t have to touch, to make it as easy for them as possible,” said Heyman. In a market where drivers are a rare commodity, 7 Hills Transport does everything it can to encourage them to work for the company. The operations department works closely with drivers to make sure they are happy. That includes preloading trailers and giving them requested time off whenever possible.
CARING FOR CUSTOMERS
7 Hills Transport serves its customers by paying attention to details and by keeping them informed about their loads. “If we have a customer who says they need 20 items shipped, but we only have room for 15, Don will get on the phone to ask them which 15 they want. It’s all about communication,” said Heyman.
“Our job is to make sure that we provide good service to customers so that they can do their jobs and run their business; we handle their transportation so they don’t have to be involved with it,” added Moore. “Some customers have now been with us for 30-some years. They have been loyal customers to 7 Hills Transport through the years; they’ve taken care of us, and we’ve taken care of them.” Much of the company’s business continues to come from referrals.
Derek Sito, the director of operations who is now assuming more of Moore’s responsibilities, follows that customer service philosophy. So do the company’s terminal managers, who do an outstanding job. “They and all of our people understand the concept of taking care of customers and staying in touch with what they want,” Moore said.
One reason for the company’s continued success is its embrace of technology. Three years ago, 7 Hills Transport invested in a new truck management system that has streamlined operations. “Fifteen years ago, it would have taken two or three of me to be as productive as I am now because I have so much information at my fingertips,” said Heyman. Technology tracks their trucks’ location and alerts fleet managers when they need servicing or repairs. Cameras on the trucks are helping the company avoid unfair insurance claims; when a car recently pulled out in front of one of its trucks, the video clearly showed the car, not the truck, was at fault.
Heyman said he’s looking forward to the time when the company can install scanners and other technology that enables them to keep track of inventory in the terminals and of what’s loaded onto the trucks.
After 40 years in business, Heyman and Moore are grateful for their enduring, successful partnership. Although there will continue to be problems like the current driver shortage, they remain optimistic about the future. “There are smart people in this industry. They will deal with the issues, solve problems and move on with their businesses,” said Moore.
The company’s decades-long membership in GMTA has been very valuable in this respect. “You can talk to people in the industry with the same problems, and sometimes you can help each other out and solve a problem,” said Heyman. GMTA also serves as the industry’s warrior in dealing with government issues that could negatively impact trucking.
That support will help create an environment where businesses like 7 Hills Transport can continue to grow. “We are always looking at different opportunities as we move forward. A lot of it involves some of the young people that we have in the business and what opportunities the market presents to us,” said Heyman.
Trucking isn’t an easy industry, but the people in it understand what it takes to succeed, he added. That includes everyone from customers to drivers and other employees to people who provide legal and insurance services. “They don’t expect a handout; they’re not looking for anything to come their way without putting some work into it. This is not an easy business, but the people who are in it have impressed me,” said Heyman.
GMTA and TRUX would like to congratulate Lyons, Don and the team at 7 Hills for an incredible 40 years in the trucking industry. After writing this article, the TRUX team learned that 7 Hills has completed the sale of their company to another carrier. We are pleased to commemorate the mark the 7 Hills family has left on our industry and wish all of them well in their future endeavors!