VOLUME 5 ISSUE 1
ONE PRIME DRIVERâ€™S CAREER SWITCH HELPED HIM GET THE KEYS TO A NEW TRUCK AND HIS VERY FIRST HOME.
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Peyson S hields, L illian S tone CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER B rad Z w eerink LANDRA BUNGE Finance Director COLIN DENNISTON Administrative Assistant GARY WHITAKER Publisher LOGAN AGUIRRE President/ Associate Publisher MEGAN JOHNSON V ice President of Operations AMMIE SCOTT V ice President of S trategy and S enior Account E xecutive JOAN WHITAKER V ice President of Finance PRIME WAYS
Prime Ways PRIME WAYS| |February MARCH 2020 2017
18 50 YEARS STRONG Prime is celebrating a major anniversary this year—the big 50. Robert Low and other Prime veterans look back on the highs and lows and changes that have made Prime one of the largest trucking companies in the United States.
30 LEVELING UP The Prime Salt Lake City terminal is almost done! Get ready for new amenities, driver lounges, showers and pet-friendly services.
TOP OF THE SHOP
WORK IT OUT
Phil Richardson is a true wizard when it comes to trailer repair.
Love it or hate it, Matt Hancock has found a way to make sure you can work out while on the road no matter the weather or time constraints.
7 KEYS TO SUCCESS Driver Jerry Clayton’s life changed big time after he joined the Prime team. When an accident threatened it all, he never gave up.
14 ROAD SWEETIES This cookie-themed truck is hard to miss on the road, and meeting the crew behind the wheel isn’t the only reason you should flag them down next time you cross paths.
32 FAMILY BUSINESS Joining the family business can be an attractive option, and this one family has turned a career at Prime into a family affair.
Photos by Brad Zweerink and courtesy Jerry Clayton and La Trease Malone
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Curious about how Prime ended up with the color purple in its logo or how many race horses Robert and Lawana have owned? You’re not alone. We’ve rounded up the most FAQ about Prime’s history and have the answers to your most pressing questions.
HOW DID PRIME GET ITS NAME? When Robert Low was choosing a name for the company, he wanted something that would reflect the level of customer service and quality he planned on delivering. Prime was a natural fit.
HOW DID THE COLOR PURPLE END UP IN PRIME’S BRANDING? The color purple is often used to represent royalty, but it also happens to be one of Robert’s mother, Vera’s, favorite colors.
HOW MANY TRUCKS WERE ON PRIME’S FIRST FLEET IN 1970? One. When Prime first started, it was just Robert Low and his one dump truck. The company grew quickly from there though as Robert added to Prime’s fleet.
HOW MANY WOMEN DRIVERS WORKED AT PRIME WHEN IT STARTED VS. TODAY? None. When Prime started, there were zero women drivers on the team. Today, 12 % of drivers are women. Prime has twice the number of female associates as the average trucking company.
WHAT ARE THE LONGEST RUNNING CUSTOMERS AT PRIME? Photo courtesy Prime Inc.
Cargill, Kraft, Sunkist and Tyson
WHEN DID ROBERT GET HIS FIRST RACEHORSE? In 1994, Robert and Lawana Low purchased Capote Belle, their first racehorse. Capote Belle was the start of the couple’s love of horse racing. Over the years, the Lows’ horses have won several titles including third place at the Kentucky Derby. Turn to p. 28 to see the full list of awards.
ifty years. Wow ! It has been a fun ride and a ride that w ould not have happened w ithout great people helping along the w ay. T hat’s w hy w e are dedicating this edition of P rime W a ys to everyone w ho helped Prime reach its 5 0 th anniversary. Y ou w ill read about the beginning of Prime and how our business model has developed and evolved. Y ou w ill also read about some of the people w ho helped make this company successful and the countless smart and hard w orking driving and non-driving associates w ho keep us moving in the right direction. T his is a competitive industry, and it takes an incredibly talented and dedicated team to keep us rolling dow n the road safely and smoothly. While w e’re eager to celebrate our 5 0 th anniversary, w e can’t ever forget that there w as a time w hen Prime w asn’t nearly as successful as it is today. We are still far from perfect, but hopefully you w ill see that hard w ork, fun, dedication to great customer service and relentless determination to be the best has w orked its w ay into our culture and ultimately our numerous accomplishments. I w ill be forever grateful for everyone w ho has helped build this fantastic company over the past 5 0 years. T his is a w onderful time to stop and look back at all of the great memories and learning experiences that helped create Prime. We are not done though. T his isn’t the end. We have challenges ahead in this industry that will be met with the values we embrace each day on the job. Efﬁciency through operations and technology w ill be key to grow th for Prime w hile maintaining our people-ﬁrst culture. But for now, let’s celebrate and meet some of the folks who make Prime such a great place to w ork. T o learn how Prime has helped team members reach their goals, turn to p. 7 . T o meet one family w ith several folks w orking at Prime, turn to p. 3 2 , and to meet one of our impressive technicians w ho absolutely deserves the title of T op of the S hop, turn to p. 4 .
R obert L ow Prime Inc., C E O & F ounder PRIME WAYS
The goal of Top Of The Shop is always to reward technicians for their work. Phil Richardson was the Top of the Shop winner or S rin ﬁeld in
LIFE | FEBRUARY 2020
PHIL RICHARDSON IS
Top of the Shop Phil Richardson has worked in trailer rebuild at Prime Inc. for almost 18 years. What’s kept him there for so long? We spoke to him and his manager Robert Ford to find out. BY JAMIE THOMAS
Photos courtesy Prime
fter nearly tw o decades at the trailer rebuild shop at Prime, Phil R ichardson has grown into an unofﬁcial role as the shop elder. Now he’s someone new comers to the team can go to for advice and guidance. E ven his department supervisor, R obert Ford, could turn to R ichardson w hen he started at Prime 1 3 years ago. “ People like Philip are the ones, w hen it’s tough, you seek out for help or support,” Ford says. “ H e’s a good mentor outside of just w orking on trailers for a lot of the people in our shop.” Originally from B ergman, Arkansas, Richardson has lived in Springﬁeld, Missouri, since 1 9 8 2 and his family is spread all over the country, from C olorado back to Arkansas and Springﬁeld. His stepson even joined Prime this past October and now w orks in the tire shop. B efore he began his almost-tw o-decade stint at Prime’s trailer rebuild shop, R ichardson w as an H V AC service tech and shadetree mechanic. E verything he’s learned about repairing truck trailers he’s learned from doing. After years of experience at Prime, R ichardson now specializes in repairing refrigerated trailers— although
WISDOM Five take-aways from Phil Richardson. The Top of the Shop competition is more than a time to recognize the Prime team’s hard work. It’s also a great time to gather and unwind with plenty of food and live music and events.
he still repairs w hatever comes through the shop doors. “ Anything that’s damaged on the body of the trailer, we ﬁx.” he says. “ Panels, bottom rails, front end, rear end, doors, oors.” In his spare time, R ichardson is a regular hunter, and he ventures to R ogersville, Arkansas, w hen deer season begins. “ S he’s got an old farm dow n in R ogersville,” R ichardson says, referring to his w ife, L aura. “ I’ve got a barn dow n there I stay in.” H aving hunted with a ri e for many years, Richardson sw itched to crossbow in 2 0 1 6 — a
“It ain’t unusual for people to ask me questions or ask my advice about stuff.” —Phil Richardson
Chelsey and Brendan Roberson performed at the Top of the Shop event in Springfield with their band The Pretty Lonesome.
good example of how this hard w orker never takes the easy w ay out. H e even processes the meat from his hunts himself. “ I think last year I put aw ay 2 5 0 pounds of meat,” he says. Other than hunting, R ichardson relaxes by taking trips w ith L aura, w ho enjoys the beaches in Florida and oat trips at Maggard C anoe & C orkery C ampground. H e also serves as the shop jukebox, as Ford explains. R ichardson’s music selection can be easygoing and sometimes random. When R ichardson’s the one pushing play, you’re just as likely to hear classic rock as you are C hristmas, but so far, no one complains. “ I think Philip is probably the deﬁnition of how to be successful at Prime,” Ford says. “He’s efﬁcient, he’s good at what
BE CAREFUL. WATCH WHAT YOU’RE DOING: Richardson stresses how important it is to keep your eyes and ears open in a busy shop with a lot of heavy machinery and moving parts.
