Dan Cushman took on the job of president and CEO of P.A.M. Transportation Services Inc. of Tontitown in July 2009 shortly after the economy soured and the trucking company’s trajectory descended from profitability.
P.A.M.’s income devolved from a profit of $2.7 million in 2007 to a net loss of $18.8 million in 2008. Cushman led the company to a less devastating loss of $655,000 in 2010, but the red ink rose back to $2.86 million last year.
P.A.M. last week declared a one-time cash dividend of $1 per share, payable April 9 to shareholders of record as of March 30. The company has about 8.92 million shares outstanding.
2011 was hard, Cushman said, because P.A.M.’s fleet of 1,750 trucks was aging and the company struggled to maintain it. P.A.M. began replacing trucks last summer at a rate of 50 per month and plans to keep a newer fleet.
Among P.A.M.’s weaknesses going into the recession, Cushman said, was that the company was seen in the industry as only an automotive carrier. The reality, however, was harsher.
“It was worse than that. It was one customer,” Cushman said, declining to name the single company on which P.A.M. dependended.
Cushman’s immediate goal was to diversify P.A.M.’s customer base and reduce its reliance on the faltering U.S. auto industry.
Cushman, 57, came to P.A.M. with more than 30 years of experience in the trucking industry. His total compensation in 2010 was $642,812.
The Chicago native previously worked for Roadway Express in Akron, Ohio; Triple Crown Services in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Werner Enterprises in Omaha, Neb.; and CRST International in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cushman used his accumulated contacts and knowledge to lead in finding P.A.M. 200 new customers in 2010 and 200 more in 2011 in a variety of industries, including beverages, retail and consumer products.
A company with a strong customer base will still experience “smaller income in hard times, but … not a matter of being profitable or not profitable,” Cushman said.
To further strengthen the company, Cushman developed a pricing and yield management department and a sales and marketing team.
In addition, Cushman looked at P.A.M.’s acquisitions — Allen Freight Services in Jacksonville, Fla.; Decker Transport in New Jersey and Illinois; Choctaw Express in Oklahoma City; and East Coast Logistics in Paulsboro, N.J. — from before his arrival.
He consolidated five offices to improve communication among divisions and clarify the company’s position as a national carrier rather than appear to be a collection of small, regional companies. Cushman moved about 75 non-driving jobs to Tontitown.
“Our goal in the future is just to do a lot more with the national accounts that we brought on in the last few years,” Cushman said. “Everything we’re doing is an attempt to have a sustainable profit model.”
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