Ashley's Trucking Fleet Keeps Furniture Moving

Expanding Its Fleet Has Bolstered Ashley Furniture's Supply Chain
An Ashley Furniture Industries truck
Ashley Distribution Services, the transportation division of Ashley Furniture Industries, utilizes an extensive private trucking fleet. (Ashley Furniture Industries)

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For nearly half a century, Ashley Furniture Industries has been operating its own private trucking fleet to help ensure that its home furnishing products arrive at retail locations efficiently and on time.

In recent years, the furniture manufacturer has been expanding that fleet — both organic­ally and through acquisition — to further bolster its supply chain against disruptions, rising shipping costs and steep competition to hire and retain drivers.

Along the way, Ashley has built its transportation division, Ashley Distribution Services, into one of the largest private trucking fleets in North America.

ADS, which operates as a private and for-hire carrier, specializes in moving large-parcel, floor-­loaded, non-­palletized products in a multistop delivery mode.

“We were established in 1974, at a time when outsourcing resulted in cross-docking product and unpredictable delivery,” said Cole Bawek, the company’s vice president of public relations and communications. “By internalizing our transportation needs, we can offer a unique value proposition to our customers. We can get products to retailers faster and more efficiently, reducing costs.”

While some retail customers have the capacity to handle a full truckload, many others are smaller retailers that cannot receive an entire truckload and need help getting the furniture into their stores, he said.

“By handling our own freight, we have complete control over the transportation process,” Bawek added. “We can ensure that our products are handled safely and delivered on time without relying on the services of a third-party provider. This level of control and accountability allows us to provide our customers with exceptional service and build long-lasting relationships based on trust and reliability.”

In 2021, Ashley Furniture greatly expanded its fleet operations by acquiring the Pacific Northwest operations of Wilson Logistics, a trucking and logistics company headquartered in Springfield, Mo.

“This [acquisition] allowed us to introduce a student truck ­driver program, drayage, lease ops and retail truck sales,” Bawek said. “[It] was made to diversify Ashley’s customer base and to develop for-hire operations.”

Following that acquisition, ADS now operates a fleet of 1,520 tractors, 5,088 trailers and 28 straight trucks.

Ashley, based in Arcadia, Wis., stands at No. 22 on the Transport Topics Top 100 Private Carriers list, which ranks the largest private fleets in North America based on tractor count.

Ashley Furniture trucks parked

Ashley has grown its trucking fleet through its acquisition of Wilson Logistics’ western operations. (Ashley Furniture Industries)

To meet the needs of Ashley’s manufacturing and distribution facilities and its customers, ADS drivers operate in three primary roles.

The company’s point-to-point truckload drivers move no-touch loads from major manufacturing and distribution centers in Advance, N.C.; Arcadia, Wis.; Ecru, Miss.; and Leesport, Pa. They also handle the majority of ADS’ for-hire operations moving freight for other companies or raw materials back to Ashley’s manufacturing facilities.

ADS’ less-than-truckload or multistop drivers handle deliveries to multiple locations and assist with unloading furniture at retail locations.

Shuttle or local drivers operate straight trucks to deliver furniture to multiple locations per day.

Each of these driver roles is unique and designed to cater to the specific needs of Ashley’s customers, Bawek said.

Each role also takes advantage of the various skills, preferences and expertise of professional drivers. While some prefer to work as company employees, others choose to operate as independent contractors leasing late-model equipment from the company.

“Our drivers are not just drivers, but they are our brand ambassadors, representing our company and values,” Bawek said. “We believe that they are the face of our company and the last touchpoint with the customer.”

By internalizing our transportation needs, we can offer a unique value proposition to our customers.

Cole Bawek, Ashley Furniture Industries

Ashley Furniture's Cole Bawek

Bawek said ADS equips its trucks with communications technology that can provide customers real-time updates on their shipments to enhance transparency and accountability throughout the delivery process.

ADS has achieved its growth while continuing to prioritize safety.

In April, American Trucking Associations awarded Ashley Distribution Services the ATA President’s Trophy for safety in the 25 million to 100 million miles category at the ATA Safety Management Council’s Safety, Security & Human Resources National Conference and Exhibition awards banquet. President’s Trophy winners are judged based on their safety records, programs and community outreach activities.

ADS also received a first-place Fleet Safety Award in the over 10 million miles category based on the company’s highway safety record.

“We are extremely proud that year-over-year we are recognized for our ambassadors’ safe driving and contributions to the trucking industry,” John Leighty, executive vice president of distribution and transportation at ADS, said in a statement. “We refer to our drivers as ambassadors because they are the face of our brand and have the final touch with every customer. These awards would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the entire Ashley Distribution team.”

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