IT’S NOT WORTH GETTING HURT RUSHING AROUND: Taking your time and doing things right is an important part of Richardon’s work ethic.
TRY AND STAY A STEP OR TWO AHEAD OF YOURSELF: Richardson puts a lot of emphasis on forwardplanning, without looking so far ahead that you lose sight of what you’re doing in the moment.
DO THE BEST YOU CAN. THE MONEY’S GONNA TAKE CARE OF ITSELF: Richardson advises fellow team members not to get too hung up on finances and focus on getting the job done. A job well done is almost always noticed and rewarded.
STAY STEADY: Consistency is key for Richardson. The fact that he’s spent almost two decades working in the shop and earning the respect of his peers demonstrates that he’s probably onto something with that strategy.
he does, and he’s the pace-setter for our shop. If somebody comes into our shop and says, ‘ H ey, w hat w ould you tell me to do to be successful,’ I w ould say, ‘ L earn as much as you can from someone like Philip.’” PRIME WAYS
A simple salute Larry Bowman and Vibert Jacob both started their careers in the military, and when they left the service, they both found new paths at Prime Inc. Bowman now works in Driver Lineup, and Vibert is one of Prime’s recent lease drivers who’s using his time on the road to hit the books. BY HALEY DARNEL
“You don’t go to work somewhere and work 12-hour days and not like the people you’re with. I don’t know how he did it, but Robert’s figured it out.” —Larry Bowman
Military History: Beginning his basic training in November of 1971, Larry Bowman remembers the transition from farm life in Illinois to the Army was a tough one. Having never left home before, Bowman found himself traveling to Louisiana for basic training, to Georgia for US Army Airborne School and to Oklahoma for artillery surveyor school in a matter of months. Stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1972, Bowman spent the remainder of his time in the services there before leaving in 1974; unfortunately, he didn’t receive the warmest welcome home. “That was the Vietnam War era,” Bowman says, “and people weren’t real big on soldiers when they got out back then. So, you didn’t get very many thank-yous at all.” Bowman knows the military isn’t for everyone but is grateful for his time in the services and for what it taught him. “I just thought it was the right thing to do at that time… but I’ll tell you what, it’ll change your life,” he says. “They straightened me out. I enjoyed it, but it was hard.”
Prime Service: In 1987, after years of working in the oil field and driving oil trucks, Bowman began his trucking career at Prime. A friend who had just gotten married decided to buy a truck and invited Bowman to come work for him. While it only took three months before his friend became homesick for his new wife, Bowman was just getting started. With only three years of driving under his belt, an accident redirected Bowman’s career path and led him in-house to something new. That something new turned into more than 25 years in Driver Lineup, where Bowman still works today. The move also led to Bowman meeting his wife while she was working in the MIS department at the time. Through his years at Prime, Bowman credits the people he works with as the key to his success. “Everybody’s so nice here; it makes it easy to come to work,” he says. “You don’t go to work somewhere and work 12-hour days and not like the people you’re with. I don’t know how he did it, but Robert’s figured it out.”
“[The Army] prepared me with a unique work ethic that no other civilian place could give you.” —Vibert Jacob 6
Military History: Vibert Jacob joined the Army in 2008 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. While serving in the Army, Jacob had the opportunity to train and mentor other soldiers. He still calls the military bond a brotherhood. “Being in the military, it helped me quite a bit,” Jacob says. “Not to say that I was not properly brought up by my parents, but it’s a whole different situation when you come into the military. They break you down and build you back up. It made me a better man.” In 2015, Jacob medically retired as a staff sergeant, but not before he gained valuable skills that helped make the transition from military to civilian life much smoother. “[The Army] prepared me with a unique work ethic that no other civilian place could give you,” he says. “I always encourage people to join the military. You get to serve your country, and there’s a lot that you could do out of it; if you don’t want to make it a whole career, you don’t have to.”
Prime Service: Years later, after establishing a career for himself as a trainer in the trucking industry, Jacob transitioned to Prime as a lease driver in November 2019. Since the move, he describes being more relaxed. “I’ve found a home with Prime,” Jacob says. “Prime helps you to run your own business and be successful.” Since his time in the Army, Jacob completed his associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree in Business Administration to learn more about running a business. Now with his flexible schedule through Prime, Jacob will begin his doctoral studies in January. Even more daring, he’s going to be working on the degree while on the road. He’s learned driving gives him the flexibility to tackle goals like going back to school. For those considering a career in the trucking industry, Jacob has some advice: Love what you do. “If you don’t love what you do, you’re going to have problems,” he says, “but if you have the love and the passion for it, the sky’s the limit.”
Photos courtesy Larry Bowman, Vibert Jacob
words from the field
Each class at the Prime Daycare Center in Springfield made artwork for a fundraiser benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.
HOME COMING Jerry Clayton never thought he’d be able to save up enough money to buy his family a home. Then he joined Prime and everything changed. Now he’s sharing his story about how making a career change gave him the chance to get two new sets of keys: one to his very own truck and one to his first home.
Photos courtesy Jerry Clayton and Prime Inc.
Photos courtesy Larry Bowman, Vibert Jacob
efore joining Prime, I worked at a lumber yard driving a front-end loader. It seemed like I never had the money to buy a new vehicle or get a house. I had been struggling financially to support my family. I’m in my 50s, so at the time, I had it in my mind that these kinds of things would never happen for me. Well, I have a friend who worked in the trucking industry, named JL, and he had a new truck and a new home and didn’t seem to be struggling with money. So one day I asked him if driving a truck really allowed him to make that much money. I made up my mind right then and told my wife I was going to truck driving school. She laughed and thought I was crazy. I took my two weeks of vacation and headed to Prime to train. When I started, I trained with Ed Brush who was a lease guy, and by the time I’d done my training miles I went to Success Leasing and got a brand new 2019 Freightliner with 1,000 miles on it. I thought Prime had to be crazy. After six months with no accidents or service failures, my fleet manager asked if I wanted to become a trainer. I wanted to give someone the same opportunity I was given, so I took the instructor’s course and got my first student, Allen. My second student was named Justin and was from my own hometown. Then I got a third student, and we were on our way to Kansas with him behind the wheel, and a microburst of wind pushed the truck into a ditch causing it to rollover. I was in the sleeper. My student walked away with a scraped up elbow, but I broke my scapula and dislocated my shoulder and received a few stitches on my head. I was in the hospital for a week. It was another two and half months before I could come back to work. I didn’t jump back into training right away, but when my fleet manager called me up, I said yes. You get attached to the success and failures of your students. Plus, going back to training meant a jump in pay, and my wife and I had been saving for a downpayment before the accident. We had to put a new home on the backburner, but we had found our dream home but couldn’t afford it. Well I didn’t tell my wife this, but a month-and-a-half after coming back to work, I had saved enough for the down payment, so I surprised her with our very first home. There’s no way I would ever have been able to get the house without this job. I always tell folks who are interested in the industry to do their research. Look at the different companies and what they offer. The opportunity to own and run my own business without someone looking over my shoulder and telling me I have to run loads in bad weather means a lot. You’re your own boss out here, and you drive based on your skills. For me, Prime was the best choice I could have made. Thanks to my family and all those who have supported me through it all.
