Carrier Spotlight of the Month: Southeast Logistics
The important role carriers play in the logistics industry is the reason we spotlight these dynamic companies each month. This month’s featured carrier is Southeast Logistics, a privately-owned flatbed trucking company in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Beau Wicks started Southeast Logistics in 1998 with only five trucks and one terminal. Today, the company has 300 trucks, 400 trailers, 300 drivers, and 5 terminals throughout the Southeast.
Kelly Shipp, customer service manager at Southeast Logistics, generously gave me her time and shared her insights on the industry and the company.
What makes your company unique?
Our fleet is 65% company drivers and 35% owner-operators. We are a very family-oriented company and pride ourselves on the relationships we have built over many years with our drivers and customers. I believe transportation is a pretty simple business—it’s when you get people involved that it gets complicated! If you can master the art of creating and maintaining relationships, you can be very successful in this business, and I think this is one of our best assets. I have been in the flatbed business for 20 years and I know our drivers and customers are the best out there.
How do third party logistics providers (3PLs) impact your business?
In the flatbed industry, there really is no such thing as a “dedicated lane.” Where our drivers end up is determined by the needs of our two largest customers in Tuscaloosa, AL. We may be heavy in an area one week because of our customers’ demands, and then we may have no one available there for several days. It is very hard to develop a good customer in outside areas when we know we cannot guarantee capacity daily. A 3PL gives us the opportunity to haul quality freight that matches our unique needs.
When working with a customer for the first time, what are your expectations?
We like customers to be knowledgeable about the process involved in getting their freight safely from point A to point B, and what they are asking us to haul, so that we know if our drivers are equipped and qualified. We expect them to pay a good rate and pay on time. We do our very best to communicate any issues to all of our customers so that we can work through a problem together until the problem is resolved.
If you could change one thing about the transportation industry, what would it be?
For me, personally, it would be the way the general public perceives our great industry. I think most see drivers as a class of people who are not educated and not capable of doing anything else. This could not be further from the truth. What these men and women have to do in a single day requires a great deal of intelligence, patience, and incredibly challenging physical labor. On the other end of the spectrum, I think they see executives and owners of trucking companies as money hungry folks who will do anything to make a buck. All of the people that I have personally known have not started their endeavors thinking, “Hey, this is a way to get rich!” They have worked their way up into their position because they started out somewhere in the industry and had a passion for the people involved. As an industry, the number of young quality drivers/employees entering the field is almost at a standstill. I believe public perception is at the heart of that.
What should the general public know about the trucking industry?
I truly wish that we could do a better job of educating all people on how to respect the 80,000 pounds of equipment on our highways. I preach this to my friends and family constantly—especially to my son, who will be driving soon!
What industry or technology innovations have improved efficiency within your business?
GPS technology on all of our equipment has dramatically improved our efficiency! Every day, we can see where our drivers are, how long they’ve been there, and we can estimate how long it will be before they can get to their final destination. By being able to “watch” them, we can more accurately plan for them based on approximately how many available driving hours they should have, without having to call them—which would be a distraction they do not need while out on the road. This improves overall productivity and safety, and it helps us maintain the high level of service our customers have grown to expect.
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