UD Trucks

The iron lady of hauling

Thursday, December 15, 2016

At an hour past midnight, Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is sound asleep. Mario Paguio, a driver at Economi Hauling, freshens himself up, puts on his neat uniform, and goes to check and prep his UD Quester truck. Two hours from now, he must be on the road for his first delivery.

Aurora Lara, the founder and owner of the company, will soon start her day as well. At the age of 83 she is still the heart of the business and oversees the day-to-day operations of Economi Hauling. “I get up before the sun, around 4am, and start planning the day, thinking about the trucks and how to organize them. Then I spend my day in the office,” Lara says, grinning from ear to ear.
“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.’’ 

UD Trucks The iron lady of hauling
Aurora Lara, the founder and owner of Economi Hauling

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.

UD Trucks The iron lady of hauling
Paul Shotwell, the Vice-President and Director of Operations made the decision to upgrade the fleet with UD Questers

“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.

UD Trucks The iron lady of hauling

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. 
UD Trucks The iron lady of hauling
Mario Paguio on the road with his UD Quester

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. “I really like this truck because the engine is very strong, yet easy enough to shift. In Manila we are constantly in the traffic, doing stop-and-go driving so we need a reliable engine. Plus it’s very comfortable to sleep in.” 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.   

Economi Hauling has always had its firm grip on where to go and how fast to grow. It is now well set to continuously evolving. Lara is humble: “As long as I’m alive this company will go on,” she promises. Shotwell looks at her and adds: “Actually, we want this company to go on beyond us.”