We had a chance to sit with Greg Gantt, president and chief executive officer of Old Dominion Freight Line and ask him about the sizzling freight market, hiring drivers, ELDs and his career in trucking.
HDT: Congratulations on your appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Old Dominion Freight Line. What are your thoughts upon taking on the top role at a company you have been with for 24 years?
Greg Gantt: I am honored to be named the CEO of OD. It is truly my pleasure and good fortune to lead an organization that we have built into the premier transportation provider in America. I look forward to our continued growth and success.
HDT: The freight market is sizzling and expected to stay so at least into next year. What challenges does that happy state of affairs pose to Old Dominion?
Gantt: Likely our most difficult challenge will be acquiring the necessary real estate to accommodate our growth. Hiring drivers always requires a lot of hard work, but surely this is a challenge that I think we can meet with minimal difficulty.
HDT: Is it pay that matters most to drivers or is that tempered with the desire for time at home? Is the Electronic Logging Device rule as much of a factor in drivers leaving as some have contended?
Gantt: The ELD mandate is not a factor in our ability to hire and retain drivers. We have a very robust in-house driver training program that we work extremely hard with to keep it filled and producing drivers. The vast majority of our drivers are home daily. That along with the fact that we have newer equipment and certainly a competitive pay package helps our ability to fill our driver needs. Our retention level is extremely high.
HDT: It is not news to hear of truckload carriers struggling to find drivers. Now the shortage seems to be extending to other segments of trucking as well. How is OD faring in the driver marketplace; is offering an LTL environment to work in still a powerful draw?
Gantt: We are finding an adequate supply of drivers today. Some locations are more challenging than others, but so far we are filling our needs.
HDT: Returning to the ELD rule, has the reported “productivity hit” that trucking has taken from it been absorbed by the system by now?
Gantt: It seems most of the needs have been absorbed from the productivity hit the ELD rule might have caused [us].
HDT: Let’s not forget shop personnel. How is OD keeping enough quality mechanics and technicians on staff to handle today’s increasingly more sophisticated trucks?
Gantt: We have an in-house ASE-accredited training program that helps us produce qualified technicians. We also work with vo-tech schools and high schools and various co-op programs. This, along with our state-of-the-art facilities, are a nice draw for anyone wanting to work in this field.
HDT: How is growth in e-commerce deliveries by commercial trucks affecting your business— is it significant enough to affect the type of power units and trailers you run or will buy and the design and/or location of your service centers?
Gantt: At this point, the e-commerce deliveries are not significant enough for us to change our equipment specifications. Nor at this point is it a big enough piece of our business to change our service centers.
HDT: What other challenges do you see ahead for Old Dominion?
Gantt: Continued technology changes and upgrades are always a challenge. Potential infrastructure issues are also a concern.
HDT: Many in trucking remain hopeful an infrastructure bill will get passed and that it will increase the fuel tax to ensure the Highway Trust Fund is maintained. What is your stance on the best way forward?
Gantt: We are in agreement that some additional fuel tax revenues are needed to fund our highway projects.
HDT: What led you to a career in trucking? And have you had any stints behind the wheel or on the loading dock along the way?
Gantt: My dad worked in trucking for 40 years. That is what lead me into the business and how I got started. I started working on the dock when I was 17 years old and still in high school. When I was in college, I became a qualified driver and did spend a small amount of time behind the wheel. More so as a switcher, but also a little as a pickup-and-delivery driver for a short period of time. There isn’t a whole lot in this business that I haven’t done.