YRC Worldwide CEO Welch: Results, turnaround are energizing

Austin Alonzo
Kansas City Business Journal
February 12, 2013

YRC Worldwide CEO James Welch is pleased to see the company finish the year strong after starting with a $49 million operational loss in the first quarter.

On Friday, the Overland Park-based company (Nasdaq: YRCW) reported positive annual consolidated operating income for the first time in six years.

Welch said the positive annual results reflect a shift in philosophy to a “laser” focus on freight operations after years of attempting to diversify operations.

“When I returned to the company in July 2011, it wasn’t focused on what it does best: LTL (less-than-truckload) transportation,” Welch said. “(It’s) been a year of getting things cleaned up ... making sure employees are focused on North American LTL.”

The contrast between the company’s current financial situation and the one it faced before Welch became CEO is stark. In March 2011, the firm teetered on the brink of bankruptcy as the national economic downturn caused significant losses for YRC’s freight business.

In 2012, the company also shook up its personnel, brining in new hires and bringing back former YRC employees like Darren Hawkins, formerly of rival LTL carrier Con-Way Inc. (NYSE: CNW).

The more focused approach on freight has energized employees as well.

Welch said he told his employees, “(We can) continue to lay down on the mat and get kicked around ... or get back in the fight.”

“(They) want to do a good job ... (and we) get them channeled in the right direction,” Welch said.

Not everything was positive, though. Welch said the company continues to deal with a “choppy” economy for transportation, and he is disappointed with the company’s revenue, which declined by .4 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Welch said YRC will continue to work on expanding its freight client base by increasing its sales operations in 2013. He did not say which clients the company is pursuing.

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to improve our sales effort,” Welch said.

The company plans to roll out new technology in 2013, including handheld devices for YRC’s drivers, and is poised to “execute,” he said.

“2013 is (the) year we perform,” Welch said.

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