I was scanning articles in a recent issue of Transport Topics when a headline caught my eye, “Regional LTL Benton Global Ends Operations; First Publicly Announced Failure This Year.” It’s sad when any company ceases operations especially when the economy is thriving. The only good that may come of it is as a cautionary tale for others.

Who was Benton Global?

Benton was a lighter-than-truckload southeastern United States carrier. At one time, they operated more than 20 terminals, 400 Tractors, and over 500 employees. In 2013, they totaled just under 500,000 shipments. They were a thriving business. According to Business Wire, “Benton has a 78-year heritage as a family-owned and operated Less-Than-a-Truckload (LTL) carrier …With annual revenues exceeding $50 million.” So, what happened?

Where did the end begin?

In December of 2012, Perdue Partners, LLC an Atlanta-based global trading company acquired Global Express. Their intentions seemed honorable; they didn’t seem like the bad guys. For example, they were involved in giving back to the community. “With Benton Global’s commitment, Kids Wish Network will be able to deliver 1.2 million dollars’ worth of new gifts through its Holiday of Hope Gift Bank program within the next 12 months.” — Benton Global News.

But why did they Fail?

A quote from the Transport Topics post haunted me, “Benton’s closure appears to have been the result of poor management that manifested in low pay and aging equipment, among other things, while the industry has just enjoyed two prosperous years,” Jason Seidl, a Cowen and Co. analyst, said in a report.” Is that what happened?

What did Employees have to say?

I did a little research and, for what it’s worth, found disgruntled employees who shared their frustration with low pay, poor equipment, and lack of training or support. On Glassdoor, Benton Global had a two out of five star rating with quotes from employees such as these:

The lowest pay in the LTL business. Terrible trucks and equipment. Many of the trucks are from the mid-90’s. Maintenance and training are practically nonexistent. Trailers are already worn out when they bought them used and send you out with expired inspection stickers. Building and grounds unmaintained.

No raises period! Drivers been here 2-3 years start at $13.50 and finally quit at $13.50… It is embarrassing working here at Benton because the run down looking terminals and awful trucks and trailers.

The equipment is falling apart. Management at every level is in over their heads, don’t have a clue. They don’t pay on Fridays, no direct deposit. Pay is on Saturday, Monday, or Tuesday. You never know. This place is a joke.

Unsafe equipment, disregard for safety, lower pay than the competitors offer.

Others complained about pay being cut three times in 5 % increments and never reinstated. Still another described how the unmatched employee 401K accounts had been lost for a quarter due to a “computer glitch.” The employee believed the company had used the funds for business purposes. There was more, but you get the idea.

What’s the lesson?

Pay a fair wage – Fair not only means a wage commiserate with experience, marketplace and industry, but also increases as tenure and performance dictate. Cutting employees pay may create a toxic environment undermining company initiatives. It may be better to eliminate a position than cut someone’s pay.

Upgrade and maintain equipment – Tractors aren’t just a tool—for drivers they’re a home on wheels. Even LTL drivers spend a lot of time in cabs. But that’s not the only reason maintaining equipment is important—faulty equipment makes the job more difficult if not unsafe.

Invest in Employees – Offer training, benefits, and a career path. Celadon, one of the most successful trucking companies in America, is an example of this. They offer continuous training, exceptional benefits such as a comprehensive wellness program, competitive pay, and the newest equipment on the road. Their driver turnover is substantially below the average.  Fleetowner Celadon named healthy trucking fleet of the year.

Are you listening?

Successful businesses not only maximize operations but also empower improvement. Companies built to last invest in the future. They invest in their team, equipment, and facilities. Short term thinking leads to long-term shrinking. Organizations that ignore their people risk losing everything. Take a lesson. Listen to your people.