SETTING up a minority-owned affiliate turned out to be a big winner for Carry Transit, BT Express Trucking, and the food industry customers they serve. It's a program that is paying steady dividends.
Headquartered in Westville, Indiana, BT Express was established in 2002 to focus on food processors that have minority carrier businesses. BT Express stands out as one of a handful of African American foodgrade tank truck carriers in the United States.
“Foodgrade hauling is a tough business to enter, and it's a big advantage to partner as an affiliate with an established tank fleet,” says Paula Tillman, BT Express chief president. “Food companies became even more resistant to new entrants following the terrorist attacks in September 2001. Today, you need to know the right people to get a foot in the door.”
Tillman and the other family members who make up the management team at BT Express did indeed know the right people. James Tillman Sr, her husband and BT Express chief operations officer, had worked with Jim Blackmon, Carry Transit president, at another trucking company. Son-in-law Jerry Butler was a driver for Carry Transit.
The affiliate program started when Carry Transit was approached by PepsiCo, which recently had launched a program to bring more minority-based carriers into foodgrade hauling. Blackmon recruited the Tillmans, and the venture was underway.
Today, BT Express runs 18 tractors. All but four of the tractors are leased from Carry Transit, a division of Superior Bulk Logistics Inc. Carry Transit also provides all of the tank trailers transported by the affiliate. Liquid foods are the primary focus, but BT Express plans to expand into dry bulk cargoes.