Young Sid knew his friend’s bone-stock 327 Chevelle would be no match for the other guy’s primer-gray, 383 Plymouth Roadrunner. So, before the big street race, Sid and friends secretly shoehorned a slightly tweaked 396 into the Chevelle. It handily outran the Plymouth, then was quickly spirited back to the garage to drop the 327 back in-just in case there were any questions from the bewildered Plymouth owner.
Even long before those days, Sid would go for daily rides on a horse his father had given him for Christmas. He was on the move, and it was a passion that was to shape his career.
Early years, early wheels
After hours, during high school in Jefferson, Ga., Sid worked as a mechanic at a local garage for 50 cents an hour. He pieced together his first car, a ’57 Ford, from two donors-one with a decent body, and one with a running engine. The result was reliable transportation but, “Stock just wasn’t cool back then,” he recalls.
Not wanting to risk being branded “un-cool,” he figured that, “The car had to be jacked up in the back and have wire-spoke hubcaps, so I took care of that pretty quickly.”
Sid’s mechanical proficiency led him to compete in Plymouth-sponsored auto troubleshooting competitions, where a car would be rigged with faults, and it was the job of competitors to diagnose and correct the problems. Sid’s two-man team won the regional title, and placed third in the state.
So it’s not surprising that Sid decided to follow his shop teacher’s advice to consider a career in vehicle maintenance.
After putting in some time at a local garage, where precision front-end alignments became his specialty, and some more time as a general mechanic at a Ford dealership, he joined Georgia Power as a fleet mechanic, and eventually became a shop crew leader.
“When I started at Georgia Power, I was about 20, and I was the only one in the shop under 50,” Sid remembers. “You can guess who got the dirty jobs.”
The career ‘Express’
In 1979, Sid signed on with a then little-known company called Federal Express-at first, as the Atlanta district fleet manager. “When I was offered the job, I looked at FedEx’ stock prospectus first,” he says. “It looked like the company had a lot of growth potential, so I signed on.
“When I resigned from Georgia Power, my Dad asked, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ After all, if you had a job with the power company, you were set for life. But, so far, things have turned out pretty well.”
A few years after joining FedEx, Sid was promoted to senior fleet manager for the Southern region and, in 1994, to managing director for U.S. Vehicle Maintenance.
In his journey of over 20 years with FedEx, Sid has participated in the growth of a fleet that numbered less than 1,100 to over 50,000 vehicles today, ranging from pick-up and delivery vans, to tractors, trailers, straight trucks, and over 40,000 pieces of ground-support equipment, such as fuel trucks, snow plows, deicers, loaders and tugs.
FedEx serves 211 countries, employs approximately 150,000 people, and carries 7 million lb of freight on an average day, much of it in the company’s 662 aircraft.
There’s always room for TMC
During his tenure at FedEx, Sid has been extremely active in The Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Alexandria, Va. He has served on the board of directors, as general chairman, vice chairman, and chairman of the study group committee, and membership and publicity committee. He also started the S-14 light and medium-duty study group and co-authored, with other TMC members, the SAE paper, Tomorrow’s Truck.
But Sid’s most gratifying experience at TMC was being appointed chairman of the transition committee, and working with ATA leadership to develop a plan that would be beneficial to TMC and ATA-this at a time when TMC and ATA were at odds over membership-fee structures. “There I was, working closely with a group of my highest peers, trying to get the right thing done,” he says. “Quite an honor for a farm boy from Georgia.”
For all his contributions to TMC, Sid is quick to point out that, “I came to TMC to gain knowledge of the heavy-truck industry.” That’s because, in the early ’80s, FedEx was using mostly light trucks. “We’d just started increasing numbers of tractor-trailers in our fleet, and I needed guidance in their maintenance,” Sid admits. “TMC provided me with information I used to make our fleet run better and keep up with the latest technology.”
Paying attention at TMC technical sessions and study-group meetings, and taking full advantage of TMC’s Recommended Practices, Sid was in an ideal position to help cost-effectively optimize FedEx’ equipment. In fact, from 1994 to 1999, FedEx reduced its cost per mile by 12%, and increased vehicle reliability by 22%, as measured by miles between road calls.
During that time, FedEx also achieved a 97.5% PM completion rate and, by 1999, had trained three times the number of technicians trained in 1994.
A day in the life
In his new position as director of vehicle/GSE (ground) support services, Sid draws on his field maintenance experience to ensure that the analytical arm of FedEx can meet maintenance needs as the company grows.
For example, he coordinates the planning and analysis, engineering, training and warranty departments of the vehicle/GSE arm. His primary goal is to orchestrate the efforts of those branches in pursuit of greater reliability and safety at a lower cost to the company. He works much more closely now with other corporate divisions, such as safety, environmental control, aircraft operations, finance, feeder operations and information technology.
“One of the most difficult aspects is timing,” he says. “Since we need to deal with people all over the world, it’s sometimes hard to work around all the different time zones.”
Ongoing projects include training materials-GSE currently has some 1,500 manuals, soon to be on its intranet and burned onto CDs-and helping to develop a future-generation, pick-up and delivery vehicle. “Our goal is to increase miles per gallon by 50%, while decreasing vehicle emissions by 90%, as compared to a 1999 vehicle,” Sid reveals. “Our engineering group works closely with the environmental management team to get to the future before it gets to us. We’re looking for production in 2004.”
Looking down the road, “We have some very exciting challenges ahead of us,” says Sid. “Moving from paper to our intranet will keep the field maintenance organization constantly updated on new equipment and practices, streamline warranty recovery and in-house record keeping, and provide a new communication vehicle for our customers within the company. It’s a great time to be part of this organization.”
At the end of the day