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Weekend edition September 22, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Axle Logistics’ power is its people 

Axle Logistics is growing fast and is one of the biggest employers of University of Tennessee graduates. What's the appeal of working for this logistics company? It's how they prioritize their people.

The first thing you see when you walk in the front door of Axle Logistics in North Knoxville is, well, a lot of things. 

You see an open staircase with a water feature at the bottom. You see a large screen promoting Axle’s campus expansion construction project. You see the door to a gym. And you see all kinds of people. 

“Everything about our culture is people first,” said Megan Goodman, Engagement and Recruiting Manager at Axle Logistics. “Every decision that our founders and upper management make, our people are at the forefront, from our open floor plan to having spaces that our employees can retreat to at any point so they have a workplace that they want to come to every day.” 

And a lot of people do come to that workplace every day, though right now about 160 employees are located in temporary office space in the Old City and on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville.  

“When I started working here in 2020, I was around the 75th employee hired, and now we have about 470,” said Goodman. 

So what is Axle Logistics and why and how is it growing so fast? 

This installation on a wall inside Axle Logistics shows the company’s quickly increasing growth since opening in 2012.

“We’re a third-party logistics company that does not own any of our own trucks. Our only assets are this building and our people,” said Goodman. 

Axle facilitates trucking pickup, routes, and drop-offs for big and small companies across the country. 

“We make the pickup and delivery appointment, we track and trace the shipment, we ensure that the product that goes on the truck,” said Goodman. “We’re making sure that their products are delivered from point A to point B safely on time.” 

Axle was founded in 2012 by Drew Johnson and Jon Clay, both Knoxville natives and University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduates. In its first year, Axle reported just over $2.5 million in revenue. Ten years later, the company reported over $772.3 million in revenue in 2022.  

Goodman is confident Axle will continue to grow, especially as the need for logistics and supply chain expertise became more apparent after the pandemic. 

“The trucking industry is what keeps the world going around, and I think a lot of people saw how big of an impact we have on the economy during COVID because they weren’t able to get their products on the shelves,” said Goodman. 

Goodman said the company’s rapid growth and success are attributed to Axle’s growing team. 

“If you don’t have good people, you can’t succeed, and they’ve just really invested in their people and work to keep them here,” said Goodman. “That’s a huge part of what my job is, is making sure that our employees know how valued and rewarded they are.” 

Employees are shown that in a lot of ways. Axle’s general working hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Its Central Avenue campus has a gym, a pool table, a ping pong table, a patio putting green, and a gong to ring when you make a sale. There are “free lunch Thursdays,” quarterly staff events, and frequent team outings. Plus, for logistics consultants, which are the titles the majority of employees hold, there’s a base salary with no cap on commission.

Axle Logistics employees take a break to play ping pong and pool.

There are plans to bring more employees on soon, as a new building next door to the existing headquarters is currently under construction and slated to open in the summer of 2025. It’ll be a five-and-a-half-story building with a rooftop and have room for 1,000 employees. Between the two buildings on Central Avenue, Axle Logistics’ offices will have the capacity for 1,350 employees.

Many employees come to Axle from UT, Knoxville, where the company is very involved with students on campus and as graduates. 

“We have several different partnerships with UT. We have a sales class now in the Haslam College of Business that we have helped write the curriculum for,” said Goodman. “Those students are actually making sales calls for Axle and they get internship credit for that. We are one of the biggest employers at UT now.” 

That connection with UT Knoxville and the city as a whole is a large part of why this fast-growing company is choosing to stay put instead of moving to a bigger city. 

“It would be easier for us to move somewhere else where there are bigger talent pools for our hiring needs. But Jon and Drew are both from Knoxville, Knoxville has given them a lot. They went to UT together and they want to give those opportunities back to Knoxville, both through job options and community giving. We really try to give back to what’s important to our employees and what they’re already involved in.” 

As Axle gets bigger and better, they’re always looking for new team members. You can apply for open positions here. 

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