PI&I Motor Express Op-Ed Regarding It’s Use of PPP

September 2020

Since that fateful day in 1803, when James and Danny Heaton found the ore that was lining Yellow Creek (As noted in the hit song “Youngstown”, by Bruce Springsteen) the Mahoning Valley has been synonymous with the term “grit”. Grit, being the ability to weather any hardship with resolve as strong as the steel for which the valley gets is nickname. Whether it be economichardship the likes of “Black Monday” in 1977, or it be environmental the likes of the 1985 Tornado; the “Steel Valley” has always stayed together and fought through adversity as a community. This ethic is needed now more than ever!

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PI&I’s priority has been to protect our most vital asset: Our Employees (The vast majority of which are proud residents of the Steel Valley). Before any State issued a “Stay at Home” order or restricted non-essential business activities, PI&I was already weeks into its efforts to protect all our employees and customers from this invisible enemy. We sent “at-risk” employees to work from home and isolated all those who remained. We limited non-essentialmovements within the workplace to reduce face-to-face contact whenever possible. We provided hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies to office employees and drivers alike, while simultaneously implementing a cleaning regiment of all high-touch surfaces. We implemented mask requirements at all terminals and customer locations weeks before they were mandated. And we put all these measures into place without laying-off a single employee.

While we are proud of our track record, as the Valley should be of its own, the past is not the subject of this article. The subject of this article is the future. Specifically, the future adaptations and innovations which are required for all the Valley’s businesses to survive in during these unprecedented times.

The CARES Act’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) has given companies the breathing room necessary to flex their innovative and adaptive might. We here at PI&I are proud of what we were able to put together for the benefit of all our company drivers, so much so, that we wanted to give our neighbors a look behind the curtain in hopes of inspiring other novel ideas.

The funds made available by the PPP has allowed the company to implement what has been coined as the “PI&I Payroll Stabilization Package”. This unique program, developed by the company’s executive team, gives company drivers the option to join a temporary pay structure which locks them in to a fixed wage for 8 weeks (later extended to 12 weeks). Each driver that chooses to opt into the program has their wage calculated on a case by case basis. This allowed us to keep our drivers at a wage that is as close as possible to what they earned for last year.

Drivers who were with our company for the entirety of the 2019 calendar year had their pre-tax wages for that year divided by the number of weeks they worked. As for those who were hired during the 2019 calendar year, a different approach had to be taken to ensure that they were still able to provide for their loved ones. Drivers hired in the early months of 2019 had their existing working record extrapolated to a 52-week figure. While drivers hired in the later months of the 2019 calendar year were given wages based on our existing, “New Driver Guarantee”. This is a package that every new company driver who graduates our “Steel Hauling Finishing Course” is placed on for 12 weeks.

Without the PPP funds, we would have been unable to implement this groundbreaking program, and our drivers would have inevitably suffered as a result. So, we challenge each individual taking the time to read this article to innovate and adapt the principles and spirit of our program into something that can help them, and their employees overcome these trying times.

In closing, we would like to extend our gratitude and praise to all those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. This includes the doctors, nurses, and first responders putting their own well-being on the line to protect those they don’t even know. This also includes the store clerks and convenience store workers who have allowed us to continue to lead our lives with as much normality as possible during these trying times.

Best Regards,

The P. I. & I. Family