Brent Nussbaum, CEO of Nussbaum Transportation, the trucking company his father started in 1945, says the best way to keep the firm family-owned for the next generation and to retain good people is by having his employees become part owners. Beginning April 16, the Hudson, Ill., carrier gave 35% of ownership to employees through an employee stock ownership plan, known as an ESOP. Any employee on the payroll as of Jan. 1 is eligible immediately, and future employees become vested after 1,000 hours of employment.

“My father, Alden Nussbaum, who started the company, used to comment if you take care of your people, everything else will take care of itself,” Brent Nussbaum, 61, told Transport Topics. “I don’t know that I could retire from this company and watch another company take it over, and change it, after the strong culture we have built for the last 75 years. Why not preserve the heritage of this company? I don’t want to see Nussbaum become part of a larger carrier.”

Nussbaum said that before announcing the ESOP, some employees were speculating that after he retired the company would be sold and merge with a larger carrier. “I really enjoy this business, and a lot of people talk about retirement. I enjoy what I do on a day-to-day basis, and I have told our guys don’t expect me to go away anytime soon,” he said. “As long as I can contribute to Nussbaum, I intend to stay as a leader.” Nussbaum’s son Brendon also works at the company as an account manager.

Nussbaum Transportation is 40 miles east of Peoria. It provides dedicated carriage and irregular route trucking throughout the contiguous 48 states, operating 350 trucks and 800 trailers. With 450 employees, 360 of whom are drivers, the company concedes it has struggled with driver turnover, like many trucking firms have. Nussbaum said his company’s 2017 turnover rate was 29%, well below the industry average of close to 90% annually. With regard to the other 90 employees, the rate is less than 5% a year, mostly because of retirements. He said the company’s average driver earns at least $60,000 a year, and  the top 10% of drivers make more than $72,000. Nussbaum also offers bonus and incentive programs, and even allows family members — or a driver’s dog — to go on trips. Even before implementing the ESOP, Nussbaum said by aggressively trying to keep its veteran drivers, and significantly reducing the turnover rate, the company’s insurance carrier reduced its vehicle insurance premiums by 20% during the past two years.

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