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Chattanooga's biggest trucking company is recruiting more over-the-road and dedicated drivers to respond to an increase in truck shipments as many stores try to restock their shelves in the wake of shifting buying patterns caused by the coronavirus.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc., the nation's fifth largest asset-based truckload carrier by revenue, announced its hiring efforts Wednesday to alert drivers that might be displaced as other businesses shut down about the opportunities at U.S. Xpress.

"We are looking for experienced drivers, including those who may have been economically impacted or displaced as jobs are furloughed during this crisis," said Eric Fuller, CEO of U.S. Xpress. "We would love to have drivers join the U.S. Xpress family as we all work to keep critical medical and food supplies rolling across this great country."

U.S. Xpress currently has open positions and is seeking applicants from across the country, Fuller said. With a commitment to get 80% of experienced drivers seated in trucks within two to three days, U.S. Xpress is working swiftly to address the current market needs and service customers who remain open.

To facilitate hiring of drivers and limit the spread of the coronavirus, U.S. Xpress said it is transitioning to virtual orientation for new drivers looking to join the team, with only select tests being done in-person. U.S. Xpress is also screening drivers at in-person orientation classes and terminals, with medical professionals on site to take temperatures prior to allowing entry. For those on site, social distancing is being applied with group sizes limited to 10.

U.S. Xpress employs between 8,500 and 10,000 employees, depending upon the time of the year and business volumes, company spokesman Mary Danielson said. The company declined to specify how many drivers it wants to hire, but large fleet carriers and long-distance haulers like U.S. Xpress often have an annual turnover rate of more than 90%.

Randy Mullett, a trucking industry consultant and CEO of Mullett Strategies, told Transport Topics he expects demand for drivers to remain strong in the current market.

"I don't see it abating, as we have more and more calls for people to stay home," Mullett said. "We'll need delivery services, whether it's full-blown truck drivers or last-mile, first-mile type of things. There's going to be a lot of demand for that, at least in the short term.

"And it's not all tractor-trailer-driven. Every delivery truck, every bread truck, every beer truck," he said. "For now, it doesn't look like there's any end in sight."," he said.

Those interested in applying or learning more about U.S. Xpress can visit usxjobs.com.

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