Marking their 25th anniversary, U.S. Xpress executives are optimistic the trucking industry will gain momentum in the future despite hurdles.
“To use a technical term Bill Strauss with the Chicago [Federal Reserve] uses, it stinks,” U.S. Xpress Co-chairman Max Fuller quipped about the current trucking climate. “If you look at [Gross Domestic Product] running at 3.2 percent, you’d think that business would feel a lot better. The reason it doesn’t feel better right now is the inventory rebuild component that has really affected the economy this past year.”
Fuller said if you take the inventory rebuild component out of the equation, the GDP is really running at about 1 percent and that’s what most companies are feeling. Using Strauss’ forecast, the GDP should hit 4 percent in the second quarter, and business confidence will improve.
“At 4 percent, the consumer will kick in, businesses will kick in and we’ll start consuming some of this inventory that has built up,” Fuller said. “We should then right-side to what GDP is running at so we’ve got a lot of confidence that as we get into the second quarter and the balance of this year and even into 2012, business is going to be extremely good.”
Both Fuller and Co-chairman Patrick Quinn said issues such as the federal government’s Compliance Safety Accountability program, rising fuel prices, increases in new truck prices, driver shortages and wages will challenge fleets to grow and stay competitive. Quinn said CSA will make it especially tough to fill driver seats.
“We’re optimistic where we’ll be going this year,” Quinn added. “But the capacity issue will make for some tight spots and interesting situations. There may be some freight that sits for a day or two longer than some shippers want to get it moved.”
While this will make it tougher for fleets, good drivers will have an advantage.
“A driver with a really clean record in a year or two could become like a free agent in the sports arena,” Quinn said. “He can command higher wages because he’s proven to be compliant. So there is a definite advantage for drivers to be compliant.”
Fuller and Quinn hauled their first load of freight under the company name on Jan. 21, 1986. U.S. Xpress started with 48 trucks and today has more than 8,000 trucks, 22,000 trailers and annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion. It is recognized as the second largest privately owned truckload fleet in the U.S.
As part of the 25th anniversary at its Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters, U.S. Xpress announced its gold sponsorship of the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to severely injured military service members between active duty and transition to civilian life.