Starting a Trucking Company, TCS Customer Spotlight

Starting and Succeeding in the Trucking Industry

TCS Customer Spotlight: Harmony Connections, LLC

Before the pandemic, Steven Johnson was styling hair and running his successful barbershop in Maryland. But when COVID-19 restrictions and precautions forced his hair salon to close, he knew he needed to heed the advice of customers and his mother, all of whom were telling him to get his CDL.

Flash forward to today, and Steven is now the owner of the profitable interstate carrier company Harmony Connections LLC. He currently employs up to eight drivers and manages a fleet of six trucks with plans to add more. He has also recently obtained his freight broker license and attributes all of these success milestones to his relationship with Transportation Compliances Services.

We sat down with Steven over Zoom to learn more about his journey into the trucking business and his experience working with TCS. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Tell us about your trucking company. When did you start your trucking business, and why?

I previously was a barber and had a barbershop. But when the pandemic hit, barbershops were not allowed to operate, and that went on for months. That really put a strain on family, finances, and just trying to figure out how to survive. It was really a burden. I had a lot of customers, and a lot of them were truck drivers, and they said—and even those that weren’t truck drivers said— “It’s always good to have something to fall back on.”

My mother recently passed, but she was one of the important people who inspired me to get my CDLs. I had gone from making a decent living to nothing. So I went and got my CDLs to have something to fall back on and started the company in 2020. It took me two and a half weeks to get my CDLs. I put a lot into it in a short amount of time because I was sliding very fast and needed to attain something, and that’s how I got into trucking.

Q: Where are you today as a motor carrier?

I started the trucking business on December 8, 2020, but the company wasn’t authorized to operate until January 28, 2021, and nine months later, in September 2021, we obtained our 6th truck.

Today we have 6-8 drivers but started with one driver. During the pandemic, it was very risky because many states had driving restrictions, and you couldn’t cross state lines. It was a very risky business.

But I realized after things started opening back up, “We just survived the pandemic with a trucking company under restrictions; what’s going to happen when everything opens up?” So three months later, we added another truck, and then we just kept adding trucks, and we now cover all of the United States. It’s all about growth.


Steven Johnson seen leaning out his driver's side window of his truck while waiting to be loaded.
Steven Johnson, Owner-Operator of Harmony Connections, LLC, is on the road and waiting to get his truck loaded.

Q: When and how did you discover TCS and their Managed Compliance Services?

When I first applied for my CDLs, I knew I didn’t want to just be a driver. I was used to being my own boss for 10 years. So I Googled “how to start a trucking company?” and I saw the ad and the New Entrant Checklist and realized there was TCS, and they could do everything for me.

I compared doing it myself vs. having it done for me. Although it’s a little cheaper doing it myself, I realized this business is Federally regulated, so you have to have everything in order. The last thing you want to do is not be in compliance. 

Q: Why did you choose Transportation Compliance Services?

I spent a lot of time studying requirements and looking stuff up to check when things renew. The last thing I wanted to do was forget a critical piece of information or let something lapse and my authority get revoked. It takes so long to build what you have, and after everything, you have to do to get it to have something like that happen. It takes a lot of sacrifices, and it takes a lot of time, and there is a lot you have to do.

There’s a lot of stress. You risk forgetting key information, not filing something correctly, submitting it to the right place, or not submitting it on time. It is not easy to do it yourself.

There’s so much paperwork that goes into it. There are so many things that have to be filed on time; so many regulations you have to be in compliance with. So when I saw the name “Transportation COMPLIANCE Services,” I was like, “Ok, compliance!” Let’s see what they offer. So I decided to give it a shot.

Q: What has your experience been like working with TCS?

Thanks to TCS Managed Compliance Services, it makes it easy—easy to just focus on running the business.

TCS helped with everything from the start-up of the business to driver qualification files and DOT drug and alcohol testing to background checks and even the state and federal compliance requirements—all of that was taken care of for me.

TCS just made it so much easier.TCS handled all of the things that needed to be in order. They provided checklists, the next steps for each stage of the process, and how much time we had to do them. After I completed one step, Mitch at TCS would tell me what we needed to do next. 

On my own, I’d be constantly looking things up on Google. With TCS, I get constant reminders.

– Steven Johnson, Owner-Operator, Harmony Connections, LLC

I rely on the TCS team to keep me in compliance. My business would be nowhere if we weren’t in compliance. You know, I have people working for me depending on me to be in compliance so they can do their job and feed their families. If my business fell out of compliance, what would I say to all the people who built a career that is dependent on my business? I rely on TCS to tell me I’m good to go.

I just went through a safety audit. I was extremely nervous. I was like, “Oh gosh. This might be the end of the road.” It was this unknown; I had not been through that before. That’s something all new entrants have to do at one point. They let you go on and operate for a little bit and accumulate a history. Then they come and audit you.

One of the good decisions that I made was choosing Transportation Compliance Service. I went through the safety audit which is a review of your driver qualification files, insurance, hours of services, etc. So you go down the list and have specific timelines. At the time, I had just lost my mother, and I was trying to supply all of the information, but I was still in the process of grieving. I was going back and forth with the team in TCS, and they were able to send everything over because it (the documentation) was all already there.

My auditor’s title was Master Trooper, which was terrifying in and of itself. But then he said, “I could poke a stick at this any which way, and you are not going to fail. Whoever you are working with is doing a good job.” He told me most people he audits do not know what a driver qualification file is. Half of the information I provided most new entrants cannot provide. I was in a lot better shape than the majority of the people they audit because of TCS.

The tools and services that TCS provides overprepare you. That’s a good place to be when you’re talking about Federal and State safety compliance. It’s very necessary. I sleep good at night.

– Steven Johnson, Owner-Operator, Harmony Connections, LLC

Also, TCS helped me obtain my broker’s qualification. I called Mitch at TCS and asked what I needed to do to start a brokerage, and he had checklists for that. My experience with TCS is it’s like a cheat sheet. They already have a system in place, and it makes it that much easier. I was up and running with a brokerage in no time. It made it so much easier, and now I can deal with shippers directly. I know if TCS tells me I’m ready to go and I’m in compliance, I know I am good to go!

TCS has improved and helped me structure my business. I started with TCS, so it is a foundation and structure for my business. I owe the success of my business to TCS. I owe it to the team at TCS; I really do.

Q: Would you recommend TCS to other transportation companies?

I already have! Several! A lot of my prior clients from the barbershop that wanted to start trucking companies, I’ve told them about TCS. My wife recently started up a trucking company. I tell them they have nothing to worry about with TCS.

Want to succeed in the trucking industy? Let Transportation Compliance Service Help You

We love helping owner-operators like Steven get their business set up the right way and we partner closely with them to help them grow and succeed.

In the trucking industry, failure to comply with Federal and State regulations can have a disastrous effect on your bottom line. And while remaining compliant is clearly in the best interest of every owner operator, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and time-consuming.

With TCS Ongoing Compliance Monitoring, you’ll have a dedicated compliance manager who has made it their business to take care of yours.

Let the Managed Services Compliance Specialists at TCS help you keep your business on the road for the long haul.

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