Point of View: The Trucking Industry Must Support Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
This commentary was written by the President and CEO of US Xpress Eric Fuller. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of FreightWaves or its affiliates.
By Eric Fuller
As the leader of a large publicly traded trucking company, it is my responsibility to look after our 10,000+ team members, our investors and our industry. Part of this involves assessing the short and long term risks.
Over the past few months, I have increasingly understood that the current divisive rhetoric around diversity and inclusion within the trucking industry could have a significant impact on the growth and transformation of US Xpress and our entire industry.
I call on trucking and logistics business leaders big and small to start taking action to create a culture that is more tolerant of others of different races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. As an industry, we’ll have a hard time attracting the kind of talent we need to be competitive in a global economy if we don’t start having these conversations and implementing real change.
This change will not be easy and will require uncomfortable conversations and difficult opinions from the past. We have to face the fact that our industry is lagging behind others and must catch up. We are often diversified into front-line and entry-level positions; however, we have very little diversity at the leadership, management and board levels.
As a straight white male, what I see as positive characteristics for opportunities within our industry is different from what a gay, black person, or woman might see – or a person of Asian descent, a trans or latin person.
I have listened to others a lot about their experiences this year. What I heard made me sad, angry and even confused at times. I had no idea how much pain people often feel because of the belief that they have no voice, no opportunity, or worse yet, are victims of blatant discrimination.
Many will say things like, “Why does it have to be race, gender, or sexual preference?” Or “Can’t we just judge someone on their individual qualities?” Or “I don’t see a color when I hire someone.” If only it was that easy.
Saying and doing the right thing yourself won’t solve the problem. We all need to make changes and challenge ourselves to do the same. We must speak out and act to change our industry.
I ask you to embark on a path of exploration. Start talking to and listen to minority community team members within your organization. Ask them to tell you how they perceive openness and inclusion in our industry. Listen to their concerns and frustrations. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about the benefits you have and how their experiences are different from yours. Accept the reality of why their experiences are different.
To implement real change, our industry leaders must also recognize these issues and come together to help find solutions. It will take time, but it is a worthwhile investment.
Many might say they would gladly hire an executive from a demographic minority, but there are no qualified candidates. We need to start intentionally targeting and opening up opportunities for minorities to build management-level careers in trucking. If we don’t start making this a priority, we will continue to fall behind peer industries in diverse executive staffing.
The previous year, I interviewed several highly qualified candidates for positions at US Xpress. We had many finalists who withdrew from the interview process because they were reluctant to join the trucking industry. While each candidate has their own story, I overwhelmingly heard them talk about the lack of acceptance of diversity and the perceived lack of opportunity within our industry.
Young professionals today don’t necessarily choose the job with the highest pay, they choose a career path that challenges them where they can work alongside others who share the same philosophy, a place where they can feel welcome for who they are without fear of hatred or discrimination. Young people today want to live and work in diverse and inclusive communities and for businesses that share this vision.
While I admit that US Xpress still has a long way to go in developing a more inclusive culture, we have made significant progress. We have established a Diversity and Inclusion Council led by a wide range of team members each representing unique perspectives. From this board, we have also launched employee resource groups which are also led by our team members and provide a safe space for open dialogue on important issues that impact women, the community. LGBTQ + and the many military veterans working at our company.
This year, we also released our first corporate responsibility report and set ambitious goals for environmental responsibility and community giving. These are important topics and the right things to do for large companies like US Xpress, but also smaller, more local organizations.
I am proud to be a part of the trucking industry, but we have work to do. And the first step is to recognize that change is necessary. Change is imperative if we are to continue to attract, retain and nurture the talent needed to grow our industry, develop a diverse and inclusive community, and create opportunities for everyone. But without change, we all face an uncertain future.
Disclosure: Craig Fuller, Founder and CEO of FreightWaves, retains ownership of US Xpress shares through his family trust.
About the Author
Prior to being named President and CEO, Eric Fuller served for five years as President and COO of US Xpress, responsible for operations including OTR, Dedicated Services, Customer Service and Planning. As the eldest son of co-founder Max Fuller, he had the unique opportunity to gain a detailed understanding of US Xpress from the inside out. He is particularly sensitive to the daily challenges his employees face, having held a wide variety of roles within the company for almost 20 years.