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iTECH: Connecting Technology to the Corporate Suite

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10/12/2010 9:30:00 AM

By Dan Leone, Staff Writer

This article appears in the October/November issue of iTECH, published in the Oct. 11 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Considering the treatment that a budding chief information officer once might have gotten on the playground from a budding truck driver, it is no small thing in 2010 to hear that the successful trucking company desperately needs both of these people to move the freight and make a profit.

“Strategy-wise, especially for a company our size, it’s critical to have a very engaged CIO that understands your business,� said Max Fuller, co-chairman and vice president of truckload carrier U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Chattanooga, Tenn. “He can give you strategic advantages ahead of a lot of your competition by properly applying all of the technologies that maybe trucking or transportation hasn’t adopted but other industries have.�

U.S. Xpress Enterprises, a 25-year-old company, is one of the biggest truckload carriers in the nation. About 13 years ago, its information technology situation reached critical mass, and the company decided to bring on a full-time IT chief.

“The reason we did it — we were seeing such fast growth,� Fuller said. “Parts of the business were growing very fast, and parts of it were almost dying because they weren’t being tended to. We had a lot of disparate [information] systems with individual missions that could have been combined.�

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There was, as Fuller saw it, only one solution to the intertwined problems of U.S. Xpress’ technology sprawl and growing pains: “We’ve got to have a person in that [CIO] position full time,� he told iTECH.

As iTECH went down the list of some of the largest trucking companies in the nation, not one carrier who called back failed to mention how crucial a chief information officer is to their operation.

The CIO, elbow-rubber in the board room, strategic decision- maker, manager of man and machine alike, stands on the shoulders of the custodial computer engineer of yore — the guy (or gal) whose job it once was to labor anonymously in the depths of the office, working diligently to keep the servers up and running, the workstations virus-free and the phones ringing.

A technical background is of paramount importance for any aspiring truck CIO, but business training, management experience and the ability to apply technology to a business process are must-haves for anyone who wants the job, trucking executives told iTECH.

© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.


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