“I’ve always been in the transportation business,” she says. “Back in the ‘30s my father had horses we would sell to pull carriages, then I had a taxi company with my husband, and now the trucks.’’
When Lara’s husband passed away in the mid-80s, she faced the difficult task of taking care of their teenage daughter and the business. That’s when she decided to switch to the hauling business “because taxis were too difficult to handle in Manila,” she says.
In 1986, Lara’s hauling business started with three small lorries and soon expanded to 20, all transporting ethanol. Today, Economi Hauling has a fleet of 50 trucks and is the exclusive hauling contractor for Petron, one of three major oil companies operating in the Philippines.
So, how is it to be a female boss in a male-dominated business? “I’ve been used to it for so long now. I am the eldest of three sisters, with no brother, so I was always meant to be the breadwinner,” says Lara. “Even though it was not so common at that time for women to have a higher education, I am a college graduate, first in teaching and then in commerce.”
Improving the fleet with UD trucks
During 2014 and 2015 the company bought 16 Questers. “For now we are very satisfied with them, our hope is they will last about 15 years,” says Paul Shotwell, the Vice-President and Director of Operations. He is thinking of buying 10 to 15 more units over the next two years, a move that widens Lara’s smile: “My favorite moment in this company? Every time we get new trucks!” she says.
“We are not really expanding our fleet, but rather improving it. I want to replace some of the old trucks we have, probably with UD trucks,” adds Shotwell. “For now UD represents 30% of our fleet, and probably more in the near future.’’
Another reason that convinced Economi Hauling is UD’s sales and service support in Manila. “They are very good and very customer-oriented,” says Shotwell. The company is very satisfied with the speed of response and the quality of service, making it one of the influencing factors when Economi comes to upgrade its fleet.
A day of the Economi family
People are the backbone of a company’s growth, and Lara has created a respectful and caring environment that makes the company a family to all.
Lara and the office employees still operate in the same compound of houses where she used to live with her husband 30 years ago. Her daughter and grand-children are also involved in the company.
The same goes with the drivers, like Mario Paguio, who has been with the family for 30 years. “When I got married I needed a stable job so I became a driver. I have never been to a training school, I learned from experience,’’ Paguio says.
Two of Paguio’s six children, his eldest and second boys, are also drivers for Economi Hauling. “It’s good to have families in the company,” says Shotwell. “They look after one another. And the influence of an elder is also a good thing, especially when it’s a good man like Mario,” he says with smile.
Paguio drives one of the UD Questers in the fleet, and spends most of his day with his Quester. “At 1am, I dress in my uniform then go and check my truck – the oil, water, and battery. I’m doing my first delivery at around 3am, after that, I sleep for a while in the truck,” he says. “Then I go back to Petron for a refill and repeat.”
Such early starts every day are unavoidable because of Manila’s infamous traffic jams, which saw the government impose a ban preventing trucks from operating in urban areas on Mondays to Saturdays from 6am to 10am and from 5pm to 10pm.
Paguio has a lot good things to say about his daily partner – the Quester. The comfort that his Quester offers gives extra assurance to Shotwell, because it helps the drivers to rest and restore their energy between deliveries to be at their peak when they represent their customers on the road.