Today we sat down with TOTAL’s new President & CEO, Craig Savell.
TT: Good morning, Craig. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us this morning. Congratulations on your new role!
CS: Thank you!
TT: You are certainly not new to TOTAL or our management team, but we’d like to start with some of the basics for anyone who might not know you as well.
CS: Sounds good to me.
TT: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
CS: I was actually born right here in Jackson, MS. I grew up next door in Clinton, MS. I graduated high school there and then attended MS State University.
TT: How long have you been working in the transportation industry and how long with TOTAL?
CS: I’ll be marking my 29th year in the industry this February. I’m proud to say that I’ve spent my entire career with TOTAL Transportation.
TT: Wow, I can’t think of many people these days that have that kind of commitment. What has kept you with TOTAL that long?
CS: TOTAL has been a part of my family since day one. I‘m a very loyal person and TOTAL has always given me the opportunities to be heard, implement ideas for progress, and has allowed me to advance in my career.
TT: How did you end up working at TOTAL?
CS: I earned my BA in Transportation and Supply Chain Management from Mississippi State and I set out searching for a career in this industry. I didn’t necessarily know it would be on the “trucking” side, but one of my best friends' dad was a shipping manager for a large shipper in MS. He introduced me to John Stomps and Rick Kale as two great guys with some big dreams and a small trucking company. I had a short interview with them and the next day I came to work at TOTAL.
TT: How many people were working at TOTAL when you joined?
CS: I think we had six office employees when I started. Three owners, payroll, billing/accounting, and one dispatcher.
TT: What positions have you held with TOTAL?
CS: I feel like most of them at some point. I started with TOTAL when there were only 22 trucks so I’ve been very fortunate to work in a number of positions. I even created several of our departments as TOTAL grew and expanded; dispatching, loading, routing, planning, and troubleshooting functions turned into Fleet Management, Customer Service, and our Load Planning departments. As we grew, we also scaled into a brokerage division and Sales & Marketing department. The majority of my years were in customer-facing, pricing, and network optimization. Then In 2013, John promoted me to my most recent position as Chief Operating Officer.
TT: What do you think makes TOTAL different from other trucking companies?
CS: TOTAL is different from other companies because of our values and commitments. John and Rick built this company on their “word” to service our customers' needs. We have a very loyal and long-tenured customer base because we’ve provided superior service and have always treated our customers with fairness and respect.
TT: John Stomps has been a mentor and friend to many of us for years, how do you feel about his retirement?
CS: I am so excited for John to be able to step away from his 24/7 commitment to TOTAL. Hopefully, he will enjoy more time with family, friends, and the hobbies he has always enjoyed. We’re all going to miss John, and we’re going to have some huge shoes to fill, but I fully intend to continue his legacy and the legacy of TOTAL for many years ahead.
TT: Can you tell us the most important thing you learned from John regarding being successful in this industry?
CS: John is a very loyal person and his word and commitment stood above all else. He taught me most a lot about managing people, managing conflict, and most recently the ability to adapt those management styles to a newer generation and to our future leaders.
TT: What are your goals for TOTAL over the next year? Over the next 5? 10?
CS: In 2020 we created a 10-year growth and performance plan and we’ll continue on that path. While we were not able to add as many trucks as intended in 2021, we were still able to have one of the best years in the history of this company. Much of that was from our movement into more dedicated business segments and aggressive growth in our brokerage division. We fully intend to continue growing TOTAL while we adapt to the ever-changing market conditions and technological advancements impacting our industry.
TT: What do you think are the most pressing issues for the transportation industry today?
CS: As we all are aware from the recent supply chain issues, our entire industry is in the spotlight right now. We have a nationwide labor shortage and more specifically to us, a driver shortage. I am so excited to see people finally pay respect to our drivers—and drivers throughout the industry… this is long overdue. We will continue to strive to improve our overall driver experience.
TT: Along with the family-like ethos we’re known for our open-door policy, can we assume that will continue?
CS: Absolutely. The foundation of this company was built around this concept. As we’ve grown, we’ve needed to embrace the chain of command concept to keep day-to-day operations moving smoothly. If you are ever unable to resolve an issue through these channels, then management’s doors are open and all ideas, suggestions, complaints, or praise will be listened to and responded to.
TT: This must be a very exciting time for you. Are you nervous at all?
CS: I’ve been asked this question several times. No, I am not nervous at all. John has prepared me well and our skilled and resourceful team is already supporting me. Our strong executive leadership, managers, frontline personnel are prepared for a smooth transition and day-to-day operations and execution will not be impacted at all.
TT: Support from family is very important for anyone in this business. Would you like to tell us a little about yours?
CS: My faith and family are my top priority. I’m very lucky to have a super supportive wife that understands this industry and my commitment to this company. I’m also very fortunate to have two outstanding sons (18) and (20) that I am so proud of. They drive me to be a role model and leader.
TT: What do you do to relax?
CS: I enjoy most all outdoor activities. Hunting, fishing, golfing, boating, exercising, and any activities with my boys.
TT: Will you be continuing the Daily Brief?
CS: Yes, this has been a great way to share thoughts, ideas, updates, and just simple connections and communications. I anticipate we will reformat it a little as we go—to include other participants, etc., but we fully intend to keep it going in some shape, form, or fashion.
TT: Is there anything else that's on your mind that you'd like to tell TOTAL drivers or support staff?
CS: I just want to tell everyone that it is an incredible honor to be able to lead an organization that I have invested my life into. I am driven and motivated to uphold the standards that have been set before me. I will support all of our employees (office, maintenance, and drivers) to help them develop and be leaders in each of their respective areas. I want to let you all know that the best is yet to come!