Limerick >> When Joseph Venezia bought his first truck in 1946, little did he know he was sowing the seeds for a family business that would span half a century — so far.
After running a fruit and produce business for several years, Venezia bought his first dump truck. In 1967, Venezia and his sons Frank and John formed Venezia Hauling. They had three trucks — one for each of them.
The company has since grown into Venezia Bulk Transport Inc. — a third-generation family-owned business with 500 trucks delivering to 48 states and Canada.
Venezia contracts with product manufacturers to deliver their products to customers. The company specializes in the delivery of products in three divisions: liquid, dry and specialty products. Some of the materials the company transports include food-grade products like flour, salt and sugar, LPG, limestone, plastic resins, powdered cement, asphalt and tars and motor oil.
“We started with one dump truck and today we’re working with major fortune 500 companies. We’ve come a long way,” said Andrew Venezia, the CEO.
The company started in Trooper but has called Limerick home since 1975. Andrew, the third son of Joseph Venezia, joined the company full-time in 1984.
“At first, we were operating out of our home. Our dispatch office was in our basement, and our shop was in the backyard. All of us were fully involved from a young age,” Andrew Venezia said.
John Venezia, who currently serves as vice president of the company, said that in 1967, the decision was made to grow the business.
“We were three owner-operators. We were each driving a truck, and we said, ‘Are we going to continue driving a truck on our own or are we going to band together and form a company?’” he said. “We bought another truck. It was slow growth — one truck at a time.”
Once the industry began to deregulate, first interstate in the 1980s and then intrastate in the 1990s, Venezia’s slow growth shifted to slow, careful growth, according to Andrew Venezia.
“There were opportunities to grow rapidly, but we have always been careful not to overextend and to stay conservative. It took us 50 years to get this far and we’re on solid ground growing for the future,” he said.
The company currently has more than 500 drivers and more than 100 corporate employees. The company headquarters is located at 86 Airport Road in Limerick, and there are 12 terminal locations in nine states.
One of the keys to Venezia Bulk Transport’s success, according to Andrew Venezia, is diversity in its products.
“We’re able to keep drivers busy year round. Some of the products we haul are seasonal and cyclical,” he said. “We design our revenue stream to be resilient. It has worked through many downturns.”
The company keeps a close watch on the economy and how it affects the business, he added.
“We’re very close and in tune to customers and our markets, and we can be quick to react and change,” Venezia said.
Another key to the company’s success, according to John Venezia, is the company culture of working hard and doing the right thing.
“It’s a family culture — safety-oriented, and we’re fair and honest with everybody. That’s how you get to be a 50-year-old company,” he said, adding the culture is on display and encouraged throughout the organization.
“Our job is to support the drivers. If you take care of your employees, the employees take care of the customers,” said J.P. Venezia, assistant director of maintenance and John’s son.
“There are a lot of things we do, from making sure their pay is correct, making sure they’re home when they need to be home and providing good communications,” continued Frank Venezia, director of operations and also John’s son.
New driver training includes several days of training in Limerick, so that when they go back out into field operations, the drivers take the company culture with them.
“The customer sees the driver, the customer doesn’t see us. They are talking to the drivers daily — they are the face of the company,” J.P. Venezia added.
Safety is a key area of focus for the company, according to John Venezia. Company trucks feature collision avoidance systems, anti-rollover technology, cameras and satellite communications. The trucks can monitor driving conditions and operations and also have the capability of sending a video clip and email to the company’s safety director.
Recently, the company hosted a two-day 50th anniversary celebration at its headquarters — an event for customers and vendors in the evening, and a celebration for employees and their families the next day.
One of the most popular activities at the employee celebration was the truck rides the kids were able to take, according to Andrew Venezia.
Frank and JP Venezia, the third generation, say they never felt pressure growing up that they had to join the company.
“In our case it was more a case of trying to keep us away from it. Trucking is in our blood. They never told us, ‘You have to do this,’” Frank Venezia said.
“The only thing he (John Venezia) told us was that we had to go to work on Saturday,” J.P. Venezia added with a laugh.
“The entire family and values of hard work and respect have always been there,” Frank Venezia added.
The company was recently recognized by Limerick Township officials and received a proclamation from Gov. Tom Wolf for its longevity.
So what comes next for a family-owned business following such a major milestone?
“We’re going to continue our march to the next 50 years,” Andrew Venezia said. “We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing — cautiously moving forward — in a growth mode.”