With close to 40 years at Saia, Paul Peck has seen the company and the industry grow and change. Here Paul shares a bit about his career and tells us how the company has transformed over the years.
I started at Saia in September 1977. I was a 17-year-old kid, fresh out of high school when I started working in the billing department at Saia New Orleans, the flagship terminal at the time. I was responsible for handling billing and rates/extension work – a process that was all manual back then.
I continued to work with Saia throughout college in various other departments, which allowed me to learn the freight business. I moved my way up the ladder from serving as a dock supervisor to terminal manager to regional manager. All of those positions prepared me for my current role, vice president of operations, central.
Expanding Saia’s Footprint
When I started, we had 10 terminals — nine in Louisiana and one in Houston — today we’re at 148. Just in terms of pure numbers, the growth is obvious, but that growth represents more. Historically, mergers and acquisitions have not gone well in the freight business, but Saia has been able to grow both organically and through successful acquisitions. Our first acquisition was a Florida–based company in 1995, which allowed us to enter the southern Georgia and Florida markets. Then some years later we acquired another company that grew our presence out west. It took time and hard work to assimilate their culture into ours, but everyone was committed to a successful transition. Acquisitions have allowed us to get freight on the trucks in these markets and put experienced people in positions more quickly than through organic expansion.
Improving the Customer Experience
In my current role as the vice president of operations, central, my primary focus is on the customer and making sure we’re focusing on their wants and needs, because at the end of the day, everything we do is for them.
In every survey we conduct, the most important topic to our customers is making pickups on time. Over the years, we have implemented detailed daily processes and state-of-the art software that monitor our pickups and help us understand if they are timely to both the day and the specific window.
Our computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system allows us to manage our business better by making sure pickups go to the correct driver (not just any driver), to follow up with drivers and to assure that we are timely with our deliveries and pickups. Our customers are very important to us; we’re constantly following, revisiting and measuring our Customer Service Indicators® and metrics to ensure we’re doing what we say we’re going to do and working on any area where we fall short as part of Saia’s desire to continually seek improvement.
Evolving through Technology
The biggest changes I’ve seen at Saia were through industry-leading innovations that have allowed us to meet our customer’s specific requests, giving them a personalized experience.
If a customer wants, they can practically be in the cab with the driver, following the shipment online and knowing where it is every step of the way. This represents one of the biggest changes in the industry and it has increased the demand the customer places on us because they’re able to be a part of the business and transaction. Because this information is always readily available, our customers are smarter and more knowledgeable, and in this sense, technology has truly helped us be a better carrier.
The industry has changed; the business has changed; Saia has changed. But through all of that, our eyes remain on the customer. Saia is a part of our customer’s company when we have their freight on our trucks – we understand how important that is.