Getting Cars from Here to There: Transport company heads into busiest season

For as long as there have been automobiles, there has also been a need to get them from point A to point B. No one knows this more than Jesse DeGraeve, the owner of Double Time Transport, LLC, a long distance automobile transporting company based in Traverse City.

DeGraeve has been in the car hauling business for over 12 years. Before Double Time Transport, there was Anytime Towing, a company DeGraeve started in 2004 after seeing a need for a towing company in Traverse City market. Anytime’s fleet consisted of four tow trucks, a three-car hauler, and a six-car hauler. As an added service of his towing business, DeGraeve would make long-distance hauling trips for clients.

“In the end, I was doing as much business with the two car haulers as I was with the four tow trucks,” DeGraeve said. But with a lot less hassle, he admitted.

In 2011, he sold Anytime Towing and the four tow trucks, and began focusing solely on his long-distance auto transport business utilizing the two car haulers. He logged 190,000 miles that first year.

Today, Double Time Transport has six vehicles in its fleet. In 2016, it logged over 600,000 miles, and while the company transports mainly cars and trucks, it is also set up to haul larger vehicles up to 15,000 lbs.

Though busy year round with a steady flow of clientele, spring and fall will find DeGraeve and his staff of 14 constantly on the move. Spring in particular, is what DeGraeve refers to as Double Time’s busy season. Beginning in March and lasting until early July, Double Time will see a big boost in both its commercial and non-commercial traffic.

“About now, dealers will start building their used car inventory for tax season,” DeGraeve says. “And beginning in mid-March, our snowbirds will start coming back.”

Seventy-five percent of Double Time’s business comes from commercial clients – used car dealers, primarily. The remaining 25 percent is comprised of individuals, such as classic car collectors, snowbirds who need their “sun car” brought to or from their winter home, and, increasingly, a lot of folks who are shopping for and buying cars online.

“We get a lot of calls where someone will say, ‘I just bought a car in Boston, can you get it back here for me?’” Double Time will also get calls from clients whose cars have broken down or have been in an accident while returning from vacation.

“We transport a lot of classic cars,” DeGraeve added. “A guy this fall had us haul a load of classic Chrysler cars from Boyne City to Georgia. I have a truck going out right now to get a Model T.”

Most commonly, Double Time’s seven drivers find themselves on the north-south interstates, but they also conduct a lot of East Coast business as well as transports within the Midwest. From time to time Double Time is asked to transport cross-country. New Mexico. California. Even once to Hawaii. That’s where Double Time’s brokerage license comes in handy, as it gives DeGraeve the option to utilize his drivers and trucks for the entire haul, or subcontract a portion of it out to another carrier company.

Depending on the size, a new auto carrier can run anywhere from $180,000 to $250,000. Three of DeGraeve’s staff are full-time mechanics who ensure his fleet stays on the road.

DeGraeve has proved himself to be an opportunist. A make-lemonade-out-of-lemons kind of guy. While other transport companies view Michigan’s boundary waters a hindrance – delivering vehicles to northern Michigan can eat up an entire day of driving – DeGraeve has strategically placed one of his trucks in the Detroit area and is the go-to guy for a number of different carriers when they need someone to haul a load of cars up north. “If we can haul to and from Detroit and they’re not having to, everyone wins.”

DeGraeve expects to see more and more of this as companies look to stay in compliance with changing laws. Specifically, the requirement that drivers log no more than 11 hours of driving on the road, and only 14 hours a day “on duty.”

“Once you log in for the day, your clock starts ticking,” DeGraeve said.

If it wasn’t already, time will be of the essence in getting cars to where they need to go. For this reason, in the next six months to a year, DeGraeve is looking to add another truck and place it in Florida, so as to do the same thing he has done in Detroit – seize the opportunity and be that go-to guy for transporting vehicles in between the northern and southern reaches of the Sunshine State.

For more information, go to doubletimetransport.com, or call (231) 929-8981.

Photo by Kayla Keenan

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