This month’s driver interview introduces Tobey Collins of KRC Pet Transport. A relative newcomer to the business, this 39-year-old Kentuckian has made remarkable progress in just a few short months – he’s already struggling to keep up with the growing demand.
We got in touch with Tobey to learn what’s behind this sudden success. Here’s what he had to say about ball pythons, Cash-on-Delivery payments, and USDA registration.
To start with, give us a bit of background. What did you do for work before, and how did you start out in pet transportation?
I moved to Central Kentucky in 2014, where I worked as a Lathe Operator for a couple of years. Around mid-2018, I started working as an independent contractor using apps such as Roadie, Instacart, Postmates, etc. It wasn’t till the beginning of 2019 I learned of CitizenShipper and signed up.
I started offering Cash on Delivery services through CitizenShipper, and the demand has well surpassed my expectations. In the beginning, I was doing deliveries only on weekends, taking all week to plan the different transports and organizing them. As my rating gradually increased, so did the percentage of bids I was winning, and it became clear that I could turn this into a career. I quit my job as a Lathe Operator, took a week off, and started focusing on this 100% of the time.
I try to be self-sufficient but the demand often outdoes me, and I have to hire friends of mine to help me with the transport. Now I have them signed up with CitizenShipper, making their own bids.
What’s your relationship with animals been like over the years? Are you a pet owner yourself?
Growing up on a farm in Eastern Kentucky. we had various animals – dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, chickens, turkeys, etc. There were not many farm animals that we didn’t have.
My current pet is a three-foot-long ball python named Snake. (Ha.) With me being on the road so much, I don’t have time to take care of a dog or cat, even though I would love to have one. Snake was my perfect solution.
Customers describe you as reliable, responsive, and honest – a straight-shooter that genuinely cares about the animals he’s transporting. How much of your success do you attribute to this ability to connect with people?
When I first signed up and started the bidding process, I told myself to be vigilant and remain hopeful. Message potential transports, with the emphasis on being there for them from start to finish. Be polite, always try to accommodate the client… If it’s not possible, make sure that they know exactly what was going on and why. I wanted to go above and beyond establishing just a rapport, and make new friends along the way.
Persistently doing this over the past 6 months has paid off. I often converse with past clients about their pets, and about what is going on with me. In doing this, I gained multiple clients by word of mouth. Not every phone call or message ends with a transport, but I always tell them to try CitizenShipper. While I may not be the cheapest, you can find other awesome drivers on there that will help them within their budget.
I’d say I do land close to half of the jobs through direct contact. So far, everyone seems to be extremely happy with how I operate. From my experience, you can tell when someone does a great job and go above and beyond what they’re supposed to do. Judging from the people that have hired me, I feel like they all get that emotion when dealing with me.
Let’s talk payments, then. On your profile, you point out that you don’t ask for money upfront. Has it ever come back to bite you, this commitment to COD?
Not at all. I haven’t met a person that had ill intentions. From my experience, everyone I’ve met was more than happy at the end. If a shipment gets canceled along the route, I absorb any losses incurred. I would in no way expect the other families that I’m delivering for to aid in anything financially because of this.
There have been times that I barely broke even for a trip, but that’s the responsibility you take when you offer this type of service. Even though I went in the negative on two different deliveries, both were on time and nobody was expected to help cover unforeseen costs. That’s my job, not theirs.
CitizenShipper now offers a verification process for USDA-registered drivers. Did you get around to submitting your own certificate yet? I’m told you keep it at your mom’s place in Jacksonville?
No, I haven’t submitted it yet. I had left my mail at my mother’s apartment when cleaning my vehicle – there’s an on-grounds vehicle cleaning station at her apartment complex. When I left, I never thought anything about the mail that I’d left there. It wasn’t a week later CitizenShipper started to verify USDA-certified drivers. I’m booked back to Florida the second weekend in October, so I will be able to submit it then.
When did you first decide to register as a transporter with the USDA, and what prompted you to do so? Are the customers more inclined to trust you when they hear you’re officially registered?
My first attempt at getting it was about three months ago. They had two different locations that you could submit the paperwork to, North Carolina and Colorado. When I first requested information on it, I had emailed the USDA some questions, as to what I would need to do. I was informed to download the packet from the USDA website, fill out the two-pages paper and submit it. They also informed me that I would be needing a class-H registration as an intermediate handler. There were three different types of registration that they did, class-H for handlers, class-R for research facility transporters, and class-T for carriers.
I filled out the paperwork, mailed it to the North Carolina office and waited. A couple of months went by and I never heard anything. I re-reached out to the USDA representative that I’d talked to, and they told me that the North Carolina office was no longer handling these, and didn’t have any of my information. I was instructed to resubmit the information another time, this time to the Colorado office, with a tracking number.
So take note – don’t make the mistake I did and mail it to North Carolina. Colorado is where the registrations are issued from now. I can’t remember how long it actually took from that point to receive it, but it wasn’t more than a month.
Lastly, any plans for the business you’d care to share? If it’s getting difficult to keep up with the demand, I guess expansion would be the obvious solution, right?
Exactly! As I mentioned before, I referred a couple of friends that I’d hired to help me with some of my deliveries to sign up with CitizenShipper and start doing this professionally. We are in the process of organizing a strategy to dominate the East Coast in the coming months. We’re focusing on lower rates, better communication with the clients, and having multiple plans in place for any unforeseen circumstances that might come up.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Tobey, and for providing another example of early success for the drivers who are just starting out. Take care out there!
Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this! The job has truly changed my life, and I hope to be able to do this for many years to come. It’s truly a unique and fun opportunity, being able to travel the country, interact with so many people, and get to have new pets every week!