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!
Artur Express, Inc.
Artur Express, Inc. is a full-service, nationwide transportation and logistics company headquartered in Hazelwood, Missouri. Artur provides coast-to-coast delivery, brokerage services, as well as local services in the metro St. Louis area, such as local shuttle services and warehousing/storage.
Founded in 1998, the company has been growing steadily ever since. Artur Express has over 900 drivers and 2,500 trailers. For the fifth time, Artur Express was named to the Inc. 5000, Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Artur’s three-year revenue growth is 73%.
Ashley Furniture Industries
In 1945 Carlyle Weinberger founded Ashley Furniture Corporation as a sales organization headquartered in Chicago.
Fast forward 25 years and Ron Wanek was appointed General Manager of Arcadia Furniture in 1970. At the time it had a 35,000-square foot warehouse and 35 employees and was located in Arcadia, Wisconsin. The company manufactured cabinet commodes and occasional tables that were distributed nationally through Ashley Furniture Corporation.
In 1982, the ownership and management of the companies was restructured, which allowed Arcadia Furniture and Ashley Furniture Corporation to merge into one company named Ashley Furniture Industries. The corporate headquarters were moved from Chicago to Arcadia.
Ashley Furniture’s management understood the importance of controlling the transportation of its products. Prior to the companies combining, Ashley Furniture Corporation began its own trucking fleet in 1974. In 1992 Ashley Furniture Industries established an intermodal rail yard. It is the only one in Wisconsin and is one of only seven private rail yards in the U.S.
In 1997 the first Ashley HomeStore was opened in Anchorage, Alaska. That same year, Ashley’s Angels was created by a truck driver in Mississippi. The non-profit organization provides food, clothing and toys to underprivileged children.
By 2013, the company’s wholesale sales approached $4 billion; over 30 million pieces of furniture are being sold annually.
The 1,000 Ashley HomeStore opened in 2019, and in 2020 the company celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Associated Food Stores
The grocery industry was difficult for independent retailers in 1940. Strong competition from national chains, increased prices from wholesalers and low margins left many family-owned and/or independently owned grocery stores struggling or closing. That year 34 independent retailers joined together to battle high supplier costs and the competition from large chain stores. They combined their buying power, opened a warehouse and started Associated Food Stores (AFS).
Since then, AFS membership has grown to more than 400 retailers in eight intermountain states. AFS continues to be committed to independent retailers by providing quality products, support and exceptional service.
Today, AFS offers a broad array of solutions including warehouse, procurement, private label, transportation/logistics, retail technology, accounting, retail counseling, marketing, advertising and much more.
AFS celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2020, helping the independent grocer. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company was also named The Shelby Report’s 2020 West Wholesaler of the Year.
A key milestone of the company occurred in 1999, when AFS acquired two of its largest retailers in a defensive move because their owners had decided to exit the business. Since then, AFS has purchased other retailers.
In addition, AFS constructed a distribution center in Farr West, Utah. The company consolidated numerous smaller warehouses into a central one million square-foot warehouse in 2001.
Associated Food Stores pioneered the barcodes that are used to scan grocery items. The company was also among the first to use digital coupons, e-commerce and loyalty programs.
Atlantic Veal & Lamb, Inc.
Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Atlantic Veal & Lamb was founded by Jack Peerless and Martin Weiner to supply the rapidly growing demand for veal in the metro New York City market.
Philip Peerless joined the company in 1972, and he is the CEO of the company and his son Shawn is the Chief Operating Officer.
Producers of world famous Plume De Veau Veal and Plume D’ Agneau American-raised lamb, Atlantic Veal & Lamb has been a family-owned and operated company for three generations. As proprietors of its own feed plants, calf-raising barn and butcheries, Atlantic is the only veal company that is fully integrated from start to finish, which gives the company total control over animal care and the ability to provide the best cuts.
Atlas Van Lines
The history of Atlas started over 70 years ago. What began as a fledgling group of entrepreneurs is now a world-wide network of professionals “helping people go new places®.”
In 1947, members of the Independent Movers’ and Warehousemen’s Association (IMWA) met in French Lick, Indiana. They talked over the idea of forming a cooperative for the interstate transportation of household goods. They wanted to form an organization modeled on equality, mutual respect, open communication and democratic control.
In 1948, 33 of them formed an alliance. They incorporated as Atlas Van-Lines with operating authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for moving and storage in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The company established its headquarters in Chicago and employed 10 people at its start.
Their goal was to help one another build their businesses by better serving customers. They envisioned a coast-to-coast cooperative that they owned, doing business according to the “golden rule.” In 1949 the company reported $1 million in revenue. Of course, the company’s growth has continued in the years and decades since!
Today, Atlas Van Lines is a subsidiary of Atlas World Group. It is a family of companies now headquartered in Evansville, Indiana. There are more than 430 independent Atlas agencies across the United States and Canada, as well as authorized partners in 140 countries.
