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Saddle Creek Logistic Services

Published on July 15, 2016 under Blog
Saddle Creek Logistic Services

President Mike Delbovo, A Forward Thinking Leader

Michael Delbovo breezes his four-wheeler past dozens of people, waving, beeping and saying “hello.” Wearing a reflective vest, he negotiates turns and inclines with precision. Safety first, don’t forget.

There is a lot to see – 2.3 million square feet – to be exact but not enough time to take every little nuance in and fully appreciate the behemoth backdrop. Stacks of beverages stand ready for shipping to the left. Light manufacturing is taking place on the right.

Delbovo is the president of Saddle Creek Transportation in Lakeland and he is cruising in and out of warehouses and office buildings on a golf cart tour. In his 20th year at the company, Delbovo is in charge of a fleet of 18-wheelers.

He will tell you that Saddle Creek is a forward-thinking leader in its trade with 2,700 associates nationwide from the northeast to the northwest.

He will tell you that the company is more than just transportation – it also has divisions for warehousing, packaging and manufacturing.

And he also will tell you, as he weaves in and out of shipping bays loaded with tractor trailers coming and going that maybe, he just might prefer being on two wheels the most.

You see, Delbovo the corporate president, is also a Harley rider. And he’s not the only one at Saddle Creek who rides. Associates there estimate approximately 100 workers ride bikes and Delbovo has helped create a culture of inclusion when it comes to being biker-friendly – which becomes obvious as soon as you hit the front parking lot and see multiple motorcycle-only spots.

Let’s take a ride with Delbovo – we’ll get to his big rigs soon, but let’s start with his blue Harley Ultra Limited since it’s not every day you see a white collar, C-level executive leading a true-blue ride.


Delbovo rides with three main groups: other executives from the city of Lakeland, friends from the community and his church – Church of the Resurrection and what he calls “trucker bikers” – those who are trucking industry executives.

He recently took a 9-day trip with the first group and his son, Mike II who handles recruiting for Saddle Creek out of its Jacksonville location. A small group of riders shipped their bikes to Boise, Idaho and were greeted with 38-degree weather, freedom and the open road – which is not too dissimilar from what Delbovo’s drivers experience at work.

He has been to Montana and Canada on his Ultra Limited and is planning a trip to the Sedona desert, but the Boise trip was a little different because it was his first long ride with his son.

“It’s great camaraderie from traveling executives and this is big deal,” Delbovo said. “It’s amazing how people who love to ride congregate and do this together. Everybody is a gear head – they love riding and the freedom.”

The group started the trip up a mountain on State Highway 21 through Boise National Forrest – interstate riding is off limits when there are sights to be seen. They cruised through Yellow Stone National Park and some mountain range called the Rockies. On the tail ride home, they opened it up full throttle through the plains of Kansas before entering SEC country, passing Tiger Fans, Tide supporters and Gator Nation for their home stretch.

While many in the group of executives toured the nation on their Harleys, Mike II rode his Kawasaki Vulcan 1600. Delbovo said that’s a statement in itself.

“He’s poor,” dad joked, even though his son did trade in a Honda for the Kawasaki because it has a bigger gas tank to take on longer trips. “When you’re 26, you don’t want to be sitting on the back of a frumpy Harley, you wanna be cool.”

The younger Delbovo has a slightly different take – on riding with his father as well as working with him.

“I have the most miles on my bike, but I’m the least experienced,” said Mike II whose mom, Annette, rides along sometimes

I don’t have a mentality difference. It used to be the mentality you couldn’t ride unless it’s a Harley – people share the same love for riding

There’s a perception that they ride crotch rockets and ride 200 miles per hour. …. “I enjoy it. My dad does a good job of meshing everything together.”


Saddle Creek entered the transportation business with just one truck. David P. Lyons founded the company around good old fashioned American sweat labor. That one truck drove around delivering locally grown oranges stuffed in feed sacks.

That was exactly 50 years ago.

Lyons died last year at 85, but not before imparting his brand DNA into all of his workers and setting Saddle Creek on an expansion path that veered past transportation alone. Saddle Creek also warehouses everything from beverages to bread and distributes items behind the scenes for companies like Amazon and Sam’s Club. If you recently bought a mix-and-match bulk package of multiple flavored Gatorade, there’s a good chance Saddle Creek had a hand in the packaging.

Delbovo calls the diverse business model more than just shipping. “It’s supply chain management,” he said. “We have different technology for different customers. We need to be nimble with our labor and flexible with our contracts.”

The company will repackage Nestle water and fulfil millions of e-commerce orders every month from places like Staples and online clubs. Oh, and the workers doing all the labor are encouraged and invited to ride their bikes to work and form weekend riding groups.

It’s not unusual to see 15-20 bikes parked in special bike-only parking or lined up in bike-only sections on a daily basis at Saddle Creek.

