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U.S. Xpress CCO gone after just year and a half on job

Company says decision ‘mutual’ in second key departure in 8 months

U.S. Xpress has seen its second significant departure of an executive in the last eight months.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) said it and chief commercial officer Jake Lawson had “mutually decided to part ways.” 

The move follows the December departure of Variant president Cameron Ramsdell. However, Ramsdell was “terminated,” according to the wording of the form 8-K SEC filing that U.S. Xpress submitted in December. The filing for Lawson did not use that term, rather portraying his departure as by mutual agreement.

“Jake has been instrumental in maturing our sales, customer experience and revenue management teams during his tenure at U.S. Xpress,” CEO Eric Fuller said in the SEC filing. “Jake’s input has been critical in designing the future structure of our commercial organization, and he will be essential in ensuring we have a seamless transition in the weeks ahead.”

Lawson did not possess a trucking company background when he joined U.S. Xpress in February 2021. He had served in key roles in sales and product development at Whirlpool and then joined Lowe’s in a key sales and marketing division role. 

U.S. Xpress has struggled of late. While other companies were posting significantly better performance during the strong trucking market in the four quarters between the second half of 2021 and first half of 2022, U.S. Xpress saw little benefit from that. Its adjusted operating ratio from Q3 2021 through Q4 2022 came in at 98.5%, 100.2%, 99.2% and 99.5%, respectively.

Variant is the “startup within a company” seeking to capitalize on technology to create a significantly different business model than traditional truckload operations. However, several metrics at Variant are lagging well below projections — in particular driver turnover, which had been projected as a key area of improvement under the Variant plan. But turnover was 150% in the second quarter.

The U.S. Xpress stock price Wednesday at about 2:15 p.m. EDT was $2.86. That is down about 70% from its 52-week high of $9.40 on Oct. 21 but 32% more than its 52-week low of $2.13 set June 23. 

On the company’s latest earnings call, no analysts registered as participants (according to a transcript from SeekingAlpha), suggesting the trucking analyst community is skeptical of the Variant plan. While analyst participation in previous U.S. Xpress calls was always less than the turnouts for other major truckload and less-than-truckload carriers, there always had been a few interested in the Variant initiative as well as the company’s overall performance..

U.S. Xpress remains a significant force in the truckload sector. In the second quarter, its revenue of $553.7 million came in well above that of Heartland Express (NASDAQ: HTLD), which saw revenue of $187.8 million, and Marten (NASDAQ: MRTN), with revenue of $329.5 million. Marten has recorded several 52-week stock price highs in recent weeks. 

U.S. Xpress is smaller than Werner (NASDAQ: WERN), which recorded second-quarter revenue of $836.3 million.

Disclosure: FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller retains ownership of U.S. Xpress shares through his family trust.

More articles by John Kingston

At U.S. Xpress, Variant’s numbers still lag but CEO Fuller vows progress

Variant’s metrics at U.S. Xpress show a second-half deterioration

CEO predicts Variant will drive USX sequential financial growth by Q1

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes U.S. Xpress (No. 13) and Heartland Express (No. 35).

4 Comments

  1. If they spent less time trying to squeeze every penny out of their drivers they can, they would have less turnover. Horrible company. Poor planners, poor communication, can’t keep your driver’s poor. Wake up.

    1. The reality is that wages for truck drivers are going to peak soon and then decline. Autonomous trucks are a fact. No driver, fewer jobs available equals less jobs for drivers and less pay and benefits. Everytime we( notice I said WE) use self checkout, or online banking, or anything that eliminates or reducing the need for a worker, we are indicating that it is okay to automate basically any function possible. WE did that. WE will continue to do this

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.