PRIME KIDS MAKE A DIFFERENCE To pay it forward, kids at the Prime Daycare Center in Springfield, Missouri, worked together in their classrooms to create something meaningful for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks. BY REESE RADMACHER
n August 1 , training specialist Patricia B rew er presented a check for $ 5 1 5 .1 1 to R onald McDonald H ouse C harities of the Ozarks. T he donation w as the result of a fundraiser put on by Prime’s L earning C enter, w hich had each classroom, from infants all the w ay to pre-K , collectively make an art project relating to the organization’s theme. T hese projects, made by the kids themselves, w ere then voted on by associates w ho voted for their favorite art projects by dropping a few dollars into boxes marked for each project. T he 3 - and 4 -year-old class w on a pizza party for raising the most money. Prime has been a long-time supporter of the R onald McDonald H ouse. J ennifer Wardlaw , director at Prime K ids L earning C enter, says she w as fortunate enough to experience just how much of a blessing the charity can be w hen her ow n son w as a patient at S t. J ude. “ It w as a w onderful opportunity for me personally to be able to return their kindness,” she says. PRIME WAYS
week in the life
is in the Air BY ETTIE BERNEKING
ew people have ever heard of Pierson, Florida, but drive w est from Daytona Beach and you’ll ﬁnd yourself in what’s been dubbed the Fern C apital of the World. “ If you blink as you drive by, you’ll miss it,” says Mitch C rabtree. “ E ven the drivers w ho come through here never knew it existed.” C rabtree is the night manager for the Prime Floral center based in Pierson. H e’s been w ith Prime for 1 0 years but has nearly 1 8 years in the oral industry. If a customer gets a oral delivery from Prime Floral, it’s handled by C rabtree and the team in Pierson. T his 2 0 -person crew unloads and loads a staggering amount of owers on a daily basis, but no season gets as nuts as V alentine’s Day. Oddly enough, the busiest day of the year for C rabtree is not V alentine’s Day. It’s S uper B ow l S unday. It’s not that people are surprising loved ones with owers in honor of the S uper B ow l. Nope. T his just happens to be the day most w holesalers start ordering their V alentine’s Day inventory. T o get a better idea of how crazy the V alentine’s Day rush can get for C rabtree and the team in Pierson, w e follow ed them around for a w eek.
MONDAY Most of the team arrives to w ork around 7 p.m., but C rabtree show s up at 4 p.m. to prepare for the day’s deliveries. After 1 0 years w orking for Prime Floral, he know s how nuts the holiday season can get. “ We alw ays say it’s like orchestrating chaos,” he says. “ B ut after years of doing this, C orey Doel, our boss, has created a system that allow s us to plan really w ell for the rush.” Doel usually starts planning for the V alentine’s rush at the end of December. T hen on S uper B ow l S unday, the race is on. “ T hat’s our busiest day of the year every
Mitch Crabtree is a night manager at Prime Floral in Pierson, Florida. Crabtree and the team unload, sort and reload countless boxes of cut flowers each night. Their busiest season falls around Valentine’s Day.
single year,” C rabtree says. “ After that, it’s just a couple more heavy days, and w e get to breathe again.”
TUESDAY T uesdays and Wednesdays are usually the slow er days for Prime Floral, w hich might get three or four deliveries on these days. “ On a typical day, w e unload about 5 ,8 0 0 boxes,” C rabtree says. “ On S uper B ow l S unday last year, w e unloaded 2 6 ,2 1 4 boxes.” Flow ers arrive on pallets in Miami and a crew stacks the product on pallets, loads the shuttles and sends the owers to Pierson, w here pallets are unloaded and divided by customer orders. “ One pallet might have items for 2 0 customers,” Crabtree says. “We unload it and use a oor map to organize customer orders. We do that until the last shuttle is unloaded then w e start the counting and loading process.”
WEDNESDAY While a normal Wednesday is usually the slow est w eekday for the Pierson team, the V alentine’s Day rush doesn’t let up until February 6 . Once a truck arrives, boxes of cut owers, ferns and wreaths are unloaded and redistributed to customer order piles arranged throughout the 2 5 -bay cooler. T his continues until all trucks on the schedule have made deliveries. B ecause the temperature inside the cooler is set to 3 7 degrees, the team layers up in sw eaters, boots and gloves. Outside, C rabtree says the heat is scorching. “ We have guys w ho come w ork here and end up leaving to go do rooﬁng or framing,” he says. “ T hey almost alw ays come back. T hey can’t stand the heat.”
THURSDAY E ach day, the same routine plays out at Pierson. T he team arrives in the evening, unloads pallets of cut owers, arranges
customer orders inside the cooler, and then loads orders onto trucks headed out for deliveries. When the team is done the following morning, the cooler oor is empty and prepared for that day’s oral shipment. On S uper B ow l S unday in 2 0 1 9 , C rabtree counted 2 1 trucks in and 1 8 trucks out. “ We have to keep our guard up,” he says. “ In the past w e’ve been hit hard w ith large volumes and ended up w orking three straight days.”
FRIDAY To keep things owing efﬁciently, the Pierson terminal has a bulletin board in the cooler w ith a schedule of w hen trucks are supposed to arrive, how many pallets are on them and sometimes w hat customers are on the trailers. C rabtree says if it w asn’t for the Miami crew ’s daily planning, Pierson’s nights w ould be a lot longer. S ix hours out, the crew tracks that truck to make sure it w ill arrive on time. “ Y ou’re really at the mercy of the trucks,” C rabtree says. “ If a truck is late, w e might be at a standstill.” E ven w orse, if a delivery arrives past the cutoff time, the team can’t guarantee delivery time the next day. If a truck stops for more than an hour, C rabtree says you know something is w rong. B ut once a truck arrives, C rabtree and the team know w hat to do and how to do it q uickly.
FUN FACTS PRIME FLORAL RARELY HANDLES LIVE PLANTS. Most of what passes through this terminal is cut flowers and wreaths. PIERSON IS A WORLD CAPITAL The small Florida town dubs itself the “Fern Capital of the World,” and all ferns that pass through the Prime Floral terminal in Pierson are grown in town.
Photos courtesy Mitch Crabtree
If you thought Valentine’s Day was stressful, you should meet the crew running the show at Prime Floral in Pierson, Florida.
close to home
Built to Last Love’s Travel Stops offered Prime tickets to its NASCAR race in Kansas City, Kansas. Instead of sending its executive team, Prime decided to send drivers to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. BY JENNA DEJONG
Photos courtesy Prime Inc.
Photos courtesy Mitch Crabtree
rime is know n for treating its associates w ell— the company’s new S alt L ake C ity terminal now has a dog w ashing station because drivers w anted amenities to take care of their pets (t urn to p. 3 0 to learn more), and the company is constantly reevaluating and developing softw are to make the job of a driver easier and more comfortable. Prime’s focus on its associates is w hat makes it a standout in the industry, w hich is w hy its most recent associate celebration is no surprise: T his past October, Prime sent a group of its drivers to a NAS C AR race, thanks to a partnership w ith L ove’s T ravel S tops. T he opportunity w as born out of L ove’s appreciation for its longstanding partnership w ith Prime— It’s a partnership that is most visible on the road. Fuel Manager S am Messick says Prime relies heavily on L ove’s for fuel. In the past several years, Prime purchased several million gallons a month from L ove’s truck stops across the country. As a w ay to say thank you, L ove’s S ales Manager Dan Payton offered Prime tickets to the October 2 0 NAS C AR race in K ansas C ity.
“ We thought it w ould be a neat opportunity for our operators to get an experience they don’t have every day,” Messick says. T o select the lucky team members w ho w ould receive the tickets, Prime developed a contest: B etw een mid to late summer, drivers had to maintain a safety threshold in order to be entered into the draw ing. T his included no service failures and no preventable accidents; the drivers also had to maintain an average of 7 .7 5 miles per gallon and complete the annual driver survey. If they met all criteria, drivers w ere eligible for the draw ing. More than 3 2 0 drivers w ere eligible for the draw ing, w hich took place at Prime’s company picnic, but only a handful of w inners could be draw n. One of the lucky w inners w as driver J ennifer T homas, w ho says the trip w as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “ I don’t know much about NAS C AR ,” she says. “ It just seemed like something I really w anted to experience.” E ach of the Prime drivers invited a guest and arrived in K ansas C ity the Friday before the race. T hat S aturday, they got to meet NAS C AR driver Michael McDow ell at a sit-dow n dinner, and on race day, T hom-
The Prime team got to spend the day on the race track and even got to walk on the course, tour the garage and pit and meet the Love’s race crew including driver Michael McDowell. As a way of showing love for the long-lasting partnership, Love’s added Prime’s logo to its yellow race car.
