CLEARLY, Prime Inc has built one of the most successful business models in the trucking industry. The Springfield, Missouri-based carrier typically posts annual revenue growth in the 13% range and has been ranked as the 28th largest trucking company in the United States.
At the core of the business model is a vibrant company culture that influences every facet of the business. The company’s mission is to prosper while providing excellent customer service. Key values include pricing services at rates that are a true value to customers; treating independent contractors and company employees as true team members that are part of the Prime Inc family; a passionate focus on safety; and a willingness to embrace any cost-effective technology that can improve productivity to the mutual benefit of the company, associates, and customers.
“We focus on Fortune 500 customers, and our objective is to be the low cost provider, not necessarily the lowest price provider,” says Steve Wutke, Prime’s vice-president of sales. “We’ve built a great customer base with a lot of long-term relationships. We’ve won numerous service awards, an indication that we are delivering what our customers want.
“We have a powerful business model with a strong company culture that definitely helps us differentiate ourselves from the competition. We work hard to keep that company culture strong. It includes incentive based compensation for virtually everyone in this organization. The more productive you are, the more you will earn.
“We have a great driver recruiting and retention program, and we have pushed our turnover rate down into the 60% range. We’re getting enough drivers to keep growing the fleet. We offer very good training and benefits, and that includes an award-winning health and wellness program.
“We provide drivers with the technology and equipment they need to operate efficiently. Technology is an important tool in this company. For instance, we got an early start with electronic driver logs, because Missouri was a pilot state for the program. We believe this is about creating a better life for our drivers. It promotes safety and creates a more level playing field.”
Every one of the company’s 5,600 tractors is equipped with Qualcomm on-board computers that have electronic logging capabilities. Prime Inc runs 10,000 trailers, 8,900 of them refrigerated. The carrier also operates flatbeds and foodgrade tank trailers.
Refrigerated loads account for roughly 75% of the cargo hauled by the carrier. Refrigerated loads are primarily food and food products, but Prime Inc also handles some pharmaceuticals and other temperature controlled shipments.
The carrier operates throughout North America. In Mexico, operations are conducted through interline partner Frio Express. The two refrigerated carriers have been partners for 22 years.
Tractors and trailers are dispersed among a handful of terminals, including the sprawling 40,000-sq-ft headquarters facility in Springfield. With its full-size basketball court, gymnasium, cafeteria, movie theater, post office, spa and salon, and large company store, it’s certainly not the typical fleet terminal. Smaller versions of the headquarters terminal are in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Passing through the terminals are more than 6,000 drivers, including roughly 4,000 owner-operators. Drivers are under the direction of a cadre of dispatchers, each of whom manages 60 to 70 individuals.
Prime Inc’s leadership has worked hard to build a solid driver corps, and management boasts that the company employs some of the best truck drivers in the industry. Applicants can be as young as 21 years old, but all are thoroughly screened. Applicants with a commercial driver license must provide a 10-year driving history, and they must have a clean driving record.
Newly signed truck drivers begin their careers with Prime Inc by attending a three- or four-day-long orientation. The classes are a combination of hands-on training and class work. Classroom portions are computer-based, and students work at their own pace.
This keeps the material fresh, and periodic knowledge checks ensure that new associates understand the material. Feedback is instantaneous. Unlike other orientation and training programs designed to just “check the box” for new drivers, the training at Prime Inc is designed to make sure new associates have all of the materials, knowledge, and skills they need to be successful.
In addition to computer-based classroom training, all newly signed truck drivers get seat time in one of four state-of-the-art driving simulators. Even if they’ve never sat in a tractor-trailer rig before, the simulators let drivers experience driving, shifting, control, and backing in a safe environment before they ever head out to the training pad. Experienced drivers new to Prime also get to sit at a simulator as a part of their truck driver training and orientation. It evaluates their skills coming in and shows where additional or focused training may be needed to enhance their truck driving skills.