In 1924, Alexander Duie Pyle worked for Lukens Steel in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. But he wanted to own his own business, so he purchased two trucks and began A. Duie Pyle, a trucking company. Lukens Steel (now part of ArcelorMittal), his former employer, became Pyle’s first customer (a relationship that lasted more than 90 years).
Nearly 100 years later, A. Duie Pyle, Inc. is one of the largest trucking companies in the United States.
Humble beginnings followed by ongoing growth
Pyle and his wife, Mary Ellen, ran the fledgling business from their dining room. Duie was the company’s driver and mechanic; Mary Ellen was the dispatcher and bill collector. The company grew; Duie bought additional trucks and expanded his company into “moving and storage, heavy hauling and local pick-up and delivery services.” By 1927, A. Duie Pyle had seven trucks hauling furniture and steel, and the company rented a warehouse for the furniture hauling and storage business.
The Great Depression devastated individual businesses as well as local and national economies. The financial hardships and the challenges that came from them were the central focus of 1930s America.
Like many other businesses, A. Duie Pyle struggled during the Great Depression. However, Pyle saw an opportunity and he purchased Handwork Feed Mill in Coatesville. Pyle continued to operate the feed business, as well as to use the building as the trucking company’s offices. The feed mill was located next to the leased storage warehouse (which the company later purchased). Despite the economy, the company fleet grew to 20 trucks by 1932.
Trucking changed dramatically in 1935. Congress granted the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) jurisdiction over the industry. As an established business, A. Duie Pyle was “grandfathered” under ICC regulations.
World War II
Leading up to and throughout World War II, the northeastern U.S. saw a huge increase in demand for trucks and drivers to move both raw materials and finished goods. Because of the war, new truck production ended; the factories were used to build weapons of war. Concurrently, many drivers either enlisted or were drafted into the military. While demand for trucks and drivers grew, both were in short supply.
However, A. Duie Pyle continued its growth. When the U.S. entered the war the company had grown its fleet to 35 trucks. During the war, A. Duie Pyle hauled steel and war materiel, “including materials used in the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb.”
In December 1942, Eleanor Pyle (the Pyle’s daughter), married Jim Latta, Jr. Shortly thereafter, he was shipped to India and Burma by the U.S. Army. When World War II ended, Latta returned home and joined the company. A less-than-truckload (LTL) freight operation was begun.
The A. Duie Pyle Company was incorporated in May 1952. The next year the company moved its operations to West Chester, Pennsylvania and also opened a terminal in Philadelphia. As A. Duie Pyle’s health began to fail, Latta began to lead the Pyle Company (and did so for five decades).
Growth continued during the 1950s; there was pent-up demand for consumer goods, driven by the deprivations of the Great Depression and rationing during World War II. There was also a great demand for industrial goods as the U.S. economy expanded and military needs relating to the Korean War and the ongoing Cold War. The company’s steel hauling business, other flatbed needs and household moving and storage remained the company’s primary business lines. In addition, both truckload and LTL hauling of general commodities expanded.
Funding for the Interstate Highway System was passed by Congress in 1956 and construction began the next year. Highway construction fueled the LTL industry; there was a period of strong demand and expansion.
Beginning in 1957, Pyle was one of the first carriers to use commercial two-way radio technology to help manage its business operations. In eastern Pennsylvania, Pyle instituted overnight delivery in its LTL operations.
In the mid-1920s the company’s annual revenue was $55,000. By the mid-1950s, A. Duie Pyle’s annual revenue had grown to $2,059,000.
During the decade of the 1960s, the company’s primary revenue generator continued to be its flatbed/steel hauling operations. The company had over 200 company drivers and owner-operators hauling steel throughout the Northeast for Lukens Steel, Bethlehem Steel and U.S. Steel. This led the company to open and operate flatbed terminals in Coatesville and Morrisville, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Buffalo, New York. In addition, the company’s household moving and storage business was still an integral business component, and its LTL and commercial warehousing business grew as well. Annual revenue increased to nearly $4.35 million.
The company’s founder, Alexander Duie Pyle, died in 1963. His grandsons (Jim and Eleanor Latta’s sons) began summer apprenticeships in the business.
Household moving and storage had been part of the A. Duie Pyle business mix since the 1920s. Unfortunately a Teamsters strike led the company to close that business line.
Jimmy and Duie Latta joined the company’s leadership team. In addition, the third generation of the Gainor family joined the Pyle team. (Jimmy Gainor joined the company in 1924, John Sr. came aboard in 1950 and John Jr. joined them during the 1970s.)
The company purchased land near Parkesburg, Pennsylvania to expand Pyle’s warehousing and transportation operations. A Green Giant distribution center nearby was a key customer; additional warehousing facilities and a satellite terminal were built to support the business. By the end of the decade the warehouse location had over 350,000-square feet and rail access for customers.