as and the other Prime team members and their guests received a race shirt and hat; met up w ith McDow ell; toured the car hauler, garage and pit; w alked on the track and sat in a front row seat on top of the pit box next to the crew chief; and took an autographed photo w ith McDow ell. According to Messick, w ho helped orchestrate the event w ith Payton, the associates had nothing but good things to say about the experience. “ We’ve heard great feedback that they really enjoyed it,” Messick says. “ T he L ove’s folks treated them incredibly w ell w hile they w ere there.” For T homas, it’s an experience she says she w ill remember forever. “ It just show s that [P rime and L ove’s] care about us on a deeper level as far as making a memory that is so uniq ue that I w ill be telling this story for the rest of my life,” she says. PRIME WAYS
Ready to go Challenge? What challenge? Driver Eugene Ghiurca makes hard work look easy, and his laid back approach is keeping him fit physically and mentally as he’s on the road. BY PEYSON SHIELDS
ard w ork has never been something that’s scared off E ugene G hiurca. “ Once I got there, I realized you have to w ork or you’re not going to make it,” he says. “ T here” w as Italy. B efore that, G hiurca w as in Y ugoslavia. And before Y ugoslavia he w as in w as R omania, w here G hiurca w as born. In 1 9 7 7 , he set off alone to cross the R omanian border and eventually made it to Italy w here he applied for, and w as granted, political asylum. S uddenly able to choose w here he w anted to live, G hiurca selected the U nited S tates. S hortly thereafter he ended up in New Y ork C ity. “ I w as young, by myself and didn’t speak the language,” he says. “ T hat’s w hen w ork ethic w as instilled in me.” B orn w ithout his left arm from the elbow dow n, G hiurca had alw ays faced challenges, but they served as fuel for him. “ I don’t even think about it. I just do it,” he says. “ I have done a lot of things in my life a guy w ith tw o hands hasn’t even done,” he q uips. If his
One way driver Eugene Ghiurca keeps his stress levels low on the road, is by stopping to enjoy the scenery.
birth defect fueled him to w ork harder and dream bigger, it also gave him a polished sense of humor. H is jokes are perfectly timed. T hat energy translates into his passion for his job— from the loads he carriers to the customers he serves. G hiurca started as a reefer driver for Prime in 1 9 9 3 and thought this w ould be a temporary position to support him and his w ife as they moved from New Y ork C ity to Florida. Now , 2 7 years later, G hiurca is one of Prime’s 3 -million-mile safe drivers and hauls construction materials including steel beams, lumber and eq uipment to customers across the country every day. T he physicality of his job is paired w ith his kindness to those he w orks w ith, and for. “ T he w ay competition is now , you have to communicate directly w ith your customer,” he says. “ We have to do w hat’s best for the customer, it has to be our differentiator. Y ou also have to build a relationship w ith your dispatcher. Y ou depend on them and you have to take the good w ith the bad and w ork on it like a marriage.” S ince transitioning to the Flatbed Division in 1 9 9 4 , G hiurca has w orked w ith the same dispatcher— Donald Walcher. G hiurca approaches their relationship, and w ith anyone he w orks w ith on the road, the same: H e treats people w ith respect and politeness. T hat approach keeps G hiurca calm w hen chaos hits and patient w hen things get stressful. H is sense of humor also comes in handy w hen tensions run high. T hrow in a joke, a laugh, a w ell-timed jab, and everything feels easy again.
WELLNESS FOR TOMORROW “If you don’t get there today, get there tomorrow so you make sure you get there alive. If you’re communicating with your customer and dispatcher, don’t get worked up, drive safe and drive relaxed.”—Eugene Ghiurca
Photos by Eugene Ghiurca
WELLNESS | FEBRUARY 2020
on the Road With a little creativity and plenty of experience, Matt Hancock has created an in-the-truck workout routine any driver can practice. BY PEYSON SHIELDS
Photo by Brad Zweerink
s Prime’s Driver H ealth and Fitness C oordinator, the job description for Matt H ancock is pretty straightforward—Create health and ﬁtness programs for Prime’s dedicated drivers. B ut developing regimes for Prime’s road w arriors takes additional ingenuity beyond checking the typical ﬁtness boxes. “ Y ou have to be creative w hen constructing w orkouts drivers can do in a small, conﬁned space,” says Hancock, who holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and human movement and a master’s degree in health promotion and w ellness management, along w ith several training certiﬁcations. “My goal is to stoke the metabolism by prescribing high-intensity, interval training w orkouts drivers can do w hen they have short breaks.” While breaks seem synonymous w ith employees who clock a traditional nine-to-ﬁve, they’re also imperative and mandated to drivers. T hese mandated breaks got H ancock thinking. “ Y ou’ll already be up and moving, so w hy not do 5 to 1 0 minutes of exercise?” Incorporating healthy habits into small breaks during a driver’s day, like during the pre- or post-trip inspection, before w ork, after w ork, w hile at fuel stops or w hile team drivers are sw itching spots, is w hat inspired
Matt Hancock designed a series of high-intensity interval workouts drivers can complete in their trucks. The workouts require little to zero equipment and can be done in as little as 5 minutes.
H ancock to not only encourage the drivers he w orks w ith individually to spike their metabolism throughout the day but start a video series highlighting exercises you can do in your truck, regardless of cab size, available eq uipment or w eight. “ I know it’s not feasible to ask a driver to get out and w alk or run w hen it’s 2 0 degrees, snow y and w indy out,” he says. “ With these w orkouts, you not only burn a lot of calories during the w orkout, but because of the high intensity you w ill continue to burn calories as your body replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins damaged during exercise. This leads to increased muscle, w hich means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.” H ancock’s program of q uick, minimal-eq uipment w orkouts you can do in your truck has been put to the test. “ One team driver, C hris E breo, has had great weight loss success in the program by exer-
cising for 5 minutes, tw o to three times per day,” H ancock says. While some drivers ﬁnd that a single 7 -minute w orkout w orks best for them, the exibility of the program has been key to individual successes. H ancock’s hope is these new videos w ill inspire drivers and make it hard to come up w ith reasons they can’t w ork out each day. “ It really opens your mind up to a new w ay of thinking about the barriers that are keeping you from w orking out,” he says. “ Our drivers are slow ly starting to recognize that it’s not impossible to exercise while they’re on the road.” To explore some of Hancock’s exercise videos, visit driverhealthandﬁtness.com or access them on the Prime Inc. Y ouT ube channel under the Prime Driver H ealth and Fitness section. Want to be inspired and part of a broader wellness community? J oin the Prime Driver H ealth and Fitness group on Facebook. PRIME WAYS
Driver Referral Program $100
Earn $100 when referred driver hauls ﬁrst load.
$500 1/4 cpm $1,000
Earn $500 when referred driver stays 6 months.
Earn ¼ cpm on every mile referred driver runs after 6 months.
Earn $1000 when 3 referred drivers stay 6 months.
Earnings Example: Refer 3 drivers who stay at least 6 months at Prime, and you would earn $2800, not including the additional mileage pay!
Program Rules: The person that is referred must run under Prime’s operating authority (A, B1, B2, C, or D Seats) as a company driver or independent contractor. All active Prime Driver Associates under Prime’s operating authority (A, B1, B2, and C Seats) are eligible to receive Prime Inc Driver Referral Program pay. To earn bonus at 6 months longevity pay and mileage pay, referred driver must be an A Seat. No driver referral bonus will be earned for referring a rehire (previous Prime Driver). To earn referral, referred driver must list Prime Driver’s name or driver code on online application or be provided to Recruiter prior to processing application for approval. For more information, contact Prime’s Recruiting Department at 888-664-4473. Program is eﬀective as of Jan 25, 2019 until further notice or cancellation. (Prime reserves the right to modify the program at any time.)
TRUCKS & TECH | FEBRUARY 2020
how we roll
How the Cookie Crumbles Don and Doreen Cook are on their third yellow International rig, and all three trucks have featured an iconic dessert: chocolate chip cookies. BY ETTIE BERNEKING
here’s a good reason Don C ook’s nickname is the C ookie Monster. H is last name is C ook, he has a tattoo of the C ookie Monster on his arm, he and his w ife, Doreen, almost alw ays have cookies on board their truck, and their truck itself is cookie themed. C learly, w hen it comes to nicknames, Don’s is locked in. Don and Doreen have been driving for Prime’s reefer division for several years. Don joined the company 1 4 years ago, and Doreen follow ed suit eight years ago. As for Don’s C ookie Monster nickname, that lovable name dates back to his high school years. T oday the C ookie Monster is less about Don and more about the bright yellow big rig Don and Doreen have decked out in colorful cookies. T his is actually the C ooks’ third C ookie Monster truck, and it’s the seventh year they’ve been rolling w ith this theme. T he initial idea w as just a fun w ay to play off Don’s childhood nickname, but as the C ook family
grew and people started lovingly referring to the grandkids as the cookie crumbles, Don and Doreen decided to expand the line of cookies on the truck’s exterior. T he original cookies to appear on the yellow facade w ere classic chocolate chip plus a bright blue C ookie Monster decal that appears on the driver-side of the cab. As Don and Doreen’s kids got married, more chocolate chip cookies w ere added to represent the spouses. When grandkids arrived on the scene, Doreen decided to ask the kids w hat kind of cookie best represented them. T heir choice? T hose colorful frosted animal crackers w ith sprinkles. T hanks to its cheery exterior, the C ookie Monster is easy to spot as it cruises dow n the highw ay. It’s become so recognizable, Don and Doreen often get stopped at truck stops and w aved dow n by maintenance teams w ho know the C ooks almost alw ays have a supply of cookies onboard to share.
