RICHMOND, Va. — The largest privately operated freight company in North America, headquartered in Richmond, reported they were receiving and moving a historic number of goods amid the pandemic.
Estes Express Lines employs 21,000 people and operates out of 250 terminals across the country.
“It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation,” said Greg Richardson, Vice President of Human Resources. “And if there were more hours of the day and in the week, we’d probably be working those too.”
Richardson said the company had to get creative to meet the needs of customers as they saw a massive increase in business amid the pandemic.
Webb Estes, VP of Process Improvement, said there was more freight than ever before.
“People continue to buy, and our job has been to find a way to make it happen,” said Estes. “There’s a lot more freight moving, there’s just not as much sitting in warehouses ready to go.”
The company continued to see that influx even amid nationwide supply and driver shortages.
“It seems kind of ironic where you got so much freight, but you walk into the grocery store and you’re like, ‘oh my goodness, where are all the goods?'” Said Richardson.
“Where you see the increase in business, not only comes from more people and a desire of people to ship and frankly customers who are navigating towards the carriers that have drivers and are able to deliver the freight,” said Richardson.
He also said drivers were having to go longer distances.
“Previously, it was us picking up freight at a manufacture and delivering it to a retail center, and now it’s us doing that as well as picking it back up from that same retail center and delivering it to someone’s home.”
Even though the company had been able to hire 1,700 drivers in the year and had more drivers than ever before, Estes said they still needed more.
Richardson said the company got ahead early on hiring drivers and was able to deliver amid the pandemic.
“Our people have been amazing. When this hit, we knew that what we did was probably one of the single most important things that we needed to keep doing throughout the pandemic, right? The supply chain was going to need to continue to exist,” Richardson said.
He added that they did not have to let employees go and have been able to hire thousands more in the last year.
“Every single facility in our network right now has been focused on hiring people, focused on bringing the number of people in our facilities they need to make sure that we’re providing the service that our companies expect and are paying for,” Richardson said.
He added that the company was already experiencing the ‘holiday rush.’
“We are seeing freight not slowing at a time when it does dip ahead of the holidays so we think that will be sustained all the way up to the holidays and we’re well equipped to handle that,” Richardson said.
He and Estes advised people to do their holiday shopping sooner rather than later.
“It’s going to be tight. People that normally take two days are taking four days. It’s a complex time right now. I would encourage everyone to think early,” said Estes.