Knight-Swift CEO discusses company’s challenges, response to COVID-19 (with video)

Heading into April, the United States braces itself for another month of battling COVID-19. The pandemic, which has disrupted commerce and trade around the world, presents unique challenges for the transportation industry as it juggles to keep America’s stores stocked while maneuvering around the invisible threat.

As the nation’s largest full truckload company, Knight-Swift Transportation has monitored the COVID-19 outbreak closely and has taken steps to ensure its employees are protected and its operations run smoothly.

FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller discussed the motor carrier’s response to the coronavirus outbreak via teleconference with Knight-Swift President and CEO David Jackson on the FreightWavesTV show, “Fuller Speed Ahead.”

Jackson said that Knight-Swift has prepared for times of economic disruptions. For instance, each of the company’s terminals has decentralized operations that allow its staff to work remotely if necessary. He said the contingency plan was created mainly for inclement weather such as hurricanes, but has since proved to be the perfect solution for this unprecedented pandemic.

Although Jackson said that the transportation sector hasn’t felt the negative effects that other businesses have, he noted that only carriers that are well-capitalized and can endure the bottom of the “U curve” will fare well during the outbreak.

Jackson explained that Knight-Swift is pleased to see spikes in demand for consumer goods as the majority of its truckloads consist of consumer staples. The flexibility of the carrier’s irregular route line-haul business has also proved to be of benefit for Knight-Swift as it finds new ways to navigate the ever-changing market.

“Our recruiting classes are still pretty decent and we’re continuing to recruit drivers and put them into trucks this week,” Jackson said. “It’s very encouraging; maybe it’s a sign that there are so many that don’t have those opportunities and are attracted to the fact that we provide gainful employment right away.”

He continued, “As long as we can stock communities with products, it keeps the panic down and helps those who are most in need.

The COVID-19 pandemic that continues to roadblock most industries in the United States has presented drivers with unique opportunities as consumers anxiously await the arrival of each truckload.

Medical professionals and truck drivers have emerged as heroes of the coronavirus outbreak as their services carry the nation through these tough times.

“I have never seen the level of respect for drivers and well-deserved credit that many of them are receiving reach this high,” said Jackson.

Jackson expressed gratitude for the resilience that Knight-Swift’s drivers have shown. In response, the company has offered its drivers the opportunity to earn bonuses up to around $1,000 per month. Knight-Swift has additionally allocated around $1 million in food provisions to 17 of its terminals for the benefit of its drivers.

Jackson also acknowledged the kind actions from some of Knight-Swift’s customers who’ve served its drivers meals upon arrival at their facilities.

“We’re grateful for the cooperation and the collaboration from our customers and the respect that everybody seems to be giving our drivers,” Jackson said.

To combat the spread of the coronavirus, most of Knight-Swift’s employees are working from home, according to Jackson, and the company has implemented extensive sanitation policies at its maintenance facilities to protect both its mechanics and drivers from contracting the illness. Each vehicle is sterilized with anti-bacterial wipes and air disinfectant devices upon each maintenance visit.

Jackson said that Knight-Swift still recommends its drivers to use the restrooms and showers at its facilities, but advises against congregating in large groups during rest periods.

Tackling the coronavirus has required a company-wide effort for Knight-Swift, but Jackson believes the motor carrier has taken the proper steps to adjust as America braces for another month of quarantine.

“The business continues to work and we’re adjusting to this new way of talking to people via our computers and working with our drivers one-on-one,” Jackson said.

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Knight-Swift Transportation (No. 3).


  1. The cat is out of the bag on rising premiums/nuclear verdicts and I’m unaware of any lawsuits in which the automobile driver is cited at fault and the Carrier/Driver are awarded extreme amounts due to loss of life.
    Hair follicle testing/training/all components of safety are fundamentals and you can be the safest in the business and still be subject to these nuclear verdicts. The only way to address this issue is to have the difficult conversations of placing value on human life. Workers comp limits the amount they pay for losses, why is this topic so one sided.
    We’ve had these conversations and determined doctors cannot be sued out of existence and this current environment has shown the importance of Motor Carriers to all of America.
    I challenge FW to dig deeper into the data of these lawsuits specifically what size carriers are being sued for what amounts. The subject seems to be less of an issue for mid-large carriers than for small fleets and Independents.
    The upcoming Infrastructure Bill will have an increase in diesel fuel taxes and the trade off is to end these nuclear verdicts for Carriers w/a proven record of fundamentals.

  2. I continued my driving career with Knight Transportation in September 1990, bringing 10 years of experience and driving for Knight for the next 14 years, until my retirement in 2004.
    I appreciate Knight and the opportunities I had with them and their commitment to their drivers as well as all support personnel.
    I could not have been treated with more respect than I was at Knight. They had a focus on the future from the very beginning in July 1990.
    I’m very glad for the success they’ve had and their hope for the future of the company.

  3. So how do drivers get the $1000 bonus very month? Most I make is $534 with both the miles and safety. Now we also make an extra $200 every week for 8 weeks.

  4. What about social distancing when it comes to mentor otr training. Are both people tested for covid19 and recieving negative results before getting in a truck together? That is a huge issue if not. You are putting everyone at risk and not adhering to rules of social distancing. Its too close quarters fir people to live for up to 6 weeks.

  5. I love working for this company they show great integrity, care for us drivers, always listen when we have something to say and if something needs to be fixed they are on top of it. I will be coming up on my first 100K during this essential time.
    Thank You, Knight!
    “One of The Dames”

  6. This isn’t a bad company and it would be even better if they overhauled their port dispatchers who happen to be the worst of the bunch.

    Kyle Gallagher doesn’t turn in his own paperwork, publicly practices favoritism and will lie to drivers on a daily basis.

    He’s been caught several times and this is the kind of stuff that can get innocent people not only in trouble but hurt.

    It’s frightening to have a company condone this sort of behavior but Knight and Swift …. have done so for years maybe they don’t care about their brand or how drivers or their consumer are treated by this company when they employ individuals who have no idea what driver retention is.

    Just don’t drive for them period in the Port of Long Beach or Port of Los Angeles they are lazy, belligerent arrogant and will continue to throw hard working drivers under the bus if we as carriers don’t say anything !

    Stay safe, stay sane stay away from this company until they get rid of the likes of Kyle Gallagher

  7. Knight was always THE best run outfit, with no debt and good management that really knew the business. They were always willing to leverage technology before everyone else and never afraid of failing (I bet lots of stuff they tried failed…but they only needed 1 in 10 things to work out that saved them millions in an outfit that size).

    Good people.

  8. Great interview with folks that know the industry.

    The runway has ended for brokers years ago.
    Way too many brokers these days undercutting each other for the same limited freight.
    Convoy and Uber will push brokerage margins to low single digits.
    When investors demand higher returns, someone else will fill the low cost provider spot.

    1. I saw the broker paradigm shift coming years ago as the housing crash happened. The more efficient carriers would absorb the broker market to a great degree. It’s taken longer than I previously envisioned, but the pieces are coming together. Why would a shipper not route their business through a performance driven carrier. The challenge is the loop that ensues as the carriers gain more business, more than they can handle during up cycles they themselves push that freight into the spot market. So the question is who’s the better broker ?

Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.