LIFE ON THE ROAD Doreen joined Don behind the wheel eight years ago as a way to see the couple’s kids more often. “All the kids are in the military and have moved all over,” Don says. “I told Doreen that if she started driving with me, we could stop and see the kids.” Because the Cooks drive with Prime’s reefer division, they don’t have a designated route. “We go coast to coast,” Doreen says. “We’re everywhere. Last night we were in California, and three people took photos of the truck. I’ve gotten quite a few people to come to Prime because they’ve asked about the truck, and they want to do their own themed truck.”
SWEET DETAILS All three of the Cook’s Cookie Monster trucks have been yellow Internationals. Each truck has looked like the previous one, with the exception of the latest rig, which now features animal crackers for the grandkids.
Photos by Ettie Berneking
BOLD, CHEERY AND OH SO SWEET Colorful trucks basically run in the family. Doreen’s sister Darlene also drives for Prime, but instead of cookies, her deep purple truck features a larger-than-life Betty Boop. One of the best times to see the Cookie Monster is during Prime’s company picnic in July. Don says the yellow rig has won the Pride and Polished competition in the company division two years counting and it took home the People’s Choice award one year. The colorful truck has also graced the pages of International’s calendar. Off the road, the Cooks have brought their Cookie Monster truck to the Special Olympics in Joplin. They’ve also been asked to visit school classrooms as a way to teach kids about safety on the road. “We get to talk about how to not cut off trucks and not play games around trucks,” Don says. “You really want to start them young, so they can be mad at their parents and grandparents when they cut off a truck driver.”
CUTE CO-CAPTAIN Stumpy is the Cooks’ constant companion while on the road. The long-hair dachshund mix knows how to get around inside the truck while it cruises down the road, and if Don and Doreen head outside, he stations himself at the wheel to keep an eye on the two of them. PRIME WAYS
Dave White is a safety supervisor at Prime. He says drivers need to know how to put on chains, cables and auto socks to keep their trucks from sliding in the snow and ice.
Winter Safety Tips Prime drivers need to be prepared for inclement weather while on the road. BY KAREN BLISS
INSPECT THE TRUCK White says it’s important to be sure a driver has everything they might need including supplies that w ill keep their truck running through even the harshest w inter w eather. “ Make sure you have your w inter clothes, boots, changed your w indshield w ipers, and you have anti-gel to use in the fuel tanks,” he says. “ T he w ay you treat your truck is totally different in the w intertime than it is in the summertime.”
DRIVE ACCORDING TO YOUR ABILITY It’s important to drive carefully, no matter your ability, but new er drivers need to be even more cautious because they might not be used to the conditions. “ Don’t let your ego outdrive your ability, that’s w hat
it comes dow n to,” White says. “ J ust because another truck is going faster than you doesn’t mean you need to drive faster to meet their pace.” S low dow n and give yourself the extra space you need. Do not speed up or slow dow n too q uickly because it increases the chance of sliding. When the temperatures are in the high 2 0 s to low 3 0 s, ice tends to have more moisture, w hich makes it extra-slick, White says. T hese conditions can be more dangerous than w hen it’s colder and ice has less moisture. “ When in doubt, if the w eather gets too bad, pull over and communicate w ith your eet manager,” White says.
USE YOUR WINTER EQUIPMENT If you’re headed into a state that has more severe w inter w eather, check that state’s w inter gear req uirements. Often, traditional chains and cables or auto socks are req uired, and there are pros and cons to both chains and auto socks. White says auto socks are more expensive than chains and cables, but they’re easier to put on than chains and cables. On the dow nside, auto socks can be easily damaged w hen a truck moves from snow or ice to dry pavement. T hat’s the pro to cables and chains. T hey’re
a little harder to put on, but they can w ithstand a change in driving conditions better than the auto socks.
PUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE TO THE TEST All Prime drivers are req uired to take the Prime Safety Certiﬁed PSC class. Part of the training includes time behind the w heel in one of Prime’s driver simulation labs. H ere, drivers of all skill levels can test their w inter driving abilities. T he simulation lab is open to all drivers, and White encourages even senior drivers to hop into the lab every few years to make sure their skills are up to snuff. Outside of class, Prime’s in-house staff at driver’s lineup w ill show inexperienced drivers how to use chains and cables. “ A lot of times people are afraid to ask,” White says. “ T hey don’t w ant to sound like they don’t know, but, if you don’t know, deﬁnitely ask. It’s not difﬁcult. It’s just repetition.”
DON’T FORGET you’re the captain of your ship. If you do not feel safe to operate your truck, pull over to a safe spot and communicate with your fleet manager.
Photo by Brad Zweerink
ou know that old C hristmas song, “ G randma G ot R un Over by a R eindeer” ? Well, chances are, it w asn’t G randma’s fault, and that reindeer likely w asn’t practicing safe w inter driving habits. If that hoofed speed demon had just slow ed dow n a little bit or had given himself extra time to brake, G randma might still be around, and w e w ouldn’t be singing along to this oddly morbid C hristmas carol today. S o let that be a lesson to all you drivers out there: E veryone on the roads has to keep an eye out for w eather conditions this time of year— especially truck drivers. Dave White, safety supervisor at Prime, says w inter driving is w ay different w hen you’re behind the w heel of a semi truck than w hen you’re cruising around in your hatchback. T here’s a certain amount of preparation, practical experience, eq uipment and background know ledge that goes into making sure you and your truck are ready to hit the roads in w inter months.
Tech Talk Staying up to date with company updates, giveaways and even your paystubs is now even easier thanks to Prime Mobile. BY BRIANNE MADURA
MAKING A TRUCK
more like home The Tundra Inverter helps power convenience devices to make life easier on the road BY KAREN BLISS
n July, Prime Mobile became available to our in-house associates and has been helping to keep everyone connected and informed across the company. Getting information to everyone quickly has been a challenge especially for those not in front of a computer. Now with Prime Mobile, all of our in-house associates are able to get the information they need right from their smartphones wherever and whenever they need to.
SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR FEATURES INCLUDE: View of time clock information and vacation time available
Photo courtesy Prime Inc.
Photo by Brad Zweerink
S o far, B ergman says Prime has had great rivers often make their trucks as success w ith the inverter and drivers much like home as they can, since seem to like it. “ No new s is good new s,” they often spend many hours on the road. Now , a new piece of technology, he says. “ We don’t have near the failure rate that w e had w ith our old supplier. the T undra Inverter, is helping to provide a little more pow er for inside accessories. We are currently at a 1 % failure rate, and evin Bergman, director of eet main- that is a vast improvement.” Although this is a technology that tenance at Prime, says the inverter can pow er all sorts of items inside the truck, makes life more convenient on the road, such as a coffee maker, refrigerator or drivers still need to be mindful of safety protocol w ith these inverters. “ K eep obeven a PlayS tation. H e says any time, but especially in times of inclement w eather, jects or clothes aw ay from the inverter to ensure proper air ow,” Bergman says. the T undra Inverter can help drivers feel more comfortable by pow ering w ays to “ Another thing to consider is to not run more than one high-w attage item at the cook, clean, entertain and make life more same time.” B ergman says an example of convenient for Prime drivers. H e adds a high-w attage item might be a hot plate, that it even has enough pow er to help w ith medical needs, such as a C PAP ma- microw ave or a space heater. H e adds that it’s also a good idea to keep liq uids chine, w hich is used to help individuals clear of the inverters to prevent potenw ith sleep apnea. tially hazardous spills. B ut so long as you B ergman says T undra Inverters are now installed in all the new truck preps, keep safety in mind, the new inverters are a great w ay to turn your truck cab into so drivers should be able to have this new piece of technology installed on their rigs. a home aw ay from home.
