Deregulation of the U.S. trucking industry began in the late 1970s. Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and it was signed into law by President Carter on July 1, 1980. This ended 45 years of onerous regulation by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).
One of the most dramatic changes that occurred due to deregulation was the virtual explosion in the number of trucking firms. From 1980 to 1990, the number of licensed carriers doubled – from fewer than 20,000 to more than 40,000!
Forty years after the deregulation of the American trucking industry, truckinginfo.net estimates that there are 1.2 million trucking companies in the U.S. About 80% of these trucking companies are regarded as small businesses, with six trucks or less. Although the industry is still regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the opportunities to enter the trucking industry have broadened dramatically. It is estimated that there are now over 15.5 million trucks on the road; about two million are tractor-trailers.
Between now and early 2021, FreightWaves Classics and the FreightWaves Haul of Fame will highlight a number of these American trucking companies, and will continue to do so over time. FreightWaves Classics will also feature the photography of Jim Allen, who shoots, supplies and/or finds the majority of the photographs used on FreightWaves.com.
Some might say that “trucks are trucks…” and that is true to a degree. But every company has its own story. Moreover, almost every trucking company’s tractors and trailers have their own identities – different paint jobs, logos, decals, messages, etc. And for many of us involved in transportation, looking at them never gets old!
Bhandal Bros. Inc.
Founded in 1983 by Mike Bhandal, Bhandal Bros. Inc. is a family-owned business based in Hollister, California.
Bhandal Bros. is an asset-based fleet that also has a large network of carriers and owner-operators through its brokerage. The company’s fleet includes more than 70 new 2020 Volvo trucks. Like many trucking companies, Bhandal Bros. states, “We do not consider our drivers as ‘just another truck driver’ but as a valued member of our team!”
Big G Express
Based in Shelbyville, Tennessee, this asset-based truckload carrier has a fleet of over 550 tractors and 1,800 trailers. Big G Express provides general commodity, irregular route and dry van truckload services to nationwide customers. The Big G Express family of companies offers transportation solutions including logistics, warehousing and flatbed services. Big G Express is 100% employee-owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
Big G Logistics’ services provide cost reductions and improved efficiencies across supply chains. Big G Warehousing offers long- and short-term storage in over 350,000 square feet of space in middle Tennessee. It offers customized value-added services such as repacking, coil handling, reworking, cross-docking, de-van containers, export packaging and trailer rental.
Big G’s IKE Transportation provides regional flatbed short-haul service. IKE specializes in the transportation of steel for a variety of industries in the southeastern United States.
The company’s employee-owners play an active role in money raised for their annual charities. Big G’s motorcycle ride benefiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital has raised over $56,000 in five years. Breast Cancer Awareness and Toys for Tots are also supported annually. Big G Express also supports veterans’ causes by volunteering its services for Wreaths Across America and Hauling the Wall that Heals.
The company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint has resulted in it being a multi-year award winner of the TTA Clean Diesel Leadership Award. Big G Express is also a Smartway Transport Partner.
Big M Transportation/Diesel Express
Big M Transportation/Diesel Express is a freight transportation and logistics company located in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. A family-owned and operated business, Big M has a fleet of over 300 tractors, and transports freight in all 48 contiguous states.
Michael and Lisa Massengill own Big M Transportation, Inc. Michael is a second-generation transportation expert. His father, Lawrence Massengill, founded Massengill Trucking in the late 1960s, and that heritage and expertise have been utilized to grow Big M Transportation into the award-winning company it is today.
Big M has 325+ company-owned trucks, 1300+ company-owned trailers, 50+ power-only fleet and more than 400 employees. Its trucks cover more than 700,000 miles per week.
Bill Davis Trucking, Inc.
Headquartered in Batesville, Arkansas, Bill Davis Trucking is a truckload temperature-controlled carrier. It operates in the contiguous 48 states.
Bill Davis has been fascinated by trucks his entire life. His grandfather’s small private fleet, which was used to transport cattle, was his first inspiration. When Bill was five years old his father left the security of his own father’s business and moved his family to Little Rock to begin a long career in retail truck and trailer sales. With the move, Bill was introduced to a new element of the industry, long-haul trucking, and “the hook was set.”
After school, Davis began a career as a truck salesman for Arkansas Peterbilt, where his father was general manager. Even though he was a successful salesman, Davis’ dream of owning his own business never died. After a short career as a truck salesman Davis went to work for a very close friend of his father. Julian Martin offered Davis not only a job, but a place for his two trucks – and most importantly a priceless education in how to run trucks efficiently and profitably. After two years in the office at JMI, Bill and his new business partner, Gail, launched BDTI with three trucks and a dream.
That was more than 40 years ago, and the company they founded has an enviable track record of success.
Black Horse Carriers Inc.
Black Horse Carriers’ roots go back to the 1880s. In Des Plaines, Illinois, a company named Des Plaines Transfer operated with horses and wagons, moving then-common household items such as pianos, moving trunks, billiard tables, as well as farm and nursery products.
In 1925, after Des Plaines Transfer had replaced its teams of horses with motorized trucks, Conrad W. Niedert bought the business assets of the company. The purchase included two trucks – a Master and a Ford.
Shortly after the purchase, Niedert’s son Ferdinand also started operating a motorized trucking business, but after Ferdinand’s untimely death in the 1930s the two businesses essentially merged into a single business. Conrad’s other son, Ralph, entered the business in the late 1930s but joined the U.S. Navy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. After the war, he re-joined his father in the trucking business.
In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s the business flourished in and around the Chicago area. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ralph’s two sons, Ralph Jr. and Gerry, joined the business and worked at expanding the business into less-than-truckload assembly and distribution, full-service truck leasing and contract carriage. After trucking was deregulated in 1980, the company moved quickly into the dedicated transportation sector.
In the early 1980s, Gerry formed Black Horse Carriers, Inc. He gave it that name to honor the famous 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 7th Cavalry Regiment, to which Gerry was assigned while serving in the United States Army in Vietnam.
By the mid 1980s, the combined businesses had over 500 employees, six operating centers, and a fleet of over 1,200 trucks, tractors and trailers.
After working for five decades, Ralph Niedert Sr. retired. On September 30, 1986, the business was sold in its entirety to Leaseway Transportation Corp., a publicly held company based in Cleveland, Ohio. At that time Leaseway had more than 25,000 employees, 40,000 vehicles, and extensive transportation, warehousing and labor management operations throughout the country.
However, In the late 1980s, an overly optimistic leveraged buyout failed in an attempt to turn Leaseway into a privately held business. Most of Leaseway was eventually sold (including Black Horse Carriers) to the Penske Corporation.
Black Horse Carriers operated in a very limited manner while owned by Leaseway and Penske. Eventually the business was dormant. However, Ralph Niedert resurrected the business in late 1998 in Tully, New York, after getting Penske’s permission to again operate under the name of Black Horse Carriers. Gerry Niedert joined him in April 1999 in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. The two operations were merged and Midwestern operations were added, putting Black Horse Carriers back into dedicated transportation.
Gerry Niedert decided to retire in December 2015. He sold Black Horse Carriers to the company’s executive leadership team. Black Horse Carriers is following its original strategy – to provide high-value, specialized transportation services – and replacing shippers’ private fleets.
To read earlier installments of the series, please follow these links:
There are more profiles to come as FreightWaves salutes the American trucking industry and all those who work to keep products moving!