Lisa Quinn Pate remembers growing up in the trucking business. Her late father, Patrick Quinn, was one of the co-founders of U.S. Xpress along with his business partner Max Fuller. Now, Pate is the president and chief administrative officer of the company, which is one of the largest private truckload carriers in the country.
As a child, Pate said she remembers moving from Nebraska to Chattanooga, TN, so that her father could work as a general counsel for Southwest Motor Freight, Fuller’s father’s company. In 1986, her father and Fuller left Southwest to start their own business, U.S. Xpress. And since then, trucking has been an integral part of Pate’s life.
“I love the pace of trucking,” Pate told Fleet Owner. “There’s never a dull moment and always a challenge to solve. And I love that our industry, although not exactly top-of-mind with most people, plays a huge role in the American economy. I feel good about being involved in that.”
Pate’s father was an attorney, and she followed in his footsteps by earning a law degree and practicing for six years as an associate and partner at a Chattanooga law firm before coming to U.S. Xpress as the company’s general counsel. Since then, Pate said she learned the business from an administrative perspective, overseeing the legal side of the business in addition to functions like human resources, information technology, and safety.
In 2012 she took on the added responsibility as chief administrative officer, and in 2017 was appointed president and chief administrative officer by the company’s board of directors.
Pate watched the company grow from the very beginning and over the past three decades that it has been in operation. The company began with a fleet of just 48 trucks and touts itself as an early adopter of safety technologies such as roll stability, disc brakes, and accident avoidance systems. The fleet has since grown from those original 48 trucks to 7,000 tractors and 15,500 trailers.
Under its new generation of leadership with Pate and Fuller’s son, Eric Fuller, who recently took on the role of CEO, U.S. Xpress has also amped up its green efforts and was Fleet Owner’s green fleet of the month in the July issue. As part of its efforts, about 10 eNow solar panel systems are undergoing testing at U.S. Xpress, and the company is finding fuel savings in trailer aerodynamics, including side skirts and rear devices as well as Eco Flaps splashguards.
U.S. Xpress is also a two-time winner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Environmental Excellence Award for reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.
The company currently has 1,200 Stemco TrailerTail units in service. A recent order of 1,800 new trailers from Hyundai and Wabash National has been spec’d with SmartTruck Top Kit systems, which include a rear roof aerodynamic rain guard and rear corner side fairings. Looking to the future, last December U.S. Xpress announced it would test and be an early adopter of the zero-emissions, hydrogen-electric Class 8 Nikola One truck from Nikola Motor Co.
As for advising women considering a career in the trucking industry, particularly in leadership, Pate said they should be prepared to be outnumbered by men.
“It’s definitely a masculine industry, but that’s the very reason we need the perspective and insight many women are well-suited to bring,” she explained. “In the end, trucking is much like any other business and requires the ability to build relationships, to empathize, to solve problems creatively, and to remember that people are at the core of everything we do.
“Sometimes we may need to have a little thicker skin than our counterparts in different sectors,” she continued, “but the perspective we can bring is valuable to our companies and our industry as a whole.”