By the mid-1930s, L.R. Strickland had been involved in the trucking industry for several years. He had worked for Sproles Transportation & Storage, based in Dallas, Texas, as well as West Texas Express. His experience in the trucking industry gave him the insight and knowledge that generated Strickland Transportation its early successes.
Strickland Transportation Co., Inc.’s journey began when Strickland purchased an interest in Jackson Freight Lines, which operated on routes from Dallas to Houston and also into Oklahoma. In 1936, Strickland purchased the entire company. He renamed the less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier Jackson-Strickland Transportation Company. In 1942, the general office and headquarters were relocated to Dallas, and the name was officially changed to simply Strickland Transportation Co.
Beginning in 1935, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had regulatory authority over the U.S. trucking industry. A by-product of ICC oversight was that it was easier for a trucking company to buy another trucking company to secure a new route than to petition the ICC for permission to operate on that route. The state of Texas had similar regulations in effect for intrastate trucking companies.
Therefore, like many other carriers of the time, Strickland Transportation grew by acquisition. One of Strickland’s first acquisitions was Tarry Motor Freight Lines, which operated between Fort Worth and Dallas. Strickland also purchased Dallas-Fort Worth Motor Lines, which also operated between Dallas and Fort Worth. In 1946, Strickland Transportation Co. purchased Ozark Motor Lines, expanding its service area to Texarkana, Texas as well as Shreveport, Louisiana. The company also expanded routes into Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, and from Memphis to St. Louis, MIssouri.
Growth continued in 1950s-1960s
By 1954, Strickland had expanded north, acquiring Dumont Cartage Company, which operated a route from St. Louis to Chicago. The string of acquisitions continued the following year with the purchase of Kelleher Motor Freight Lines, which extended Strickland’s reach to Cleveland, Ohio and New York City. By 1959, Strickland had expanded into Connecticut and Massachusetts as well.
Terminals were constructed in the Midwest, including in Milwaukee and Detroit, and the terminal in New Orleans underwent a massive expansion. In 1959, the company operated approximately 255 over-the-road trucks and employed approximately 1,400 people. In 1964, Strickland expanded its presence in Little Rock, building a new terminal and adding 300 jobs in the area. The new terminal was Strickland’s largest, and made Strickland the second-largest employer in the Little Rock area. This large terminal provided a better consolidation point for LTL freight for the growing business. By this time the company had grown to serve 14 states and employed 1,800 people.
Union woes in 1970s, followed by acquisition by rivals
By 1975, Strickland Transportation Co. had expanded even further. The company now serviced 17 states, and had agencies or terminals in 37 cities. However, a strike by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union caused severe problems. At the time, 60% of the freight hauled in the United States was hauled by unionized carriers. In April 1976, Teamsters went on strike across the nation, requesting wage increases, benefits and cost of living clauses in their contracts.
Strickland was a strike target, along with Roadway Express and Central Freight Lines, among others. In spite of the challenges presented by the strike, a Strickland terminal manager stated in 1977 that the company was optimistic about the coming year thanks to local industry increases. Equipment was replaced and facilities were expanded.
Unfortunately, success was not fully realized, and the LTL carrier was purchased by Wilson Freight Co. and Consolidated Freightways in 1978.