It’s the Little Things That Matter: Interview with new Transport America President Paul Simmons

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden, former head coach, UCLA men’s basketball team, 10-time NCAA National Champions

One of the most important things that Paul Simmons, the new President of Transport America, learned when he was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps was the concept of servant leadership.

“As a leader, I learned that leaders are here to serve those who report to me,” says Simmons. “As trivial as that may sound, the key is this: remove distractions and barriers to allow those with whom you work to do their jobs. When you do this, the entire team becomes more effective and productive as they become more confident in finding solutions (rather than wait for a solution to be provided to them).”

With more than 26 years of experience in the trucking industry, primarily on the operations side of the business, Simmons believes it is his privilege to work with truck drivers.

“Everything we buy – everything that’s on the shelves of our stores – depends on truck drivers to deliver those items,” Simmons says. “That’s pretty humbling when you think about it.”

It’s these perspectives that Simmons takes into his new role in leading Transport America.

“To me, our success depends a great deal on the success of our drivers” says Simmons, “This boils down to three things that we can do to make the lives of our drivers better: more miles, consistent time at home, and best-in-class treatment will add up to bigger things. I have learned that there is no perfect trucking company. Our focus will be on execution excellence that will lead to a great driver and customer experience and lead to growth for Transport America.”

So what exactly does this mean?

As we narrow our focus we need to drive quality freight and revenue across our assets.

“We want to team with customers who value us, and whom we value,” says Simmons. “From a day-to-day perspective, this translates into customers that respect our drivers’ time – they don’t cancel their loads at the last minute, they don’t keep them waiting, they have their loads ready to go or they’re ready to receive their loads when our drivers arrive, and they value the safety of our drivers.”

Likewise, Simmons wants to ensure that Transport America associates live out the number one core value of safety first. An example is that all drivers are getting outside of their trucks to measure up the situation before backing up their truck. A core value of excellence in all we do leads to making sure drivers are always paid on time; that fleet leaders and planners focus on loads that move in and out of major markets versus taking a load that potentially leaves a driver in a deadhead situation.

“Here’s the way I think: If we could get just 10 more miles on each truck in our fleet, each day of the year – that little change could add up to bigger rewards for all of us, such as more miles and higher pay for our drivers, and more improved customer service,” Simmons says.

The going won’t be easy, says Simmons. Transport America, as well as many other U.S. trucking companies, face a number of challenges in the years to come. These include finding enough loads to fill the available trucks throughout the industry, the shift from paper logbooks to electronic logs, to the ongoing treatment of drivers, regulatory changes affecting the safety of truck drivers as well as potentially allowing driver assisted vehicles on the road.

“Our particular challenge,” says Simmons, “is that we’re a mid-size trucking company that competes with other trucking companies that are much larger than us. I believe there are plenty of of opportunities for Transport America to team up with customers that value what we uniquely offer to the market, such as our flexibility and our high quality professional truck drivers. We’re aligning with customers that want a partner to help them solve their problems, not just another trucking company vendor.”

Going into 2018, Simmons intends to continue the work of Keith Klein, who recently retired from Transport America as President, in providing excellent service to Transport America’s customers. In addition, he wants to narrow Transport America’s focus on three specific areas:

  • Drive execution excellence that leads to improved driver and customer experience
  • Drive quality freight across our assets
  • Better manage costs

Simmons’ focus is grounded in the values he shares with Transport America.

“What intrigued me about Transport America are the values of the organization and the reputation of the associates that work here. Those values, such as respect for the driver and safety, is what sets this company apart from others. That’s why I wanted to come and work here. This company is absolutely committed to ethics, safety, and the quality of its people. This truly is a top notch place to have a career in the trucking industry and I am excited about our future.”

“Everyone says that we do a good job of serving our customers, taking care of our drivers, etc.” Simmons adds. “For us to keep changing trucking, we must do a great job, and that starts with taking care of our truck drivers. I want Transport America to not be a good place for drivers, I want it to be the best in the industry with everyone in our organization doing everything they can to support them. That’s where I want to take Transport America.”