Luis Lopez is running a Doral-based logistics company — DGD Transport Inc. — and its sister firm — DG Declaration Inc., which deals with hazardous cargo compliance — partly because he has been playing golf since he was a kid.
Born and raised in Miami, Lopez played golf in high school and, at 13, started working at a local freight forwarding company that sponsored his golf team.
While there, he learned about exports and imports, regulations governing foreign trade, customs procedures and all the basics related to logistics. He also learned that transporting hazardous materials — chemicals, explosives, flammable and radioactive materials, etc. — was a part of international trade that required highly specialized services and procedures.
After graduating from Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Lopez began studying aeronautical engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
But he decided to leave school to start a business, returned to Miami and in 2005 founded DG Declaration, a company that offers classification, compliance, documentation, repacking and training services to clients transporting dangerous cargoes, like explosives and flammable, corrosive, poisonous or radioactive materials.
A year later, the young entrepreneur established DGD Transport, which provides trucking, customs brokerage, warehouse and logistics services. The two firms now make up Team DGD Inc., and are run by Lopez, the owner, founder and CEO.
Lopez said he left college because “I saw there was a need for better hazmat services in Miami.”
“There was a lot of demand for this type of service and existing companies were not agile. Shippers — especially companies using air cargo — need to have their dangerous cargoes classified, documented and ready to ship quickly.”
Lopez began offering same-day hazmat service and rapidly built a portfolio of clients, starting with an aircraft manufacturer he worked with at the freight-forwarding company. He hired and trained employees to provide hazmat services and now has vans that visit clients to resolve their problems quickly.
“We can get to clients the same day they call and provide on-site documentation and repacking,” Lopez said. “We have 10 DG specialists and over 800 customers, including Kuehne + Nagel, Panalpina, Hellmann and Vanguard Logistics.”
DG Declaration got its name from the Dangerous Goods Declaration form required by the International Air Transport Association and the International Maritime Organization for hazmat shipments, and Lopez applied the name to his trucking, warehouse and logistics firm.
DG Declaration was Lopez’s first company, but today DGD Transport — a third-party logistics company — has grown into the larger enterprise, providing about 65 percent of the group’s revenue. Third party logistics firms provide part or all of the supply chain services required in moving goods from manufacturers to warehouses or distributors and eventually to clients.
Last year, the group had revenues of about $14.2 million, Lopez said, up from $9.7 million a year earlier. And he expects continued strong growth this year.
Lopez started out on a small scale using personal savings, but he was able to expand rapidly thanks to a line of credit from Ocean Bank. “They trusted me when I got started and they are still my bank today,” Lopez said.
With a warehouse, 82 tractor-trailers and box trucks, and 132 employees (including 82 contract truck drivers), DGD Transport moves cargo throughout the state in its own vehicles, and arranges overland transport for clients with other trucking companies.
As a customs broker, DGD Transport receives cargo at Florida international airports and seaports, clears customs and either moves merchandise to other destinations or stores it at its Doral warehouse. The firm also works with clients who are exporting, and much of its business involves trade between Miami and Central and South America.
The Doral warehouse is a key part of the business. “We work with freight forwarders who don’t have their own warehouses, and provide fulfillment and distribution for importers and other clients, ” Lopez said. “We’re a one-stop shop. We save our customers money because they don’t have to set up their own warehouse, hire personnel and pay extra costs for worker liability insurance and other items.”
For example, DGD Transport picks up a container at PortMiami for an importer, clears customs, brings it to the Doral warehouse, unseals the container and performs a complete inventory, which is sent to the client. Subsequently, DGD can store the merchandise, mix it with other goods belonging to the client and send orders to other destinations as required.
The warehouse recently had a section full of non-food supplies that DGD sends to ships coming to South Florida for a luxury cruise line; escalators it supplies to the Brickell City Centre project, and light poles and other equipment for the Venetian Causeway upgrade.
Despite recent declines in South Florida’s imports and exports, Lopez is investing in new trucks and personnel and sees strong growth for his companies.
“Team DGD offers a wide variety of logistics solutions for air, ocean and road transportation,” Lopez said. The trade slump has not affected DGD, he said. “Today I don’t have enough trucks to meet demand, and I’ve ordered 30 more. The more trucks we have on the road, the more we can grow.”
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DGD Transport and DG Declaration
Business: Doral-based DGD Transport Inc. is a logistics firm providing clients with customs brokerage for in-bound merchandise, the full range of domestic truck transportation services for importers and exporters, as well as public and bonded warehouse services, such as secure storage, fulfillment and distribution. DGD operates a warehouse and a fleet of 82 tractor-trailers and box trucks out of its Doral headquarters. Sister-company DG Declaration Inc. provides clients dealing with hazardous materials the documentation, compliance, repackaging and training necessary for shipping dangerous cargoes by air, sea or land.
Founded: The hazmat division was started in 2005 and the trucking and warehouse business was set up in 2006.
Headquarters: 1325 NW 78th Ave., Suite 104, Doral.
Owner, founder and CEO: Luis Lopez.
Employees: 132, including 82 self-employed (contract) truck drivers.
Customers: other logistics companies, freight forwarders, importers, any companies or project developers that need customs brokerage, transportation, storage and distribution of merchandise or equipment, plus firms that want to ship or store hazardous materials.
Revenues: $14.2 million in 2015.
Websites: http://www.dgdtransport.com and http://www.dgdeclaration.com.
Sources: DGD Transport, DG Declaration