Second Chance Employer Profile
Expedited Transport Agency
Founded in 2011 with three people, Expedited Transport Agency, located in Vestavia Hills, Ala., is a trucking and logistics company that provides trucking, warehousing and specialized hauling services. It transports commodities, including steel coils, steel beams, wire and military freight throughout the United States and to Canada and Mexico. Among its customers are equipment rental and construction companies, as well as all branches of the military.
The company hires most of its employees for two positions – broker and logistics coordinator. These people find the customers and arrange for freight shipments. Brokers begin with two-weeks of formal classroom training, during which they get a base salary but then move on to commission-based pay, which is calculated based on the number of customers they bring in, the number of shipping loads they get from each customer and the gross profit of those loads. Logistics coordinators support the brokers and receive a base salary and a lower commission.
Co-founder Tim Cross and his partner are in the process of selling the company to their employees under an employee stock ownership plan. He plans to stick around to make sure everything goes smoothly. His partner retired three years ago due to health reasons.
Second chance hiring practices
Second chance at ETA means offering opportunities to individuals who have recovered from alcohol and drug abuse, as well as those who have been incarcerated.
“My business partner and I are sober alcoholics. The intention wasn’t to hire sober alcoholics and drug addicts but it worked out that way,” says Cross.
“We want people to find a career and a place where they can be around other employees who are like them and get supported. Since we, the owners, are sober alcoholics we know what that means, unlike most other employers. We support them to get back into recovery if they need it. We hold employees accountable. We understand that there are red flags, so if we notice some of those things, we pull them in and have a conversation. We randomly drug test all the employees here. It’s a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.”
In addition to former drug addicts and sober alcoholics, 21 of ETA’s current 74 employees were formerly incarcerated (and some battled alcoholism and addiction as well). In fact, one of them married Cross’s daughter who also works for the company. Cross has a soft spot in his heart for people who’ve been incarcerated for another reason. His father served a life sentence and died in prison.
Applicants are tested for proficiency in typing and basic math and are given a personality test. They’re also asked to take a drug test.
“If they pass the initial interview, we have a group of managers who will sit in on the second interview. And the group of managers as a whole have to decide whether to bring the person in. We want them to commit to make sure that the applicant will be successful.”
A background check is run after the second interview, and if something turns up, Cross and his team have a conversation to see if it’s a deal breaker or not. They work closely with a local law firm that gives them direction on how to handle the various situations that arise.
Although it doesn’t offer any wraparound services, ETA has created a foundation it calls Together We Serve. The foundation is funded quarterly from company profits and events such as a raffle, where 50% of the proceeds went to the winner and 50% to the foundation. Last year $30,000 was donated. Its board members are all current employees, but none of them are management. Grants of $250, $500 or as much as $1,000 (that don’t have to be paid back) are given to help employee applicants make it through trying financial times.
The biggest challenge in developing a second chance hiring initiative, according to Cross, is dealing with “some of the old ideas that they have about themselves and everybody else. It can be challenging for them to get out of those old habits and ways and open their minds to try something new.”
Overall, though, Cross says he wouldn’t have done anything differently, and he’s very happy with what he and his company have been able to accomplish.
“This has been an amazing experience for me as a business owner and sober alcoholic and drug addict to get to see people get sober and have a great life. I haven’t come across anything better than that yet,” he says.