Atrium Windows and Doors
Since 1946 Atrium Windows and Doors has produced tens of millions of products for consumers throughout North America. The company provides high-quality windows and doors to builders, replacement window professionals and, ultimately, homeowners.
Atrium has thousands of employees and multiple manufacturing facilities. The company’s goal is simple – to be the number one choice in custom-built windows and doors. As one of the largest manufacturers of premium vinyl windows and doors in North America, the company has facilities strategically located throughout the U.S. Atrium is headquartered in Welcome, North Carolina, and its window production facility is in Dallas.
Headquartered in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the story of Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) began in 1955, a period when the U.S. trucking industry was heavily regulated by the ICC. Cold Spring Granite (now known as Coldspring) owned a private fleet. Under ICC regulations, the company could haul outbound stone and inbound materials used only to manufacture granite products. The business grew; it had more outbound goods than inbound materials, and therefore, had to deadhead its trucks.
Coldspring’s management contacted Harold Anderson, the founder of ATS, to manage Coldspring’s overflow business. Anderson incorporated ATS at that point.
In 1956, after successfully hauling Coldspring’s outbound materials, Anderson had an idea that helped ATS and others. There were nearly 20 monument manufacturers in the St. Cloud area; each was shipping its products separately. Anderson proposed that instead of each company using different trucking providers, the manufacturers should ship their freight in the same trailer that could make multiple stops. In other words, they should use ATS for less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping.
By 1958, business expanded after ATS obtained ICC authority. The company signed four independent drivers, adding to the fleet that began with two drivers. The next year ATS established its first out-of-state terminal in Lansing, Illinois.
To start the 1960s, ATS purchased its first specialized trailer; at that point its fleet had been exclusively flatbed trailers. ATS’ gross revenue exceeded $1 million for the first time in 1961.
By 1968 the company began serving the iron and steel industries and in 1969 ATS purchased K&W Transportation, which was located in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. This acquisition gave ATS the ICC authority to expand offerings outside of the continental United States; it could move general commodities in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago to and from Alaska. ATS kept K&W Transportation for 25 years, selling the company in 1994.
Rollie Anderson joined his father’s business after his service in the U.S. Air Force in 1972. Looking for additional business, ATS worked with The Manitowoc Company to develop a trailer capable of hauling Mantiwoc’s crane houses. This led to ICC authority to haul outbound freight for Manitowoc. It was also an early stage of the ATS Heavy Haul business.
As noted above, President Carter signed into law the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act in 1980, deregulating the trucking industry. No longer under the ICC, trucking companies had greater freedom over rates and other business decisions.
A few years later (1983) ATS, Inc., ATS’ Vans division, was started. This added a new service offering for ATS customers seeking to haul enclosed trailer freight. The company also introduced a new corporate logo that reflected the national reputation ATS had built.
Gross revenues had topped $1 million in 1961. In 1989, gross revenues exceeded $100 million. ATS also expanded into the brokerage business when it began Sureway Transportation.
ATS began the 1990s by starting service to and from Mexico. This offered customers a reliable method to move their freight across borders. In 1993 ATS acquired Warren Transport of Waterloo, Iowa. ATS formed Intermodal Caribbean Express, Inc. (ICE) in 1995, which expanded the company’s service offerings to Puerto Rico. ICE was later rebranded ATS International.
Forty-six years after founding ATS Harold Anderson passed away in 2001 at the age of 85. Rollie Anderson became the company’s CEO. That same year ATS purchased SunBelt Furniture Xpress, which was based in Hickory, North Carolina. With this acquisition, ATS entered the LTL furniture transportation business.
Harnessing wind to create energy was just being introduced in the U.S. in 2003. A major player in that industry sought a company to haul its 60-meter/15-feet in diameter towers to the wind farm sites. The company also wanted two 127-foot blades to be moved at a time. After working with a leading trailer manufacturer, ATS introduced an altered Schnabel trailer that was used in Europe. A key was that the total height of a load was less than 16 feet in order to fit under bridges.
ATS celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005. It broke ground on its new corporate headquarters in southeast St. Cloud, Minnesota.
In 2007 ATS acquired Midwest Specialized, based in Rochester, Minnesota. The company also bought its initial 19-axle trailer.
ATS Logistics expanded its services into transportation management in 2011. It offered full-service supply chain solutions. The company also acquired New Energy Transport, which was headquartered in Houston. New Energy was closed in 2020.
In 2014 the company announced a number of management changes: Scott Anderson became executive vice president and treasurer; Brent Anderson was named chief operating officer: Jake Wood was named president: and CEO Rollie Anderson assumed the role of chairman of the board.
Q-Line, a trucking company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was acquired in 2016, expanding ATS’ Canadian offerings and adding to the company’s existing customer base.
Additional management changes took effect in 2019: Scott Anderson was named executive vice president and chief administration officer; Brent Anderson was named president and chief operating officer; and Jake Wood continued his role on the company’s board of directors.
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!