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Joneser's Express finds niche at Bradley Airport

BY Brian Straight

8/5/2013
Photos | Pablo Robles
Photos | Pablo Robles
Windsor Locks freight hauler Joneser's Express Transportation services customers shipping through Bradley International Airport. The company's nine employees, pictured to the left, offer same-day pickup and delivery in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and special deliveries anywhere east of the Mississippi. Joneser's has a fleet of 20 vehicles that include a mix of tractor-trailers and cargo vans.
Some 20 years ago, Todd Jones was trying his hand at remodeling and roofing. Having just moved back to Connecticut after three years in California, Jones had no idea how his life would change in short order.

"A friend of mine needed help," Jones recalls. "He was a subcontractor [hired] to pick up and deliver pharmaceuticals and needed someone to cover his route because he was getting married. So I did that for two weeks."

At the end of those two weeks, the company dispatcher was impressed with Jones' work, he said, and asked if he'd like to give the job another try. With a construction job that featured frequent downtime, Jones told the dispatcher to call if he had a delivery that needed coverage.

Three weeks later, the call was made and the foundation for Joneser's Express Transportation (JET) was born.

Today, the only regret Jones has is the name of the Windsor Locks business. "It's just not very professional sounding," he joked. "The best part is that the acronym for Joneser's Express Transportation is JET; jets are fast and that's what we do."

Joneser's is an air freight company servicing customers shipping through Bradley International Airport. Among the services available are 24/7 pickup and delivery service, packaging, cargo insurance, proof-of-delivery, time-sensitive shipments and full truckload or less-than-truckload (smaller shipments) service.

Joneser's offers same-day pickup and delivery in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts and special deliveries anywhere east of the Mississippi with its fleet of 20 vehicles, a mix of everything from tractor-trailers to straight trucks and cargo vans. All that work is handled with just nine full-time employees and a host of subcontractors filling driving needs.

"We represent about 40 different companies that don't have a truck company in this area," said Jones, who is the sole owner of the business.

Jones said the variety of freight hauled by the company helps it remain profitable despite stiff competition from four similar businesses serving Bradley. About 60 percent of the business is dedicated to air freight cargo and 30 percent is "distribution account" freight, which is a dedicated movement of goods along a set daily route. The remaining 10 percent of the business is served by local customers, usually moving goods within a 200-mile radius.

"You can be exclusively air freight, but there is real competition there and [customers] can leave in a drop of the hat because there are no contracts," Jones said. "There was a new company that opened up a few years back and there really wasn't room for them, which made it harder."

Jones said that orders are generally received via email these days and a truck is dispatched — either to pick up the shipment or make the delivery. Runs are made to the airport each morning and evening to collect and drop off freight heading to its new destination. Residential customers expecting deliveries are called to arrange a drop-off time, Jones added.

While keeping employees, including the subcontractor drivers (who are paid a percentage of what the customer receives for the shipment) has not been an issue, Jones said, unpredictable fuel costs have been.

"Fuel is a big [issue] with the fluctuating prices," he said. "The trucking industry has helped by adding a fuel surcharge, which is standard now. In air freight, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are the busiest days, but some days, the revenue coming in on your trucks doesn't cover the fuel bill, but you still need to service the customer."

Cash flow is the other big obstacle Jones said he faces, primarily due to slow-paying customers. But even that is not enough for Jones to consider doing something different. "I'm proud of the people who work for me and I'm proud of myself," he said. "I couldn't see myself doing something else."