Riding and Saddle Creek go hand in hand and everybody seems to appreciate it.

“It helps a lot with recruiting when they come here and see 15 bike parking spots,” said Mike II. “Happy drivers are safe drivers.

Ashfield Vanterpool was recruited to drive for Saddle Creek two years ago. He said there are similarities in riding his Suzuki Hayabusa and driving for Saddle Creek, like being aware of your surroundings.

“When I want to fool around, I go on the drag strip,” said Vanterpool, who has been riding for seven years and was pleasantly surprised when the company gave him a kickstand holder for when he rides his bike to work. “But I want to be cautious because I don’t want to lose my license.”

Director David Burr also enjoys riding his Street Glide 14 when he’s not thinking about whether Saddle Creek is properly distributing Arizona Ice Tea or Corona beer or the 50,000 Brother printer/computer parts that go out weekly.

The company’s commitment to its riders parallels its pledge to its customers. Whether you are white collar or blue collar, the company bleeds green – both in its logo and its operations. According to Delbovo, the company in 2012 invested $55 million into using compressed natural gas to fuel its fleet.

“We are innovators in terms of clean transportation,” said Delbovo.

He said the company is all about sustainability. Since the natural gas feeds from underground right onsite where drivers fill up before leaving Lakeland, it is a stormproof concept because their drivers will never be waiting around for delivery trucks during a gas crisis.

The Saddle Creek trucks also run much quieter and, with no smokestacks, leave a lower carbon footprint as they travel over the road.

“The term biker is not derogatory, it’s empowering,” said Mike II.

Stop reading for a second and think about the first thing that comes to mind when somebody says the word BIKER.

To some, it’s Hell’s Angels. To others it’s James Dean. Fonzie anyone? Maybe not so much. Evel Knievel brought something to the table for those of us who had his wind-up toy in the 1970s.

More recently, “crotch rockets” have earned status as a buzz word to describe many non-Harley riders and recent road rage news accounts have served to drive bikers into that pigeon hole.

OK, if you haven’t started reading again, you can pick back up here.

Now think about these images: fundraising poker runs, Toys for Tots drives, rides for a cause, community service, respect for wildlife, giving back to children and always honoring the military and the fallen.

Saddle Creek has a plethora of patriotic riders who bleed red, white and blue from working for an American company that gives back. Here are a few examples:


Every December, bikers start lining up at Saddle Creek headquarters at 6 a.m. which acts as a staging arena for more than 600 bikes who take a 50-mile pilgrimage to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell to lay wreaths that honor the fallen military veterans. At the Jacksonville location another 100 bikers follow suit and next year Saddle Creek will be adding its Cocoa? Location.

Law enforcement assists in the planning and takes part in the event. Military riders, veterans and first responders take center stage.

“People see that the whole sheriff’s department is behind our organization and they forget about the stereotypes,” Mike II said.

“it’s a wonderful event,” Delbovo said. “I really believe in giving back to help make this company, and the world, a better place. I support things that are important to the people who work for me.”


Bob Carufel has worked in Saddle Creek transportation for eight years and rides an Ultra Classic. His average truck route takes him 450 miles in a day, while his average bike trek covers 200 miles on county back roads.

In 2013, he went riding in Frostproof along Highway 630 when he came across an injured bald eagle who had obviously hit a high wire in flight and appeared burned. Carufel decided the humane thing to do was call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to see if they could save a protected national symbol of patriotism.

He and his riding group parked their bikes and waved oncoming traffic over while they waited two hours for a ranger to reach the remote location and tend to the eagle on the highway.

“That was quite interesting,” Carufel said. “It was cool but scary. Riding is more like therapy (for me).”


In his youth, Wes Perry was a different motorcycle rider than he is today. He started riding at 18 and has worked at Saddle Creek for a decade.

“I used to do crazy things like race from Orlando to Tampa just to see how fast we could go,” said Perry, who notes he hasn’t crashed since 1995.

Perry rides a Road King now and sponsors “predator rides” to help children who are the victims of molestation. He also is helping build a playground near Sarasota called Angels Playground for what he calls forgotten children who have died.

When it comes to his driving, Perry said tractor trailers and motorcycles are a lot alike because “you never know what’s going on around you 360 degrees.”

… The golf cart turns into a parking spot and Delbovo exits. The peak inside Saddle Creek has come to an end. Somewhere between the motion sensor that turns on the lights near the stacks of Gatorade and the electronic logs and video recorders that help track the driver’s routes, the executive trucker biker makes one final point about the culture he tries to instill in his employees at Saddle Creek – whether they ride or not.

“I don’t care what you do, but you have to do something,” said Delbovo, who serves on multiple boards including the Lakeland Regional Medical Center. I encourage everybody to give back.”

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