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CEO Dan Cushman Shares ‘Secret’ on Turning Around PAM Transport

3 min read

Dan Cushman became CEO of PAM Transport in 2009 after the company had reported nearly $19 million in annual losses in 2008. During the past three years, PAM entered positive territory, earning $5.91 million in 2013, and it’s headed to another profitable year in 2014. Cushman graduated with an economics degree from Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1977 and took a job with Roadway Express. He was SVP of dedicated services for CRST before coming to PAM. He is a native of Chicago Heights, Illinois.

How did you get involved in the transportation industry?

I graduated from college when the job market was very challenging. I heard Roadway was hiring, and when I discussed it with my father, he said, “America’s needs move by trucks,” so I applied for a dock supervisor position in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Thirty years later, I still enjoy the challenges this industry provides.

PAM has had three consecutive solid years in terms of earnings, and 2014 appears to be heading that way. What does the immediate and long-term future look like for PAM?

I couldn’t be happier or more excited about what’s going on here. There will always be obstacles and our goal is to do our best to make sure we recognize and react appropriately. I believe that we are well positioned for the future in that we maintain great relationships with our customers and have dedicated employees looking for ways to improve relationships and processes every day.

What is the biggest obstacle to the trucking industry and how do you think it would best be solved?

The biggest obstacle facing the trucking industry is clearly the driver shortage. There isn’t a single answer. Drivers are underpaid and that must be changed. We work hard to meet our drivers’ needs in terms of home time and quality of life. The drivers don’t want to sit around, so getting in and out of deliveries and pickups quickly is important. We are exploring all options and ideas.

PAM has seen a remarkable turnaround since you were named CEO in 2009 after an $18.8 million loss in 2008. What is the secret to your (and your company’s) success?

I don’t know that it’s a secret, but I have always believed in surrounding myself with the best people I can find and then empowering them. We have a team that works hard to understand what it takes to be successful. We don’t leave anything to doubt. I also think it’s very important to understand your customer. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is get out from behind your desk and sit across from theirs.

When you took over at PAM, you expanded the company’s clientele and centralized operations. What was your thinking?

We were very dependent on one customer, and when that customer had issues, we did as well. I think it’s fair to say that most companies had some struggles during 2008 and 2009. We were especially troubled because we had no diversity in our customer base. We immediately went to work on that diversification and have had great success.

What is your view of an increase on the federal tax on motor fuels, and do you think Congress will pass any in the next two years?

The industry at the state and national level has supported an increase in the federal fuel tax. This is something that I feel the Arkansas Trucking Association is front and center on. There has not been an increase in the federal fuel tax rate since 1993. We look to Congress to provide a solution, but nothing we hear instills much confidence. Bottom line, everyone wants better roads but not enough to pay for them.

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