Jacob Perry, a USA Truck and Dupre´ Logistics alumnus, is focused on rebuilding relationships as Great Plains Transport’s chief growth officer.
The executive, who took the job in February, has more than a dozen years of logistics experience, and he wants to bring back former Great Plains customers — as well as onboard some of his previous customers for the carrier.
Perry led Dupre´, a regional chemical distributor based in Lafayette, Louisiana, to $130 million in sales growth over a four-year period. He told Transport Dive in an interview he is optimistic for similar success at Great Plains.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
TRANSPORT DIVE: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
JACOB PERRY: In my past life, I ran a courier company that prepared me for some of the unique aspects of logistics where we moved small parcels same day by air. From there, I transitioned to USA Truck, which is a full truckload dry van provider. They were recently acquired by DB Schenker. They're based in Van Buren, Arkansas. A lot of the group from USA Truck that I came up with went to Dupre Logistics, a regional tanker chemical distributor. I helped grow that business by setting them up with more than retail clients based in Northwest Arkansas. I used a lot of the customer relationships and their relationships with staff there to grow that business. It was an exciting and quick journey to forge growth there and I'm definitely looking forward to leveraging some of those past customer relationships and experience here at Great Plains.
What is your priority in your new role?
PERRY: My first mission is re-establishing and rekindling some of the relationships that have gone a bit stagnant in the past year. In transportation, you have high goals where you win with your customers, and you start to do that by having conversations with customers that may have felt that they were overlooked in 2022. And this year, you want to continue having conversations with some of the clients that chose to ship with us and that we're very thankful for allowing us to work with them in 2022. I also will reach out to some of my past customers and will to bring them on board.
What can you tell me about Great Plains Transport and why the carrier was attractive to you?
PERRY: It’s an independent entity, founded 30 years ago by a driver named Bob Holland. His son, Mike, is the current president and owner. One thing that's unique is Bob still does the road tests with our new drivers. Bob has a CDL. Our president Mike does not. Mike’s grandfather, Vernon, hit the 4-million-mile club and his father hit 1 million miles. So, there’s definitely a rich family history of drivers that actually made a difference for the country on the road.
We were an $80-million organization in 2022. We are projecting to be a $90-million organization in 2024. We are very excited that we're already deploying continuous loop technology to help leverage our assets to be even more efficient.
What is the area of specialty for Great Plains?
PERRY: We do own about 200 reefers and 100 dry vans. And then we have a flatbed division.
Since the company was founded by someone with a trucking background, do you feel that offers today’s leaders a unique perspective on general business operations?
PERRY: It certainly has given the company a perspective on how we treat our drivers. A lot of companies give lip service towards safety. If you feel unsafe, shut down. If they're in an unsafe situation — if there's a blizzard, for example — it makes sense financially, from a safety standpoint, for that driver to go ahead and stop and just make sure that they can make that delivery safely and as close to on time as possible.
Does being a smaller carrier offer some competitive advantages?
PERRY: It certainly helps us be much more agile and provide customized solutions to our customers and then new partners that come on board with us.
Are you starting to feel any kind of recovery in the freight market?
PERRY: We’ve certainly seen soft demand. Seasonally, January and February are typically lower volume shipping months. What excited me about Great Plains is we have such a large presence in refrigerated logistics that, even if there is a recession, that's still absolutely necessary that food goes on our trailers. So, there is recessionary proof when it comes towards supporting America, the ability to be able to eat.
The word “growth” is in your title. Is your focus on national expansion?
PERRY: We do support our clients in the lower 48 and we do operate in California which makes it somewhat unique. We're forecasting as seasonal foods with produce season coming on board, we anticipate the demand for our refrigerated capacity to increase. We see that as an opportunity to support those customers. Let's see what we can do to capture some of that volume with our available capacity.