Access to team member paystub and tax documents The ability to view and update addresses, phone numbers and emergency contact information Access to direct messages Updates on company news and announcements Providing real-time information to everyone, in every department, in every location is our main focus, and this is a great tool. There are some app-only benefits that are only available to those who use the app and some more app-only features coming soon. If you don’t have the app, you are missing out!
Looking back on half a century of wins, setbacks and the moments that paved the way for the future of Prime Inc. BY LILLIAN STONE
A lot can happen in 50 years. While the vast majority of small businesses fold in a fraction of that time, Prime Inc. has shot to the top of the trucking industry and became North America’s most successful refrigerated, atbed, tanker and intermodal trucking company. Over the course of ﬁve decades, Prime has added thousands of tractors and refrigerated trailers to its eet—with more than 6,500 trucks and 11,700 remotely-monitored, temperature-controlled trailers represented in the refrigerated division alone. While the company’s bottom line is impressive, its people-ﬁrst approach is what keeps Prime at the top of the industry.
In 1 6 , 1 -year-old college student Robert Low leased a single dump truck and formed Prime Inc. one year later. Over the course of the next 10 years, Low grew the company by nearly 100 percent each year. By 1 7 , Low had proﬁted 1 million. The growth looked good on paper, but trouble was brewing. “The good news was we grew rapidly and proﬁtably,” Low says. “The bad news was that we grew too rapidly and accumulated too much debt.” According to Low, the company’s rapid expansion—coupled with rising interest rates—spelled disaster. “We grew by 100 percent a year for ﬁve or six years,” Low says, noting how the company went from one truck to 10 and quickly expanded to include 20, 80 and ﬁnally 300 trucks by 1 7 . Prime’s debt was tied to the Prime Interest Rate, plus 3 . “So when the Prime rate skyrocketed to 21 we were paying up to 24 interest,” Low says. “We were not proﬁtable enough to pay that increased expense.” Prime ﬁled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1 81, but where other companies might have liquidated, Prime stood ﬁrm and brought in Fred Mertz. Mertz had an accounting background and experience in the trucking industry. What he didn’t have was experience with bankruptcy. “I had no experience at all with things like bankruptcy,” Mertz says. “I genuinely
didn’t realize that a company could operate with no money.” Mertz decided to get creative and worked with a young local lawyer after going through major ﬁrms across the country, all of which gave the same advice: liquidate. Instead of liquidating right away, Mertz and Low agreed to dig in their heels, and the two got creative during the nail-biting bankruptcy period.
Prime operated in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for four and a half years and eventually reduced its eet to 150 trucks. Of course, Low and Mertz had to make a series of difﬁcult decisions—but Prime’s loyal associates remained the top priority. “We couldn’t really pay people a lot of money, but we could compensate them very well if they met certain criteria,” Mertz says. Mertz and
Photos courtesy Prime Inc.
The Early Days
When Prime first started, it was just Robert Low and his one dump truck. But over the next 10 years, the company grew 100% each year.
Prime’s drivers reflect on the miles that mattered the most to them. MEMORIES OF YESTERDAYS ON THE ROAD For Jeffrey Ayres, a day on the road means a lot more than a few hundred miles. “Miles are often passed [with] memories of yesterdays on the road,” Ayres says, recalling the time that he and his wife, Theresa, spent their honeymoon running a load to California. It was the first of many family adventures on the road, including trips to Mount Rushmore, The Archway in Kearney, Nebraska and a springtime trip through Kentucky’s state parks. —Jeffrey Ayres, Four Million Mile Award winner
NATURAL BEAUTY “There’s a little stretch of Interstate 90 in Idaho. That’s my favorite stretch to drive. The natural beauty is just breathtaking.” As Prime grew, so did its footprint. With more team members working across the country, Robert Low (second from left) worked hard to maintain Prime’s company culture and brand.
Low focused on building morale through incentive packages and company outings, as well as leasing trucks to drivers. “Any of the people who have been with Prime for a long time will talk about the camaraderie in those days,” Mertz says. Ann Perkins is one of those people. Perkins currently works in Prime’s accounting department, and she’s been with the com-
—Leslie Walter, Four Million Mile Award winner
pany since she was a senior in high school in 1 77. “I went to school in the morning until 1 p.m., then went straight from school to work,” Perkins says. “When I was ready to graduate, they asked if I would like to go full-time, and I’ve been there ever since.” Perkins has seen it all. “The Lows are like part of my family,” Perkins says. “I grew up with them, then I watched their boys grow
up.” Perkins has witnessed her fair share of cultural shifts over the years—for example, the fact that Prime associates used to smoke at their desks. “We bought everybody smokeless ashtrays to use at their desks,” Perkins says, laughing. “That’s how many people smoked at their desks in those days.”
Prime has come a long way from the days of smokeless desk ashtrays. To climb out of bankruptcy, Low leaned into personal responsibility, associate autonomy and staff buy-in. Low realized that he needed people with that same level of buy-in to keep the company a oat, which meant he needed to offer compensation to attract the right kind of talent. “People need to be aligned ﬁnancially to feel ownership,” Low says. That’s why, today, Prime offers competitive incentive-based compensation packages. It’s also the reason behind Prime’s in-house language, which revolves around employee autonomy by referring to employees as “associates” and encourages individual accountability across departments. “If you have good people, you can do some great things,” Low says. “If they’re aligned with the company and enjoy their work, that’s the best scenario you can ask for.” (Story continued on p. 27.)
A lot has changed since the early days of Prime—including a few things that might surprise today’s associates.
Above: Robert Low (left) and Fred Mertz (right) gave back to communities Prime served early in the company’s history. This photo shows them giving Prime’s first donation to Southwest Missouri State University. Top Left: A young Robert Low always knew the customer had to come first, even when Prime was in its early years. His dedication to customer service is part of what has kept the company at the top of the industry.
“If you have good people, you can do some great things. If they’re aligned with the company and enjoy the work, that’s the best scenario you can ask for.”— Robert Low
THEN: It’s hard to believe now, but smoking used to be allowed in the office. “At one time, the smoke in this office was so thick you could cut it,” says Robert Low. “We became more enlightened as we went along. We said, ‘Okay, you can’t smoke at your desk anymore.’ After that, a few people actually quit.”
NOW: Prime takes a cutting-edge approach to driver health with a driver health coach on staff and recreational facilities that encourage associates to get up and move.
Photos courtesy Prime Inc., by Mark Harrell, Brandon Alms
An Intensely Loyal Approach
Prime’s training facilities are driving the company’s growth in a big way.
As Prime continues to grow, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of the company’s in-house Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program. The program gives potential drivers training and real-world experience needed to stay safe and productive on the road, and its growth is representative of the company as a whole. The program debuted in 2001 and graduated about 200 students. Fast forward to 2019, when nearly 3,000 students completed the program. Of course, with more students comes the need for more staff and more training facilities, including the newest training center in Pittston, Pennsylvania, which
THEN: There were no female drivers in Prime’s early days. The first female associate joined Prime in 1977.
opened in 2018. Richard Brock heads up the Pittston facility and is looking forward to what’s next. Brock notes that the Pittston location opens up new opportunities for northeast-based drivers, as well as a surprising demographic: current drivers’ spouses. “We have a lot of drivers whose spouse wants to become a driver as well,” Brock says. “The training center gives them the opportunity to run their truck as a team and see the country with their family.” The program has a few steps: First, Prime pays for the students’ transportation to one of the three training centers. From there, students experience one
NOW: Prime has twice the number of female drivers as the average trucking company. Today, the company supports and promotes the success of its female associates through its Highway Diamonds program.
week of orientation featuring hands-on, computer-based and simulator training, all of which teaches them how to operate a truck safely in all weather and situations. From there, each student goes on the road with an instructor for two to four weeks to learn the freight-hauling skills necessary to pass their CDL test. If they pass on the first try, they get a $250 bonus. Finally, after students have passed their CDL exam, they haul cross-country loads with a trainer for 50,000 miles. “The new drivers truly represent the growth of the company,” Brock says. “Seeing them achieve something keeps things feeling new and fresh.”
