Leadership Discussion: Adaptability and Technology in Transportation with Houston Vaughn, P&S Transportation

In this episode of McLeod Insights, Seth Clevenger, Managing Editor of Features at Transport Topics interviews Houston Vaughn, President, and COO of P&S Transportation. They discuss how P&S successfully adapted to the COVID-19 crisis, the role software and analytics play at P&S, the company’s guiding practices, and how technology has helped the company integrate its business acquisitions.

P&S Transportation is a major flatbed carrier based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Like every industry, P&S has had to adapt to the challenges and disruptions the coronavirus pandemic has caused the trucking industry. 

How P&S Transportation Adapted to COVID-19

In the early days of the COVID pandemic, many logistics and trucking companies sent their back-office staff to work from home. P&S already had a disaster recovery program in place to help manage similar circumstances, which set up a remote work rotation. The program had been set up in response to a tornado outbreak that hit the Birmingham area over a decade earlier. 

The company purchased laptops for its staff, then tested the new system over a weekend. They were able to successfully operate the laptops remotely with all their integrations, including McLeod Software. Once they were confident in their new system, they put a plan in place. When COVID began to spread across the country, the P&S team was prepared to make changes.

“We decided to break our company up, basically,” Houston says. “The thinking was, if somebody got infected and COVID spread in the office, it would only affect half of our company.”

P&S split into two teams that would rotate between working at home and in the office from one week to the next. They equipped the office for safe social distancing and put plexiglass on their cubicles to reduce the risk of transmission. Leadership asked that employees wear masks and not move between departments, instead staying in their respective work areas. In addition, they’ve kept up a rigorous cleaning schedule and have set guidelines for their drivers to stay safe.

The plan has been successful in terms of keeping the company operational and keeping drivers working. But Houston says it has its downsides. Normally, the company has an open-door policy that enables its drivers to communicate in person with leadership. COVID precautions mean they can’t currently practice that policy in person. Unfortunately, this has also meant heightened isolation for drivers, who already spent the majority of their time working alone before the pandemic. 

How Technology Has Helped

P&S has a long history of investing in technology to streamline their business operations. Prior to the pandemic, they already invested in software and analytics tools. Like many businesses, they’re relying heavily on Zoom today, in addition to other tools.

Houston credits McLeod Software for P&S’s growth over the years. He cites the team’s ability to follow the same dispatch process no matter where a driver is located. According to Houston, the software has systematized and simplified its processes.

“If you dispatch a truck in New Jersey, and you dispatch a truck in Texas, it’s all done the same,” he says.

In addition, McLeod’s third-party integrations have made P&S’s shift into rotating remote work smoother.

Managing Smooth Acquisitions

P&S has completed some significant acquisitions over the years, and the company’s technology solutions have been a major part of their success.

“When we look at purchasing a company or merging with a company, they’re paying their drivers a different way than we’re paying ours,” Houston says.

Sometimes, these discrepancies can cause the company to walk away from a potential deal. Instead, P&S closely considers the company’s culture.

“We tell them from day one, hey, we want you to keep your culture – we don’t want to mess with it,” Houston says. “But we also have a dozen core values. So we want you to keep your culture, but we want you to help us integrate these 12 core values.”

These values are things the P&S team practices daily, such as safety.

During the transition, P&S makes sure the companies it acquires are transitioned to the McLeod Software system from day one. The transition can be a learning curve for companies unfamiliar with using a transportation management system (TMS) for their operations, but P&S provides training to help smooth the process.

Transparency also plays a major role in the process, in addition to retaining employees from the acquired company and changing as little as possible for their drivers. According to Houston, P&S attempts to leave the other companies’ drivers untouched.

“We’ve gone as far as making sure that the checks the driver gets are the same color,” Houston says. “It’s pretty unique, but it works.”

To hear the full episode featuring Houston Vaughn, click here.