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Saia Then & Now: An Inside Perspective from Line Haul Driver Steve Bonnecaze



saia then & now: steve bonnacaze

I was hired full-time at Saia’s New Orleans terminal in May of 1973. My father had been in the trucking business and knew someone who worked in the office at Saia. That’s how I got the job. I have been at the company ever since.

I went to school during the day and worked at Saia at night. Back then, you had to be 21 to drive a truck, so I started off as a dockworker, loading and unloading trailers, and taught myself how to drive a tractor trailer. Of course, now we have standard procedures in place that new drivers follow to train behind-the-wheel. Over the years, I have seen a lot of change — from the look and feel of the trucks to the technology we now use on a daily basis.

The Impact of Regulations

When I started as a dockworker, the industry was booming. We had so much freight — most coming from other carriers — we had to take a break sometimes from unloading just so we could load other freight. This excess was mostly because freight was regulated at that time, so we had other carriers bringing their shipments to us. Back then, the route a motor carrier could travel and the geographic regions it could serve were regulated by the government. All of that changed in 1980, when freight was deregulated. Now, carriers deliver their own freight.

Today, conditions like sleep apnea, high blood pressure and diabetes are a major focus. These health issues were not a big deal until recently, so drivers have to be more organized with keeping their physical card up-to-date than ever in the past. New regulations are shedding light on drivers’ health, which ultimately benefits us.

The Progression of Equipment

Trucks and equipment have changed drastically over the years. Our trucks didn’t have air conditioning, power steering or even radio back when I first started driving.

Today, trucks are much nicer and safer, and provide the amenities we need to do our job. Saia commits to making sure we have what we need and that we are using equipment that we can be proud to drive. Having the newest and best equipment in the industry allows us to remain reliable for our customers. We are also conscientious about keeping up with appearances. How our trucks look when on the road and pulling up to a customer’s dock is extremely important to our credibility, and we always want to demonstrate that we are professional.

The Growth of Technology

Saia prioritizes providing us with the newest technology, and that technology has definitely changed the way we do business. It’s also created more accountability with regard to rules and regulations.

The ability to focus is probably the most important skill a truck driver can have. Because of changing regulations and Department of Transportation requirements and enforcement, you’ve got to be sure you’re on top of your game. It is more important than ever before to stay focused throughout every aspect of this job — from pre-inspection to driving on the highway.

Additionally, every truck driver is expected to operate their vehicle properly and safely — from pre and post-trip inspections to electronic log compliance and Smith System driver training. Cameras and computers are now in our trucks to help us operate legally and as safely as possible.

The new electronic log mandate has actually turned out to be a helpful process for me. I thought having the computer in the truck to manage my e-logs would be tougher, but I’ve found that I actually like it and it’s easy to use.

Saia’s Family Culture

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years: Saia’s family-oriented culture. Management has always had an open-door policy, and everyone always works together to make the shipping process as smooth as possible for our customers, as well as our dockworkers and drivers.

Constant communication with various departments — the administrative office, dockworkers and shop workers — makes my job easier. I know I can go to them directly with a question or problem and they have an answer for me when I need it. That’s important when each department plays a big role in shipping customers’ freight. You’ve got to have a smooth process and good communication between all departments to be efficient and timely.

Saia has grown so much over the years through terminal expansions. Our customers really are our first priority, and Saia never leaves any stone unturned when it comes to finding ways to improve our service.

For another look inside Saia’s past and present, read this blog.

2 responses to “Saia Then & Now: An Inside Perspective from Line Haul Driver Steve Bonnecaze”

  1. Bob says:

    If SAIA is a family then the employee is a red headed stepchild!

  2. Paul Peck says:

    Steve,
    Congrats on this great accomplishment.
    We have worked together for many years and your professional driving skills have always been in place no matter what equipment you were assigned..

    Remember that trip we made from Jax to Nol
    Good memories

    Appreciate all you have done for our company!!

    Congrats again!!

    Paul

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