U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller to help fuel Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

Staff Photo / U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller poses for a portrait in 2017 at the company's headquarters in Chattanooga.

When Eric Fuller steps down from his position as CEO at U.S. Xpress in the coming weeks, he says he will pursue one of his greatest passions — fostering a business ecosystem guiding Chattanooga toward becoming a nationally known logistics and trucking hub.

In early May, Fuller announced he would be leaving U.S. Xpress, Chattanooga's largest trucking company, following the announcement of its acquisition by Knight-Swift Holdings, a logistics company out of Phoenix, Arizona. Knight-Swift is purchasing the company for $808 million.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Fuller will join The Company Lab as an executive in residence. He'll help recruit and nurture entrepreneurs within the freight and logistics industry on a national scale. His move coincides with Co.Lab's collaboration with Gener8tor to launch a new accelerator program focused on sustainable mobility, beginning this fall.

During a Co.Lab Zoom press call Monday, Fuller expressed his passion for seeking new opportunities within the freight sector, both internally and externally and on the local and national levels. He also said he sees Chattanooga as a potential hot spot for new ideas, approaches and companies within the trucking and logistics industries.

"Throughout the country, you see a lot of different cities that really play on their own kind of their strengths," he said. "And there are certain niches where you see companies move to because of the ecosystem that exists.

"And I think Chattanooga is slowly becoming that. I think that we can be a city that has a lot to give somebody who is starting out in this space and trying to solve really hard problems."

The trucking and logistics industries, he said, have been burdened with certain problems for the past 30 to 50 years. But Chattanooga could be at the center of solving many of those problems within the next 10 years or so, especially through the use of artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Investing in the startup community is crucial, he added, not just for the small businesses that will be created but also for developing an ecosystem that will benefit the entire business community.

"The whole business community today, whether you're a $5 billion company or a $50 million company, you're needing different types of skill sets — and a lot of those skillsets are in the technology space," he said. "And if we don't have an ecosystem, it's going to make it very difficult for those larger companies to be successful."

And, that ecosystem is brought in through startups, Fuller said.

While details about his new role are still evolving, Fuller highlighted his past work with the nonprofit and his commitment to its long-term success. Prior to the U.S. Xpress acquisition, Fuller has offered his support in an advisory role.

Co.Lab CEO Tasia Malakasis called Fuller's move "a natural transition."

"Even before we talked about what a relationship would look like for us to work together, Eric had already been in a position as a guide and mentor to our organizations," she said. "Not only does he bring his passion for startups and for trying to build an ecosystem, but he's already been doing that for us ... helping us to be stronger and getting us to the point of liftoff."

Fuller succeeded his father, Max Fuller, as CEO of U.S. Xpress in 2017. Max Fuller, the executive chairman of U.S. Xpress, co-founded the company in 1985 alongside the late Patrick Quinn. Under their leadership, U.S. Xpress became the 23rd largest trucking company in the United States, generating more than $2 billion in annual revenues.

In 2018, Eric Fuller led U.S. Xpress through its second initial public offering, raising more than $250 million by selling stock at an offering price of $16 per share. While the company's revenues continued to grow, its stock price declined by more than 90% by 2022, dropping below $1.50 per share due to earnings challenges amidst a tight labor market. In March, U.S. Xpress directors agreed to sell the company to Knight-Swift for $6.15 per share to recover some of the market decline.

Following a reduction of approximately 100 nondriving jobs in Chattanooga in 2022, U.S. Xpress reportedly cut an additional 150 jobs this year, and further staff reductions may occur after the merger, particularly as the freight market softens. Under the purchase agreement, U.S. Xpress will continue to operate as a division of Knight-Swift, but many corporate positions at the U.S. Xpress headquarters in Ooltewah are expected to be eliminated.

Fuller is a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate, 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.

Contact Jennifer McNally at 423-757-6416 or jmcnally@timesfreepress.com.