Congress and President Carter deregulated the airline industry in 1977, and action to deregulate the trucking and railroad industries soon followed. The company’s management sought to work with its employees and the Teamsters to cope with the impending industry deregulation. However, the union refused the company’s requests for increased flexibility; instead a strike was ordered. Over the next three months, Jim Latta’s sons and the company’s management team worked to keep the business going, operating the warehouses and making deliveries.
A number of employees formed a “back to work committee.” They were joined by other union members, which led to a vote to decertify the Teamsters as their representative in September 1979. When trucking deregulation occurred in 1980, A. Duie Pyle was a union-free transportation and warehousing company. This was a key point in the success of the company; most of its competitors in the Northeast were union LTL carriers.
Although interstate trucking was deregulated, intrastate trucking was still regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (and that would continue until 1995). However, the company’s operating area within the state nearly doubled when the Commission granted new intrastate authority to the company. This allowed the company to service almost all of eastern Pennsylvania. Jimmy Latta had expanded the company’s sales and marketing efforts as well, and the resulting rapid growth because of the added authority and new customers led to the construction of a new 100-door LTL terminal in West Chester.
The company became a core carrier for 3M and was asked to participate in the company’s Quality Transportation Process. As a result, Pyle began a formalized quality process, establishing metrics to monitor key areas.
A downside of deregulation was excess capacity in the LTL sector. This led to rate wars and predatory pricing. During the 1980s, carrier failures grew because of industry over-capacity, increased competition and “discounting.” As a non-union company, A. Duie Pyle was more flexible and successful in equipment and service offerings that unionized carriers were unable to provide or perform.
Peter, the Latta’s third son, joined the company and became President and CEO of A. Duie Pyle. In addition, the company opened Pyle Leasing; it supplied equipment and trailer storage to local businesses.
For the first time, A. Duie Pyle was selected by the readers of Distribution Magazine (later Logistics Management) as a “Quest for Quality Award” winner in 1989.
The effects of deregulation continued into the 1990s; many legacy unionized carriers, which had higher costs and inefficient practices, went out of business, including St. Johnsbury, Preston, North Penn and Vallerie’s, among many others. The industry continued to struggle with excess capacity and predatory pricing. Then there was a month-long national Teamsters strike in 1994. Many shippers realized their vulnerabilities; they sought “union-free” transportation capacity.
More demand and opportunity came to A. Duie Pyle because of this, and the company began an expansion throughout the Northeast that lasted two decades.
During that same year the company’s management decided to expand beyond its single LTL terminal in West Chester. This was a necessary step to becoming a competitive regional carrier. Over the next few years, A. Duie Pyle offered LTL coverage in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, as well as parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Vermont. The company opened eight service centers to handle its expanded LTL footprint.
A. Duie Pyle also expanded its truckload van division, serving most of the Northeast. Its flatbed division continued serving the company’s legacy customers. An additional 250,000-square feet of warehouse space was secured in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and the company also launched a third-party logistics division (ADP Logistics) to serve Conrail Corporation, its first logistics customer.
The company lost its long-time second leader in 1995 when Jim Latta passed away. His three sons continued to lead A. Duie Pyle.
In terms of technology, Pyle was the nation’s first LTL carrier to use fleet-wide satellite communications when it deployed Qualcomm technology.
A. Duie Pyle established a partnership with Southeastern Freight Lines in 1998. This extended the company’s coverage beyond the Northeast. Later, Pyle formed a similar partnership with another family-owned carrier (Dayton Freight) to extend coverage into the Midwest. The company also significantly expanded its warehouse space.
Seeking to expand its LTL footprint, the company next entered into a strategic partnership with Midland Transport, which serviced the provinces of eastern Canada. Coverage in Canada was subsequently expanded throughout the country when Pyle and Concord Transportation signed a strategic partnership covering western Canada.
All three of the company’s principal business units (LTL, truckload and warehousing) grew during the 1990s. In addition, because of its larger service area, more shippers became aware of Pyle’s reputation for quality service, innovation and resilience despite the Northeast’s weather and complexity.
The 1990s were a decade of significant growth for A. Duie Pyle. The company expanded its LTL coverage throughout the northeastern United States, opened additional terminals, launched a truckload division and a logistics service and began partnering with other freight companies to extend the company’s coverage area.
By the end of the decade the company’s annual revenue had grown to just under $114 million.
During the decade A. Duie Pyle continued to grow and expand. It added more service centers to its expanding infrastructure, and by 2003, Pyle had built its twelfth service center and in 2005 added the thirteenth. It also added new warehouse space, and by 2008, Pyle offered nearly two million square feet of public and contract warehousing space.
