Few trucking executives buy 50,000 trucks over the course of their careers, but Max Fuller has accomplished something even more unusual. On Aug. 5, the co-chairman and chief executive officer of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based U.S. Xpress took delivery of his 50,000th truck of a single make – Freightliner.
In a ceremony at U.S. Xpress’ headquarters, Fuller officially took possession of the 2010 Freightliner Cascadia 72-inch sleeper with Detroit Diesel DD15 engine. Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, also presented Fuller with a memento of the occasion – a Freightliner etched into a block of crystal. “It might be the only Freightliner you ever get for free,” Daum quipped as he handed the trophy to Fuller.
Closing out the ceremony, Fuller handed the keys to the Cascadia to its driver, James Waldo, who has worked for U.S. Xpress and Southwest Motor Freight for 38 years.
In 1974, Fuller took over purchasing responsibilities from his father Clyde, owner of Southwest Motor Freight, representing the beginning of his relationship with Freightliner. Fuller recalls that Freightliner’s marketing materials then – just after the big OPEC oil embargo – touted the trucks’ fuel efficiency and light weight. Fuller’s first order was about 150 trucks, which was almost half the Southwest Motor Freight fleet.
Fuller continued to buy Freightliners when he and Patrick Quinn launched U.S. Xpress in 1985. As the company grew, U.S. Xpress bought 3,000 or 4,000 trucks a year in some years. Fuller also emphasized the relationship with Freightliner by signing a 12-year exclusive agreement that began in the late 1980s.
“You have been a tremendous partner for us,” Daum told Fuller during the ceremony.
Freightliner’s view of Fuller as a partner and not just a customer is quite real, said Mark Lampert, senior vice president-sales and marketing for DTNA. Perhaps the most striking example of this partnership was the development of the 70-inch Freightliner Condo in the early 1990s, he said.
Like Southwest Motor Freight, U.S. Xpress had used driver teams heavily, and Fuller complained the flat-top sleeper Freightliner offered at the time didn’t work well for team operations. So over a period of about six months, Fuller and 64 U.S. Xpress drivers helped Freightliner design the Freightliner Condo.