After announcing a loss of more than $8.9 million in the first quarter last week, US Xpress Enterprises on Thursday confirmed that it has laid off about 70 of its corporate and information technology staff this week in response to a lower than expected growth in the company’s trucking business.
The staff cuts do not include any drivers, mechanics or maintenance workers and affected about 5% of the staff at the headquarters in Chattanooga and other US Xpress offices, according to a company official. The job cuts at US Xpress are the largest since the company laid off about 100 employees five years ago.
“Over the past few months, our truck count and revenue have not grown at the same rate as our workforce,” Brad Carmony, vice president of communications at US Xpress, said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, this means that we have made the decision to lay off some team members this week. Many of these staff reductions relate to our technology team, and the others relate to the entire company, across operations. and back-office support.”
The job cuts come as the trucking industry struggles to cope with global supply chain challenges compounded by the pandemic and lockdowns in China, Russia’s war with Ukraine and shortages labor and supply in different industries.
“We don’t expect such a favorable market over the next few quarters as we saw a slowdown in freight demand coming out of the first quarter,” US Xpress CEO Eric Fuller told analysts at the sector last week. “Consumers are feeling the pressure, whether from general cost inflation, higher interest rates or worries about the geopolitical environment.”
Fuller said shutdowns in China and port congestion in Shanghai are limiting global cargo, though he hopes that will rebound once China reopens.
The most recent layoffs come five months after Fuller changed management of the company’s Variant subsidiary in December after the tech-based transportation business failed to meet expectations. The US Xpress CEO said last week that he spent much of the first quarter working at Variant’s Atlanta offices to improve Variant’s performance and try to grow the business.
“Variant is the growth engine of our business and is key to our future growth,” Fuller said.
As Variant grew to 1,691 trucks at the end of the first quarter, Fuller said, “We haven’t grown as much as we would have liked.”
From its Atlanta headquarters, the company has developed a suite of machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms called Variant Optimizer, which is designed to reduce operating costs and increase driver satisfaction through “specialists operations” rather than fleet managers.
Even in a slowing freight market, US Xpress and other carriers are still eager to hire more drivers, and Variant is seen as a competitive advantage for US Xpress in hiring motor carriers.
“No driver, service center or maintenance roles were impacted [by the layoffs]”, Carmony said in Thursday’s statement. “While difficult, this decision reflects our need to properly size our workforce for the growth in our truck count and is necessary for the long-term health and success of the business. .”
The job losses announced this week will not be apparent in the sprawling parking lots around the US Xpress headquarters along Interstate 75 at the Bonny Oaks exit in Ooltewah. Following the success of working from home during the pandemic, most US Xpress employees are now working remotely and no longer commute to corporate headquarters daily.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.