Lexington, South Carolina
Maintained its no-layoff vow during the recession and emerged with an experienced foundation to capitalize on growing business levels.
Keeping ’em working
Southeastern’s commitment to its employees pays off
No trucking company was immune to the economic effects of the recent recession, including Southeastern Freight Lines, a regional less-than-truckload transportation services provider. But the Lexington, S.C.-based company believes its no-layoff policy may have helped it emerge with a stronger foundation than most. And as business levels rebounded in 2010, Southeastern said it had hired more than 900 additional employees.
The commitment to employees has enabled the company to build a culture of customer service excellence over its 60-year history, and Southeastern says everyone in the company takes pride that even in the midst of a challenging economy, it set performance records for customer service, reliability and employee safety.
“Not only were we successful at avoiding layoffs, but we also maintained wages for employees and kept all benefits in place,” says Mike Heaton, senior vice president. “Now as the economy recovers and orders increase, we have experienced employees ready to serve our customers and maintain our high standards.”
In addition, Heaton says Southeastern only is hiring about 900 people instead of the many more that it would have had to hire and train if it had laid off employees. While remaining conservatively optimistic, Southeastern is finalizing shipment projections for this year and preparing to order new equipment and expand facilities that need additional capacity to support growing business activities.
No pink slips
When the economy began to erode in 2008, Southeastern formed a “Keep Our People Working” task force to maintain its no-layoff commitment. The task force developed strategies for each service center with goals of keeping all employees working and maintaining all benefits and wage levels.
From reducing costs for outsourced services to refurbishing trucks instead of buying new ones, the task force successfully found creative ways to carry out its mandate. For example, an hourly rate system was adopted temporarily in which companies could lease a truck and a driver. Employees also were put to work in other roles, such as drivers working in the maintenance shop to refurbish trailers and perform other maintenance work.
Although costs were cut, Southeastern says it was able to improve its service and safety standards. Last year the company saw the lowest accidents per million miles and the lowest total injuries per 200,000 hours in the past decade. Southeastern also continued to raise numerous performance benchmarks, including transit time, shipments per claim, invoicing accuracy, pickup-and-delivery cost ratio and dock efficiency.
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