Back in 1996, Merijn van Zaal observed that there was potential for configuring the transport process more conveniently and efficiently. "Now it is quite common for growers to sell their products through various auctions, but back then it wasn't. I noticed that many growers only traded their flowers and plants through their local auctions. And if they wanted to auction off their goods elsewhere, they needed a different transport company for each auction. I thought: there has to be a better way – a single transport company that serves all the auctions", says Merijn.
So alongside working for his father's firm, he started driving a truck for a grower with nurseries in Aalsmeer and Venlo at the weekends. "This grower wanted more frequent connections between Aalsmeer and Venlo, but he didn't have sufficient volume," explains Merijn. He therefore came up with a solution: he identified what there was demand for at the auction in Venlo and then which growers in Aalsmeer could supply to meet that demand. This was the beginning of Van Zaal Transport, officially founded on 19 January 1996 by Merijn and Natasja van Zaal. They bought their first truck and a small building at Hedera Plant Nursery in De Kwakel became the firm's official base. From small building to office building
But although the couple had set up Van Zaal Transport, they both initially continued to work for their parents' company. Former classmate Marc Smit was their first employee. Marc planned and drove the first shipments for the brand-new transport company. But after just three months, things got so busy that Merijn bought an extra truck and started working for his own company. "First only in the evenings and at the weekends, but it soon got so busy that I quit working for my father", he explains.
The company grew quickly. Three years later, in 1999, Van Zaal Transport already had 10 trucks of its own. Natasja also gave up her old job and started doing the administration for the haulage company. In the meantime, the firm continued to grow. In 2002, they bought land on Poelweg in De Kwakel. There they built an office, which was completed in 2003. By then, the company had 20 trucks and thirty-five employees, including current employees Jan van der Leest and Nico Schouten. Expansion
After the move, growth continued at a rapid pace. Besides haulage, Van Zaal Transport also started renting out commercial units on Poelweg. Subsequently, the firm added warehousing to its portfolio of services. New customers included Desch-EPLA, a manufacturer of pots and dishes (warehousing and transport), and Ranzijn Tuin & Dier (rental of commercial units and transport).
In addition, Van Zaal opened depots at various locations in the Netherlands – in 2004 at the flower auction in Aalsmeer, followed in 2006 by a depot at the auction in Naaldwijk. When, in response to demand from growers, Van Zaal Transport became the first carrier to start distributing day trade from Venlo in 2008, they also opened a location at Royal FloraHolland in Venlo. When this auction moved to Herongen (Germany) in 2010 as a result of a merger, the haulage company also opened a location there. The depot in Venlo remained, but moved to the FloraZON building. In response to the growth of its activities in North Brabant, in March 2016 Van Zaal Transport opened its latest depot: Ammerzoden.
Van Zaal Transport has since grown to become a respected medium-sized company in the transport world. With sixty of its own trucks, the carrier serves the whole of the Netherlands and Belgium and parts of Germany. The number of employees has grown substantially: from 1 in 1996 to 120 permanent employees in 2017. However, the firm's vision has always remained the same: thinking proactively. "As a firm, you need to continue to look at what the customer needs and innovate on that basis, for example in the field of automation", says Merijn.