CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- For more than a year and a half, Chattanooga-based trucking companies have said they'll hire qualified drivers almost as fast as industry headhunters can find them or schools can train them.

"There's around a 150,000 driver shortage throughout the United States," US Xpress Chairman Max Fuller told Eyewitness News in October 2011. "And if we go to 3 percent growth in gross domestic product, that goes to 400,000."

Those numbers are holding in 2013, according to US Xpress Executive Vice President John White.

But in the last month, his company has cut 27 workers in inter modal; its container-to-rail service sector.

"Some are in logistics, some in management, some in technology," White says. "We're talking blue and white-collar employees."

White declined Channel 3's request for an on-camera interview to clarify or debunk reports that have been circulating for days.

But he has confirmed that the cuts have "nothing" to do with subsidiary Arnold Transportation's December merger with LinkAmerica Corp., a Fort Worth, Texas-based truckload and logistics carrier serving the Southeast and Southwest. 

"This strategic move extends Arnold's dominance in the regional market with increased capacity, taking Arnold to more than 1,400 trucks and 5,000 trailers," according to a US Xpress news release December 6.

"This footprint supplements existing business and allows the expansion of network coverage and further accelerates overall company growth plans, which will afford even more driving opportunities." 

"This (the layoff) is strategic headcount reduction that will lessen our involvement in the flatcar and trailer business," White told Channel 3 in a brief interview via telephone Monday afternoon.

"These are people with skills that are readily transferable, or to any business locally that would require personnel with logistics or IT experience."

White has declined to name those cut or to discuss severance packages or outplacement assistance.

"It will vary based on their levels of experience and their tenure with us," he says.

"Some have been part of US Xpress for several years."

White also declined to confirm or deny whether more cutbacks may be coming.

"We've not been made aware of any significant developments involving staffing levels at US Xpress," says Jeff Hentschel, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Channel 3 also has contacted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees a number of aspects of the trucking industry, but spokespeople have not returned calls yet.