THEN: Camaraderie was key to Prime’s success even when times were tough. “There are funny stories that would probably get me into trouble,” says Low, laughing. “We would entertain customers to get through the bankruptcy with smiles on our faces, and we built really good relationships with customers by doing things that didn’t require a lot of money.”
NOW: Prime continues to celebrate its drivers through events like the Night of the Millionaires Dinner and the Highway Diamonds gala.
Prime opens facility in Urbana, MO.
Prime’s flatbed division launches.
Prime relocates to Springfield from Urbana, Missouri.
Prime’s Millennium building opens in Springfield, Missouri, featuring 40,000 square feet of office, training and recreational space for Prime associates.
Prime Floral Division launches.
Prime’s retread building opens.
Prime’s new driver training building opens in Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Photos courtesy Shutterstock, Prime Inc., by Mark Harrell, Linda Huynh and Brad Zweerink
Robert and Lawana Low purchase Capote Belle, their first Grade 1-winning racehorse.
Matt Hancock is the Driver Health and Fitness Coordinator. He’s working on fitness routines drivers can do in their trucks.
Prime Driver Health & Fitness Program: Our mission is to provide innovative, engaging, and accessible wellness programs focused on improving the health, safety and fitness level of the Prime driving fleet. Matt Hancock is the driver health and fitness coordinator and is really revamping and expanding this program! He has added a ton of info to the driver health and fitness website including truck-friendly recipes, workouts, gyms and more. Learn more at driverhealthandfitness.com.
Prime Good Dads Program:
Sherina McConneyhead was awarded Highway Diamond of the Year in 2019.
Our mission is to help Prime dads, including overthe-road dads, stay engaged with and connected to their kids. Learn more and check out the blog and podcast featuring Prime Drivers here. Just head to primegooddads.com.
Check out our growth over the years: 2014: 8.46% female (484 out of 5722 total) 2015: 9.50% female (584 out 6148 total) Prime Highway Diamonds’ mission is to employ and support female Prime drivers while recognizing and reducing challenges women often face in the transportation industry. Did you know that more 13% of our fleet is female? The industry average for OTR Fleets has been quoted at 5–7%.
2016: 10.36% female (699 out of 6747 total) 2017: 11.39% female (840 out of 7378 total) 2018: 13.21% female (1066 out of 8067 total) 2019: 13.64% female (1174 out of 8604 total)
Photos by Mark Harrell
Robert Low makes a point of speaking at each Christmas party hosted at Prime’s main terminals. The holiday events are a chance to celebrate wins and update the team on what’s coming in the new year.
Prime Family Picnic
Laredo Christmas Party
Growing Pains (Story continued from p. 22.) That commitment to culture goes far beyond Prime’s approach to its associates. Today, Prime works with some of the best-known Fortune 500 companies in the United States including Tyson, eneral Mills and Walmart. Low explains that, outside of his people-ﬁrst approach, customer service is just as important. “It’s about doing business that is beneﬁcial to Prime drivers, customers and in-house associates,” he says. “Trucking is a cyclical business. We really work hard to form these strategic relationships. We are there for our shippers when the trucking capacity is in short supply, and they’re there for us when the market turns.” Low describes the customer relationship as “intensely loyal,” coming through even during hectic periods like the holidays. “[In 201 ], more than 60 of our drivers were taking care of customers on Christmas. Our team steps in to pick up the slack that other trucking companies might leave,” he says. As Low explains, during Prime’s decades of exceptional growth, maintaining the company’s culture was the biggest hurdle. “We’ve had to maintain the culture we built with just a handful folks when we came out of bankruptcy,” he says. “Now, we have 1,250 in-house associates in Springﬁeld alone. eeping that culture as we get bigger,
Springfield Department Halloween Contest
especially with multiple locations, is a major challenge.” To maintain Prime’s culture, Low seeks out reasons to celebrate wins with his team—whether that be through holiday parties or after-work brews at the Springﬁeld terminal’s in-house beer garden. “We don’t want people sloshed all the time,” he says, laughing. “It’s not a kegger every afternoon, but we have a good time.” Low also works to facilitate communication between associates across the country and sends managers and technicians to Prime’s satellite locations to ensure camaraderie. Low explains that, ultimately, it comes down to hiring people that share the same ethos as him. “Having a set of values that are uniform location to location is how you do it,” Low says. “It’s about being tenacious and very jealous of your culture. Do everything you can to protect that.” Low’s efforts have paid off. In 201 , Prime was named Best Fleets to Drive For— an annual survey and contest that identiﬁes the for-hire carriers providing the best workplace experiences for drivers. Prime has made the top 20 list ﬁve out of the past six years and won the 201 Best Fleets to Drive For-Best Overall Fleet for Large Carrier. Last year, 81 companies were ﬁnalists and considered for this prestigious award. For Low, winning Best Fleet to Drive For is a huge honor and shows efforts to continually strive to provide the best experience in trucking is working. ou can learn more about the award at best eetstodrivefor. com. (Story continued on p. 29.)
Springfield Dodgeball Tournament
One of the Lows’ major wins came in 2006 when their horse, Steppenwolfer, won third place at the Kentucky Derby. The Lows have 16 racehorses today. Several of them have won or placed at major races.
Robert Low spends his free time horsing around at the horse farm he owns alongside his wife, Lawana.
1996 Capote Belle, Grade 1 winner 2001 Real Cozzy, Grade 2 winner; second place, Kentucky Oaks 2002 Green Fee, Grade 2 winner 2006 Steppenwolfer, third place, Kentucky Derby 2018 Magnum Moon, Grades 1 and 2 winner, Arkansas Derby 2019 Sweet Melania, Grade 2 winner, 3rd place Breeders Cup
Photos courtesy Prime Inc., by Coady Photography, Brandon Alms
Life is picturesque on Primatara, the 300-acre thoroughbred and cattle farm owned by Robert and Lawana Low. There, the Lows raise award-winning thoroughbred racehorses that are bred and foaled in Kentucky. “It’s really enjoyable for us,” Robert says. “We love being around the mares and babies.” Once the horses are old enough, they compete in graded stakes races, which are regulated by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). Horses are in Robert’s blood—but racing is a relatively newfound passion. “I was a farm boy,” he says. “We always had horses around the farm, but my parents went to the races in Hot Springs, and I was always interested in that. I promised myself and my wife that we’d raise our own horses if we ever got to a point that made sense financially.” Today, the Lows have 16 horses currently racing, 17 brood mares and 20 yearlings. Their graded stakes winners are listed below:
What Lies Ahead (Story continued from p. 27.) The trucking industry is currently at a crossroads, but Low isn’t afraid of what’s to come. “There are disruptors out there right now—potential competitors, and we might not even know who they are,” he says. It would be easy to view advancements in technology as a threat, but Low doesn’t see it that way. “The next few years are about automating our business—making things as efﬁcient as we possibly can to make sure we offer our drivers the best of the best.” That includes using technology to optimize the freight network and apps to improve driver efﬁciency. “There’s an arms race going on out there in terms of technology,” Low says. “We have a great IT team here working to help us utilize our assets better.” Arms race or no arms race, Low is thankful for the last 50 years. “It’s all been a wonderful ride for me,” Low says. “I’m a farm boy from Urbana, Missouri, and I started with just one truck. It’s been an incredible ride, and I’m grateful to all the people that have helped build this fantastic company.”
Community engagement is one of Prime’s core tenets. Over the years, Prime has donated thousands of dollars to local and national nonprofits. Here are a few of the most impactful donations.
As Prime continues to grow, new technologies play an integral part in Prime’s success. Simulator labs (above) allow drivers to practice and improve their driving skills in rough weather and heavy traffic. And the new Prime website and app allow drivers and associates to check in on company updates anywhere and anytime.