The company celebrated 80 years of service in 2004. It also expanded the use of technology, introducing “My Pyle,” a secure website for customers, as well as launching its proprietary Dashboard-to-Desktop™, which offered the most advanced real-time shipment tracking technology in the industry. A. Duie Pyle was the only regional LTL carrier that provided its customers this level of advanced shipment visibility and reporting. The company also began to use radio frequency/bar code scanning in its warehousing operations.
The company received the President’s Trophy Award in 2005 from the American Trucking Associations (its most prestigious safety award). In future years (2009, 2013 and 2017) the company would win the award again.
A. Duie Pyle was accepted into the American Chemical Council’s “Responsible Care® Program.” This was followed in 2009 by the company receiving the inaugural “LTL Carrier of the Year” award from BASF, the second-largest chemical manufacturer in the world. That same year, A. Duie Pyle was recognized as a “SmartWay Transport Partner” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “commitment to improve the environmental performance of transportation operations.”
Also in 2009, the company acquired seven LTL service centers in a purchase-leaseback transaction with YRCW and New Penn.
The company’s annual revenue continued to grow, topping $207 million.
The company formalized its Customized Solutions Group in 2013. The Group included its Truckload/Brokerage, Custom Dedicated and Warehousing & Distribution divisions. The group seeks to capitalize “on the synergies and flexibility enabled through the extensive infrastructure and equipment resources of the company and most importantly the culture, enthusiasm and commitment of the Pyle people.”
During the first quarter of 2015, the company opened its Logistics Center in Westampton, New Jersey. The facility has a 32-acre campus and over 100 doors for progressive loading and unloading, as well as more than 132,000-square feet of warehousing space. A new Dock Management System replaced the company’s former paper-based process.
Throughout the decade the company continued to make improvements, expand its locations and invest in new trucks, trailers and technology.
For example, during 2017, the company rolled out 71 Express Solutions vehicles. These 18-foot straight trucks are equipped with liftgates and are used to support the company’s ecommerce, residential deliveries and same-day services.
In January 2018 Pyle opened its Bronx, New York service center. It is a 77-door cross-dock facility, and its location strengthened Pyle’s morning delivery and pickup capabilities in the New York metro and Long Island regions.
During the late winter of 2018, four major storms in less than one month impacted the Northeast. Despite the weather and poor road conditions, the Pyle team continued to service its customer base in the region, adding to its reputation for service.
In 2019 the company continued to expand its service center network with new centers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The service center in Albany, New York was expanded, and its Newburgh, New York, service center was moved from a leased site to a larger facility owned by the company.
Pyle also signed agreements with two new partners: Speedy Transport in eastern Canada; and Oak Harbor Freight Lines on the West Coast. The Oak Harbor agreement was Pyle’s first to serve shippers’ needs to and from West Coast markets.
Pyle added two FUSO electric trucks to its fleet at the Bronx service center. These vehicles were the world’s first fully electric-powered, medium-duty trucks; A. Duie Pyle was among the first North American carriers to add them to its fleet.
Revenue was $491 million, marking another year of significant growth.
During the first quarter of 2020, Pyle’s LTL business volumes were up 5% year-over-year; the company’s other business units started well too. But the COVID-19 pandemic spread, impacting businesses around the world. In the four-week period from March 16th to April 13th, the company’s LTL business unit’s “year-over-year Daily Average Shipment Count dropped to a historical low of -40% year-over-year.”
During the state mandates for lockdowns, Pyle qualified as an “essential business,” and was allowed to keep operating. However, all carriers and their customers along the supply chain were negatively impacted, including Pyle.
Despite the challenges related to COVID, the company persevered in 2020. It continued the expansion of its facilities and operations across its LTL, Dedicated and Warehouse & Distribution business units. Among its new facilities was the Hagerstown Integrated Logistics Center, which has an 80-door cross-dock facility and 200,000-square feet of attached warehouse and distribution space. It is located in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and is the third Integrated Logistics Center in the company’s network.
The company today
A. Duie Pyle is an integrated supply chain solutions leader in the Northeast. It is also the Northeast’s leading transportation and logistics provider, offering LTL service throughout the region as well as extended coverage through established partnerships into the Southeast, Midwest, West Coast and Canada.
The company remains a family-owned business. Since 1924 A. Duie Pyle has grown and changed with the times. It now has 24 LTL service centers and 11 warehouse facilities with over 3.8 million square feet of space. Its service offerings include LTL, dedicated fleet operations, logistics and warehousing/distribution.
In 2010, A. Duie Pyle was recognized by the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) with its 50-Year Company Award. At that time, George Cleaves, ATHS Regional Vice President for Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, made the award nomination. He stated “A. Duie Pyle is a dedicated carrier with dedicated employees, and has been doing so for 86 years.”
Author’s note: This article would not have been possible without information and photos from the A. Duie Pyle website, as well as from the ATHS. For more information about the ATHS, visit its website at aths.org.