New CEO John Simone Says He'll Evaluate USA Truck Over Next 100 Days

by Lance Turner and Chris Bahn  on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 3:40 pm  

New USA Truck CEO John Simone says the foundation is in place for a strong company, and that the future of the firm doesn't have to be clouded by its recent struggles.

New USA Truck Inc. CEO John Simone plans to develop a vision for the company's long-term success. At this time, however, Simone isn't looking beyond the next 100 days.

Simone was appointed president and CEO of the company on Monday. Former CEO Cliff Beckham has returned to his previous role as the company's executive vice president and CFO, which he previously held from 2002 to 2007.

USA Truck has gone through a number of organizational changes since reporting the largest quarterly loss in company history last year. Simone has been hired to get the company, headquartered in Van Buren, back on track.

These next 100 days, Simone told Arkansas Business, will be critical to establishing the long-term vision. Simone said he'll evaluate USA Truck's strategy as short-haul carrier, evaluate organizational structure and look at ways to improve retention of drivers and other employees.

"I’m still assessing the situation," he added. "... I’m sure there is some low-hanging fruit, but we're going to be very thoughtful in terms of how we execute."

Simone said the foundation is in place for a strong company. He said the future of USA Truck doesn't have to be clouded by its recent struggles.

"I see very dedicated people that have a long tenure here and want to win. I see a company that has a good infrastructure and that is well positioned in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to be a leading provider," Simone said. "There are some fundamental issues that we’ll work on – operational excellence being one of them — and creating [USA Truck as] a destination of choice for drivers and non-driver employees."

USA Truck said Simone has 30 years of operational and management experience in the transportation industry and has worked for companies including UPS, Ryder, and Greatwide Logistics. Most recently, he was the CEO of LinkAmerica.

That previous experience — particularly in turning around underperforming companies — should help as he works improve USA Truck, Simone said.

"Most recently my last experience was a turnaround situation where it was very unstable operationally and required a lot of the same fixes that we’re talking about here today," Simone said.

Changes at the Top

Monday's move is the latest in a series of management changes the publicly traded firm (Nasdaq: USAK) has implemented since late last year, when it reported its biggest quarterly loss ever. The year before, the company rebuffed an overture by trucking rival Celadon Group of Indianapolis to discuss a merger.

"We have been taking many steps toward improving USA Truck's operating and financial performance," Robert A. Peiser, chairman of the board, said. "Hiring John Simone as our new CEO is an important next step that we expect to accelerate the process."



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