Thundering into the haulage business, this operator uses Steelbro sidelifters to address the most pressing issues of their business: dependability and flexibility.
Located near Putrajaya, Thunder Express Sdn Bhd is deliberately located in the middle between the airport and Port Klang. With a background in logistics, the company initially focused on freight forwarding and the strategic placement of the office is a reflection of their business activity. Meeting with Calvin Wong and Joyce Sim, both Directors, we learn about how they managed to grow their business at lightning speed with the help of Steelbro’s sidelifters. As clients demand for fast service, the company name is a depiction of the way things are handled: lightning fast.
Thunder Express was established in 2014. At first, it was Wong working alone after he set up the company. He started alone in a small rented office in USJ, initially just providing the freight booking services, which included air and sea freight. He realised that this was not enough and that clients were asking for a full suite of services. Just offering partial solutions was not enough for the demanding clients he attracted. “In order to diversify the service in logistics and meet the requirement of customers, we applied for a customs brokerage license in 2017; and set up our haulage department in 2019. So we basically can provide A to Z services to our clients,” he summed up the company’s resume till date.
As an integrated service provider, Thunder Express does not specialise on a certain type of client, but emphasises flexibility and dependability. “What we found is that many times, when we outsourced services, the third party let us down. Sometimes we would only find out days later that the goods had not been moved as promised.” This kind of situation was not acceptable for Wong and he countered this risk of his name being tarnished by unreliable providers through vertical integration.
Prior to setting up the haulage department in 2019, serious research went into the planning. It was then, when Steelbro was added to the list of providers of assets. Reputation and dependability of Steelbro’s sidelifters was confirmed by other users and members of associations. Thunder Express handles various types of cargo in standard 20’ & 40’ containers, and also ISO tanks. Many customers request for shunting service, due to limited numbers of loading bays at their warehouse. Making up around 40 percent of the jobs, this is a key service offered. “This is where a sidelifter really shines and the ability to quickly move containers without using expensive gear has put us into a very advantageous situation.” Besides, for those premises who not have a loading bay, without sidelifter they will need to climb up the trailer for unstuffing. Has using the Steelbro sidelifter changed the operation and the types of work carried out? Yes it did, for example some of Thunder Express’ customers had to hire crane trucks to unload the container from the trailer, whereby a sidelifter can replace the crane truck and perform the same job at their side.
“Sidelifter truck also helped us to perform the jobs faster when we need to focus to turn in / turn out a big volume of containers from one premise to another.” Therefore providing sidelifter service will attract a wider customer base. The initial fleet of three prime movers and ten trailers, of which two were sidelifters has served Thunder Express well and the plan worked. Today, the fleet comprises of 11 trucks, 75 trailers and three Steelbro sidelifters. While the majority jobs are within the Klang Valley area, Thunder Express is able to operate throughout the peninsular. “Today, one of the main challenges we are facing is the congestion in ports globally. Being able to quickly move containers around using sidelifters is an advantage we have right now.” Since the acquisition of the sidelifters, Thunder Express has sent the trailers several times for normal service and parts replacement. So far the service level has been satisfactory according to Wong, whereby Steelbro managed to solve the issues in a timely manner, fast and accurate.
Drivers have to have at least two years’ experience before they would be considered by Thunder Express. Feedback from operators thus far is that the quality of Steelbro unit is reliable and the operation is safe and easy to control. “Safety consideration is very important to us, with SB450 we can carry the containers up to 45 tonnes freely. Think about heavy duty load, think about Steelbro,” added Sim. Durable and sustainable are terms used by the duo, reflecting their ambition for the business. Asked about future growth, Sim said that the company has still a lot of potential and more equipment, including Steelbro sidelifters will be added as and when demand supports this.
Sim, with a background in finance, is hoping to be able to repeat what she has been doing before joining her husbands’ business: take the company public. When asked about the secret ingredient for the fast success, Wong jokingly said that one has to find a very helpful spouse. Obviously, this constellation seems to work as Sim is applying a very sharp pencil when it comes to helping customers saving money. In turn, customers see Thunder Express not as just a transporter, but a partner that brings knowledge and equipment to the yard to make transportationseamless and cost-effective.
First published in Asian Trucker Issue 59