Short distances can be a tall order

Drivers, Our People, Shippers

U.S. Xpress stood up a 24-hour shuttle service that keeps goods flowing for a major beverage bottler.

What’s happening: Moving goods sometimes requires covering very short distances between facilities over and over around the clock, and that presents specific challenges for both carriers and shippers. 

Why it matters: U.S. Xpress stood up a customized shuttle service for a multi-national beverage bottler that was having trouble finding reliable hauling for their specific needs.

The bottom line: It took some creativity and collaboration to get the details right, but this system hasn’t missed a beat since it started running 24/7 in the summer of 2021.

Moving goods by truck may bring to mind long hauls or regional runs, but some shippers also need frequent shuttle service over short distances. U.S. Xpress set out to solve that particular challenge for a multi-national beverage bottler moving merchandise between facilities, and it took some creativity and collaboration to get the details right.

“We’re talking about very short runs, some just a mile or two, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said T.J. Gibson, vice president of sales in the Dedicated division for U.S. Xpress. “This type of operation requires a high level of consistency and communication, so we worked closely with our customer to design an operational schedule that could adapt to real-world issues while still hitting all service metrics.” 

The high volume of product they move was the crux of the problem for this shipper. Inconsistent service with another carrier led to goods backing up and finely tuned workflows being knocked off course. U.S. Xpress sat down with company leadership and pulled together a plan to get a reliable stable of drivers and a steady fleet in place to run these short distances. It took a little creativity to get it just right, but the result has been more than worth the effort.

U.S. Xpress designed a slip seat operation that has wheels turning around the clock. Some of the runs are so short that the drivers never even drive on public roads — they just run back and forth between facilities on the customer’s sprawling property. That meant finding the right drivers and paying them in a way that made sense.   

Rather than paying these drivers by the mile, U.S. Xpress set up an hourly compensation model. And in selecting drivers for these runs, we looked for folks who would prefer the predictability of being home every night, and who wouldn’t mind covering the same ground all day (or all night) long.

“You’re home every night, so it’s pretty attractive, but you’re doing the same thing over and over, and some drivers want to be out on the road,” Gibson said. “You’ve got the get the people right.”

U.S. Xpress also needed to arrange for some specialized equipment to make loading and unloading trailers easier for the drivers. Once the right people and equipment were in place and the rate and pay structure were settled, this system started running — and hasn’t missed a beat since it launched in the summer of 2021.

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