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Meet the Silicon Valley of Freight

Innovative providers and stellar location make Greater Chattanooga a major logistics hub.

By Bill Lewis on October 6, 2021

huge machine moves a crate
Stephen B. Morton/Georgia Ports Authority

Chattanooga earns its reputation as the Silicon Valley of Freight around the clock every day, thanks to a critical mass of innovative transportation providers who continuously invest in new technologies that bring greater efficiencies to the logistics industry.

With a location at the crossroads of Interstates 24, 75 and 59 and an integrated network of rail, water and air assets – all within a day’s drive of more than a third of the U.S. population – Greater Chattanooga is a hub for leading-edge companies.

One of the latest examples of creative thinking in the transportation business is the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP) in Northwest Georgia’s Murray County. The inland rail terminal is a joint effort of the state of Georgia, Murray County, the Georgia Ports Authority and CSX Transportation.

Appalachian Regional Port

The ARP, which opened in 2018, provides direct rail service to the deep-water Port of Savannah. Each round-trip container moved through the ARP offsets 710 truck miles on Georgia highways.

“Shippers utilizing the ARP realize significant cost savings by not having to pay to transport shipments from the coast to points farther inland. This obviously cuts down on drayage time, as well, given the ARP’s inland location. Shippers as far west as Mississippi and as far north as Kentucky and Southern Indiana are using the port,” says Eli J. Falls, president and CEO of the Murray County Chamber of Commerce and The Murray County Industrial Development Authority.

The ARP realized 73% growth from 2019-2020. The port’s capacity is 50,000 containers per year, with plans to double that within the decade. It is already having an impact on investment and job growth.

“In 2020, the first pandemic year, the Murray County Industrial Development Authority was able to secure large-scale investments in the community by companies such as GE-Haier, Huali Floors USA and United Surface Solutions. These businesses are heavily dependent on the port and its services. During 2020, these companies announced over 500 new jobs here in Murray County,” Falls says.

Greater Chattanooga’s quality of life and tech infrastructure make it the perfect location for logistics provider Trident Transport. “Chattanooga provides top-end access to tech, outdoor recreation and affordable living costs. This allows our team members to get the best of office and after-hours amenities,” says Daniel Lucas, Trident Transport’s director of innovation.

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U.S. Xpress

Logistics in Gig City

Chattanooga’s commitment to 10 gigabit internet speed is important for the tech-centered logistics industry. Trident invests heavily to ensure that the latest technology is available to its associates.

“It’s often referred to as Gig City. Running a brokerage means we rely on a great many virtual resources for quotes, tracking and updates,” Lucas says. “Since the days where trains dominated transportation, the Chattanooga Choo Choo stood as an important intersection between the northern and southern sections of the U.S. Even media-based logistics companies like FreightWaves have set up shop in Chattanooga because of its strategic location for transportation businesses and talent.”

Chattanooga’s commitment to tech is important for U.S. Xpress, which is at the forefront of the transportation industry’s adoption of technology. Examples include its new digitally enabled fleet, Variant, as well as the GPS devices on each of the company’s nearly 7,000 tractors.

“Applying smart tech to our tractors allows us to reduce CO2 emissions, increase miles per gallon, extend the life of tires and mechanical parts and drive more efficiency for our customers and professional drivers,” says Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress.

The region checks all the boxes for U.S. Xpress.

“Not only is Chattanooga a beautiful city and a great place to call home, but from a transportation and logistics standpoint, it’s strategically located near the intersections of Interstates 24, 75 and 59, major freight corridors for the Eastern U.S.,” Fuller says. “The region is also home to major employers and distribution centers for dozens of national retailers. And in recent years, Chattanooga has become a hotbed for innovation in the logistics industry, from trucking companies to data analytics firms specializing in transportation technology.”

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