Eric Fuller leaving U.S. Xpress to join Co.Lab as executive in residence

File photo / U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller, seen in 2017, will soon step down from the trucking company to become an Executive in Residence for The Company Lab in Chattanooga.

The head of Chattanooga's biggest trucking company will soon step down as CEO to help with a new business accelerator in Chattanooga targeted at growing companies working on new sustainable mobility and logistics ventures.

Eric Fuller, the president and CEO of U.S. Xpress Enterprises for the past six years, announced Wednesday he will soon leave the trucking company after it is sold to Knight-Swift Holdings, a Phoenix-based logistics giant buying U.S. Xpress for $808 million.

After leaving U.S. Xpress, Fuller said he will become executive in residence at The Company Lab, working on recruiting and developing entrepreneurs on a national scale in the freight and logistics industry.

"Joining The Company Lab is a huge honor, especially with the new direction the company is heading in with sustainable mobility," Fuller said in a statement Wednesday. "Co.Lab's commitment to fostering innovation and supporting entrepreneurs aligns closely with my own values. I look forward to collaborating with the talented team at Co.Lab and helping entrepreneurs transform their ideas into successful ventures that positively impact our community and beyond."

Fuller, who spoke at the Co.Lab Mobility Summit this past week in Chattanooga, succeeded his father, Max Fuller, as CEO of U.S. Xpress in 2017. Max Fuller, the executive chairman of U.S. Xpress, started the company with the late Patrick Quinn in 1985 and grew it into the 23rd biggest trucking company in America with more than $2 billion in annual revenues.

Eric Fuller took the company public for the second time in its history in 2018, selling more than $250 million of stock five years ago at an initial offering price of $16 per share. Although U.S. Xpress revenues have grown, shares of the company dropped by more than 90% by 2022, falling below $1.50 per share when earnings declined amid the tight labor market. U.S. Xpress directors agreed in March to recoup some of the market decline by selling the company to Knight-Swift for $6.15 per share.

Under the purchase agreement expected to be completed this summer, U.S. Xpress will operate as a division of Knight-Swift. But many of the corporate-level jobs at the U.S. Xpress headquarters in Ooltewah are being cut.

After the company trimmed about 100 of its 1,400 nondriving jobs in Chattanooga in 2022, U.S. Xpress has reportedly cut another 150 jobs so far this year, and more staff cuts could come after the merger is completed, especially as the freight market softens this year.

Bryan Johnson, the former Hamilton County Schools Superintendent who served as the chief transformation officer at U.S. Xpress for the past two years, said this past week he is leaving U.S. Xpress to join the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as executive vice chancellor and chief strategy officer.

Fuller is joining Co.Lab as the nonprofit business development agency works with gener8tor to launch its newest accelerator program focused on sustainable mobility this fall. Applications are now being accepted for the 10-week program.

"Eric will be an invaluable asset to our team, there's no question about that," The Company Lab CEO Tasia Malakasis said in Wednesday's announcement. "Chattanooga is gaining a national reputation for the freight and logistics industry, sustainable mobility and entrepreneurship. Eric is the perfect person to guide this growth in the right way."

Fuller, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, serves on the Nashville branch board for the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta and is a board member of the American Trucking Associations and the Trucking Alliance.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner