Alexis Cross wanted to be an archaeologist when she was a child. The pyramids in Egypt, the hieroglyphics and the treasures that the desert sands might reveal, all fascinated her. But after graduating as her high school valedictorian, she went to college and fell into a career in the transportation and logistics business.
She may not be digging for artifacts in some far-off land, but every single day she tries to find ways for businesses to move products as the CEO of the newly formed 4 Seasons Freight in Jonesboro. Cross, 36, told Talk Business & Politics her industry has changed a lot since she started more than 14 years ago.
“We want to build a high level of trust with our customers and drivers,” Cross said. “We want to be experts at what we do.”
With the company just launching in June, Cross can’t point to a hefty balance sheet or exploding revenue just yet, but the industry is ripe for the type of competition that 4 Seasons Freight hopes to provide.
The trucking industry is one of the largest in the United States. It’s a $726 billion industry annually, according to Trucker Path. About 80% of all cargo is transported by trucks, as compared to the 8% that is moved by air, the 6% that’s moved by pipeline, or 4% that’s transported by rail.
Freight revenue is projected to increase by 75% by the year 2026, Trucker Path reported. There are 1.3 million trucking companies. The most profitable is UPS at almost $30 billion, followed by Fed Ex ($20 billion) and J.B. Hunt ($6.2 billion). There are roughly 3.5 million truck drivers. At least seven million jobs are directly tied to the trucking industry.
Trucking can be one of the more dangerous jobs in the U.S. An estimated 852 truckers died on the job in 2015, according to Trucker Path.
The top goods moved by trucks include machinery (10%), electronics (8%), motor vehicles (8%), mixed freight (6%) and pharmaceuticals (5%). Tonnage is projected to rise by 30% by the year 2030, according to the American Trucking Association.
There may be plentiful loads to ship, but the number one problem facing the industry is a lack of drivers, Cross said. Nationwide, there are about 61,000 truck driving jobs open, and the average age of a truck driver is 50 years old, meaning in the coming decade that number will grow, she added.
“Drivers have a tough life. They work long hours and spend a lot of time away from their families,” Cross said. “I admire the hard work they do.”
Before she helped form 4 Seasons Freight, Cross worked in marketing and sales for several companies, including a long-term stint as the logistics manager and sales executive for Aspen Transportation.
When she started, the logistics and trucking sectors were very different, she said.
Cellphones were not nearly as prevalent and the internet had only been around for a few years. A good portion of her workday would be spent on the phone trying to figure out how far loads were from their destinations. Now, there are applications that use GPS technology to track loads, which allows her to develop better relationships with customers and truckers, she added.
In her spare time, Cross is an avid yoga instructor. The path that led her to yoga nearly paralyzed her. Cross jumped from a bluff into a body of water when she broke her back. To recover from her injury, Cross spent many hours lying on her back, staring at the ceiling.
“I started asking myself what I wanted to do … I decided to take a yoga class,” Cross said.
Cross was working as a sales executive at the Jonesboro Sun when she met Nick and Leslie Williams. Nick has worked in the agriculture and chemical field for about 20 years and the couple owns ChemTrade Agri. One consistent problem their business had was finding drivers to move chemicals, she said. One day she suggested that they needed to start their own brokerage and 4 Seasons Freight was formed in June.
The company only has three employees right now, but Cross said she is anxious to build and grow the business. Any advice for a young professional?
“I’ve found that being myself is me being at my best,” she said.