The American Cancer Society
Lost and Found Grief Center
Ozarks Food Harvest
I Pour Life
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield
Missouri State University Athletics
Special Olympics of Missouri
Springfield Little Theatre
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
Truckload Carriers Scholarship Fund
Between 2017 and 2019, Prime donated a total of
American Transportation Research Institute PRIME WAYS
TERMINAL TALK | FEBRUARY 2020
Bigger and Better A new amenity building and four-bay truck wash officially open in April at the Salty Lake City terminal.
n the last ﬁve years, Prime has been busy— especially at its Salt Lake City terminal. In 2015, Prime bought Swift Transportation’s terminal and the land sitting next to it in Salt Lake City, Utah. The land was purchased with the goal of building a third large facility that would offer the same amenities that Prime offers companywide. The terminal is a strategic one for Prime. Brian Singleton, Salt Lake City terminal manager, says the Salt Lake City terminal gives Prime an edge because it’s near several major interstates including I-15, I-80 and I-70. “Salt Lake City is a very big hub in the transportation industry,” Singleton says. “It’s kind of the gateway to the Northwest… It’s actually a very [big hotspot] for a lot of trucking companies.” Prime has spent the last several years updating its Salt Lake City terminal and increasing the driver amenities. What used to be a plaza, fuel and inspection bay covered by a canopy is now a 100,000-square-foot complex that includes a new
tractor shop, trailer shop, paint and body shop, parts room and 10-bay fueling and inspection shop. The best part? The canopy is gone, and now drivers can head indoors and get out of the elements. In addition, the new facility offers showers, laundry, a company store and drivers lounge. The Salt Lake City team ofﬁcially moved into the new building one week before Thanksgiving in 2017, and now, the company is gearing up for the next big change: adding an amenity building and a 14,000-squarefoot four-bay truck/trailer wash and detail shop where drivers can stop in for a wash and detailing and even give their pets a bath at the dog wash station. Singleton says “this feature alone represents Prime commitment to its associates.” “Our owner makes it very clear to everyone,” Singleton says. “If our drivers need it or if something can help make their lives easier, we’re going to do our best to provide it. The pet wash is a great example of that. Drivers wanted a place to wash their furry friends, and Robert agreed to provide the tools
Photos courtesy Prime Inc.
BY JENNA DEJONG
The new amenities building will be the latest upgrade at the Salt Lake City terminal. It includes a lot of the same features found at Springfield’s terminal including bunk rooms, more showers and a full gym for drivers and associates to enjoy.
Thanks to popular demand, the Salt Lake City terminal will soon include a pet wash station.
and facility to accomplish that need. We want the driver to be able to come here and feel exactly as if they were at home.” The new 61,000-square-foot amenity building, which is scheduled for an April opening, will have a daycare and playground, an outdoor patio with a kitchen and a grill, a café, salon and spa, a workout facility complete with a personal trainer, yoga classes and a weight room and a full-size basketball court. Drivers can expect 15 new bunk rooms and single showers. In addition, the newly renovated space will have new training facilities like a training room for orientation and driving simulators. The goal for each of these updates, Singleton says, is to make drivers feel at home as much as possible and to make sure they can take care of
everything in one stop and do it comfortably. For driver Anthony Eck, these updates are much anticipated. Eck grew up in the transportation industry. He was 2 years old when his mother bought her ﬁrst truck and most of his summer memories include sitting in the cab of the truck with his father on long hauls. Now that he’s driving his own truck, he can appreciate being able to wash his truck, shower, grab dinner and even reserve a bunk for the night, all at one location. Based out of Salt Lake City, Eck doesn’t always go home if he arrives late and has an early delivery. “I will be able to relax more,” Eck says. “I won’t have to worry about getting something to eat or ﬁnding the nearest truck stop to get a shower. If the shop needs my
truck, I can get a bunk room and not have to worry about them waking me up in the middle of the night to pull the truck into the shop.” Already, the Salt Lake City terminal sees an average of 650 trucks per week. Sometimes, that number inches closer to as many as 800 trucks, but Singleton says he hopes to see that number increase dramatically once all the terminal’s amenities are made available. “I would like to get it up to over 1,000 trucks a week,” he says. To accommodate the growth, Singleton says he expects to hire between 50 and 60 new associates once the facility is ofﬁcially up and running, which will add to the 105 associates currently working at the Salt Lake City terminal. The larger team will help Prime carry out its mission of putting its drivers ﬁrst. “Prime is one of the very few companies where the owner actually cares about the drivers,” Eck says “Building this new terminal in Salt Lake City just shows how much he does care about driver comfort and what the drivers need or want.”
BY THE NUMBERS 10
New bays at the fueling and inspection shop.
New bunk rooms in the amenity building.
61K 650 50+ 105 Square feet of space at the amenity building.
Trucks seen at the terminal each week on average.
New team members Prime plans to hire at the SLC terminal.
People who work at the SLC terminal.
(Left to right): Family members Deron Malone, Tania Peter, La Trease Malone and Christopher Smith all drive for Prime.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
You often hear about couples who drive together, or even siblings who work at Prime, but this family gives a whole new meaning to the idea of Prime being a family-run business.
ostering close and healthy family relationships on the road takes effort. But imagine the challenge that comes with having not one, not just two, but four drivers in the crew. That is the case for La Trease Malone, her two sons Christopher Smith and Deron Malone, and Deron’s ﬁancé, Tania Peter. These Prime drivers frequently get down to family business and catch up with each other over conference calls. “We talk almost every day,” La Trease says. Christopher was the career trendsetter. Five years ago, he started driving for Prime. “I wanted to make my mother proud,” he says. “I didn’t want all the money and time she invested in me to be wasted.” It turns out that he not only made her proud, but he inspired her and other family members to get behind the wheel. La Trease, Deron and Tania soon followed suit, and each for their own reasons. Deron has been working with trucks in some form for almost 20 years. When Christopher started working for Prime, Deron was also on the road, but he was
driving for a different company. “It’s kind of funny because when he started at Prime, he was telling me how great the company was and all the extras and everything,” Deron says. “Since I had driven before, I was like, ‘Alright, I’m not leaving my cush position where I’m pulling doubles and I’m staying in hotels or home every day.’” But when Deron saw Christoper purchase his own truck, he changed his mind. “The idea of owning my own truck was always there,” Deron says. Fast forward a few years later, and Deron was soon signing the lease for his very own truck. Meanwhile, Tania left her job with the United States Postal Service and headed to Prime where she trained under Deron. Now, the couple gets to spend quality time together as team drivers. La Trease, who retired from her 31-year career in the Airforce Reserves in 2015, planned on substitute teaching. At the time, she was cashing Christopher’s Prime checks for him. “I saw the amount of money Christopher was making with Prime,” she says. “So I decided to give truck driving a try instead.”
She considers the very best part of her new career to be the memories she got to make with her sons, from ﬁnishing her training with Christopher to signing the lease for their ﬁrst trucks at the same time with Deron and team driving with him for almost a year. Even today, they still make new memories with Prime. “We’ve managed to run into each other on the road,” La Trease says. “One time I was at a drop yard, and I was pulling out. I heard somebody whistling, and it was Deron.” All four family members drive full-time, but that doesn’t stop them from seeing each other in person. For them, Thanksgiving is a celebration they look forward to year-round, as they always make a point to gather together over good food and swap tales from the road. For this family, scheduling quality time takes a little extra intention, but they know it’s worth the effort. “We’ll always carve out time for each other when we are home,” Deron says. And as it turns out, this crew has managed to carve out time for each other even while on the road.
Photos by La Trease Malone, Christopher Smith, Deron Malone
BY TESSA COOPER
View From the road What awe-inspiring landscapes have you seen from behind the wheel? Submit a highresolution photo (usually 500 KB or higher) of your truck to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and caption information about where and when the photo was taken.
Photos by Sasha Bailey, Andrea Hatﬁeld, Cliﬀord Woeller
Photos by La Trease Malone, Christopher Smith, Deron Malone
Two-year-old Myles is more than just a co-captain of his truck. The adorable miniature pinscher is also the inspiration for the truck’s name—Myles 2 Go. Driver Andrea Hatfield added Myles to the team when he was still a puppy. “He’s known nothing but life on the road,” she says. “Hence his name. He brings us such joy on the road.”
Driver Sasha Bailey is joined on the road with Char—a 4-year-old chow and shepherd mix. “Prime has given me opportunities I never thought were possible,” Bailey says. Liberty Bell and her owner, Clifford Woeller, have learned they can find plenty of treats while out on the road, especially at terminals. “Liberty Bell and I love Prime because of the freedom they give us,” Woeller says.
Celebrating 50 years of Prime. Plus, one Prime driver's career switch helped him get the keys to a new truck and his very first home.