On the Road with Loadsmart Ep 4: Gulf Intermodal Services

We’re in the business of connecting the logistics industry, but that doesn’t stop at connecting shipments with carriers. This is our second episode of On the Road with Loadsmart, a platform to connect the industry to the stories that matter, inspire, and are essential for giving credit to the unsung heroes of the road we have the privilege to work with every day.

In this episode Aaron from Loadsmart sits down with Stori from Gulf Intermodal Services to discuss how they came together to keep their owner operators – who are paid by the move – safe and moving.

Aaron: Do you want to tell us a little bit about GIS?

Stori: Since 1997 Gulf Intermodal Services, also known as GIS, has been providing container drayage for the entire Gulf region. We are an IMC company, so we have coverage nationwide. With GIS we have a little over 200 trucks and that’s here in Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Baton Rouge. Majority of our guys and woman are owner operators

Aaron: Is there anything specific you’ve seen evolve over the past couple of years?

Stori: I was born into this industry. My Father started with the ILA here in Houston when he was 18 years so I pretty much grew up on the docks.

I started in the industry when I was 20 years old. I got a job as a data entry clerk. We did everything by paper, we had computers and we would enter things, but dispatches were paper. Everything was paper. The drivers would have to come to the window and get their dispatches for the next day. I would have a delivery order that I would have to enter. Nowadays, everything is done by the computer, our drivers have tablets, we’re paperless. Same with invoicing. Invoicing was always done by paper in an envelope and you mail it. Now you just email it and it’s paid. It’s definitely changed a whole lot since 2007.

Aaron: Speaking of change, are there any challenges that either didn’t exist or didn’t exist as intensely?

Stori: A little detail on our drivers, our owner operators. They’re paid by the move. And so when you saw that decline in volume, all we could think about was ‘oh my gosh, we have to keep these guys moving so they can make a living for their family.’

We really came together to figure out ‘ok what ways can we get creative and find cost savings.’ So I think one of the main challenges on everyone’s mind was how do we keep everyone safe and moving.

Aaron: When you see such a severe drop off, how did that make you feel and from your perspective how did that make your network of owner operators feel?

Stori: It broke our hearts for our drivers. They are such hard workers. Every day they are muscling fifty thousand pounds of cargo to make sure we keep this economy running. They’re so essential and to see their checks not be what they were it was really really hard but it also pushed us to work harder and to find ways to make sure they don’t really feel that. We really educated ourselves and our owner operators on the PPP program. They were able to apply for it and we saw a significant amount that they were given and I think it helped and I think it made the relationship more between GIS and our drivers.

Aaron: Do you want to describe where you think your business is today?

Stori: Like we say in Texas: this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been through similar things. Hurricanes where things are just completely shut down. So kind of had an idea of how to maneuver through it.

For April and May people were pretty scared. We didn’t know what the market was going to do. We were hit so hard and it was like ‘what’s tomorrow going to be like. Are we going to have any containers coming in?’ And then there’s all these blank sailings – it was just scary. Now, everybody I talk to, Monday through Friday I am talking to people out on the road or doing these video calls and everybody just seems so positive. And there’s so much coming in I’m happy to say we’re keeping our guys moving.

Aaron: You talked about how you guys were prepared. Do you think more people now that you’ve seen first hand the value of technology are going to integrate it in more ways throughout the business?

Stori: You know before COVID we had all the technology in place so it wasn’t that hard of a transition for us to be remote or for us to not hand over paperwork to our drivers. So that was really a smooth transition and that won’t change. We were doing it before we’re going to continue to do it long after. Thankfully, I think we’re pretty secure and I’ll be so happy when we get back to 100% normal.

Aaron: Stori, thanks for the time. I appreciate your insights. It’s very special to us to hear from someone who like you said is pounding the pavement and talking to drivers, especially owner operators and I think they’re special to a lot of people out there as well.

More stories, more episodes

In our ongoing conversations with carriers across the country, we’re uncovering silver linings to the events of the past few months. For Stori, it’s how after a scary April and May, people in the industry came together so that today “everybody [she] talks to, Monday through Friday…out on the road or doing video calls… seem so positive.”

Stay up to date with everything we find in our On the Road Episodes as we criss cross the country talking to our network of carriers on our YouTube channel.

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