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!
Based in Atlanta, Simmons Bedding Company is a major manufacturer of mattresses and related bedding products. The company was founded in 1870, and Simmons’ flagship brand is Beautyrest. In addition to operating 18 manufacturing facilities in the United States and Puerto Rico, the company licenses its products internationally.
In 1870, Zalmon G. Simmons opened his first factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He began making bedsprings after receiving a patent for a woven-wire bedspring to settle a debt. In 1876, Simmons became the first manufacturer to mass-produce woven wire mattresses. The process allowed the company to produce beds faster and cheaper, and by 1889, with the introduction of spiral coil springs into woven mattresses, Simmons’ mattress prices dropped from $12 to $0.95, making mattresses more widely affordable. The business was incorporated in 1884, and began using Simmons Manufacturing Company as its name in 1889.
Zalmon Simmons, Jr. took over the business following his father’s death in 1910. In 1916, Simmons began national advertising. By 1919 the company was growing quickly, and Simmons acquired several manufacturing plants to meet demand.
In 1920, Simmons started a new sales process that revolutionized the business. Instead of purchasing a mattress from floor samples, customers tested the mattresses on in-store samples, ordered a mattress through the retailer, and received direct delivery within the next 24 hours from one of Simmons’ 64 warehouses. This reduced the need for retailers to own and store their own inventories.
Equipment developed by Simmons in 1925 automated the process of coiling wire and inserting it into fabric sleeves. This allowed mass production of pocketed coils, a coil that had been available until then only in very high-priced mattresses. The pocketed coil is the basis for the Simmons Beautyrest mattress brand, which was introduced in 1925.
Among early buyers of Beautyrest mattresses were Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Advertisements that these well-known men had bought Beautyrest were widely circulated.
In 1958, Simmons was the first manufacturer to create queen- and king-size mattresses. The first non-flip mattress was brought to market by the company in 2000.
Bedrosians began providing tile and setting materials to contractors and builders in Central California in 1948. The company now has more than 40 branches located throughout the western and southeastern United States. It has a national and international customer base.
The company’s growth made Bedrosians one of the largest independent porcelain tile and stone importers and distributors in the United States.
The quantity, variance and quality of Bedrosians’ lines means that the company can meet the needs and performance requirements of commercial, institutional, industrial or residential projects in the U.S. or around the world.
Beelman Truck Co. has provided reliable bulk transportation services since 1906. The company is number one in the dry bulk business, with over 700 power units that covered more than 70 million miles last year. Beelman’s equipment, professional drivers and knowledgeable dispatchers are available to handle dry bulk commodity transportation anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
Frank Beelman, Sr. started Beelman Truck Co. in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906. Beelman began by hauling coal and ice using two teams of horse-drawn wagons. At that time, ice was delivered to households and businesses to cool food in iceboxes (prior to the widespread use of refrigerators and freezers). Similarly, coal was delivered in the winter for residential and commercial heating.
In 1917, Beelman bought a farm in St. Libory, Illinois and moved his family there. In 1928 he purchased a general store in St. Libory. Using a 1926 Chevrolet truck, Beelman began hauling produce to St. Louis and returned with supplies for his store, and other stores in Belleville, Freeburg and Fayetteville, Illinois.
Beelman purchased two more trucks and began hauling limestone from railroad cars in 1934 and from the quarries in 1935. In 1939 he began to haul garbage from St. Louis restaurants to feed his 700 hogs.
Born in 1920, Frank Beelman, Jr. began driving for his father in 1934. In 1939 Frank, Jr. left with four trucks to work at government projects until he joined the U.S. Army in 1942. He married his high school sweetheart, Kathryn Bozsa, in 1943.
When he was discharged in 1945, Frank, Jr. returned to Illinois and bought a new truck. He started hauling limestone, rock and coal. In 1950 when a new mine in St. Clair County opened, he purchased 10 tractors and trailers. As he started this business, Frank also owned and operated the local school bus route and farmed as well. Kay worked by her husband’s side as the company’s bookkeeper/office manager for the next 50 years.
Frank “Sam” Beelman, III was born in 1955 and was raised in the family business. His wife, Shelly, joined the Beelman staff in the 1980s.
In addition to Beelman Truck Co., there are two other Beelman businesses that are transportation-related.
Beelman River Terminals, Inc. (BRT) was incorporated on May 20, 1988. BRT was formed to provide shippers new one-stop opportunities. The vision was also to expand Beelman’s customer base by reaching new customers through the use of barge and rail transportation.
In 2002, BRT built its Venice, Illinois facility from a greenfield project. Then in 2006, the company managers designed a new load-out system to move more material between trucks-to-barge. This major design/build project was completed in 2012.
The company’s South Chicago River Terminal was purchased to meet the needs of customers that ship their goods through Lake Michigan. This facility is accessible through the Calumet River, which is two lock-free miles from Lake Michigan. This facility can handle large lake vessels and multiple barges.
BRT’s Madison, Illinois facility receives material by railcar and then transloads it to trucks through the use of conveyors. The facility can hold up to 100 railcars onsite.
BRT currently operates terminals at: Venice, South Chicago and Madison, Illinois and Kansas City, Kansas. BRT is a one-stop shop for shipping, storing and transporting commodities. Using Beelman Companies, suppliers can ship and receive products by truck, rail and barge.
Columbia Land Co. LLC, an affiliate of Trap Rock & Granite Quarries, owns 1,514 acres consisting of two large deposits of high quality hard rock. Geological field studies approximate a deposit of 5.619 billion tons of granite on the west side and over 2 billion tons of trap rock on the center and east side of the property. Beelman Companies owns 100% of the reserves. This is the only rail-served site in the Midwest that has both high quality trap rock and granite materials in one contiguous quarry location.
Bekins Tradeshow Services
Bekins Tradeshow Services provides pre-show planning, warehousing, transportation and exhibition of high-value products, as well as last-mile distribution and installation services. It operates throughout the United States.
BTS Logistics, Inc. acquired Bekins Tradeshow Services in 2012.
Bekins Tradeshow Services offers complete and full-service integrated tradeshow services from start to finish. Services include pre-show planning, logistical strategy, industry-proven padding and crating, show set-up and tear-down, transit, and more. The Bekins “Green Fleet” is known for on-time, damage-free delivery, tradeshow-exclusive operations, expert sales staff, and professional drivers.
Bekins Tradeshow Services offers access to the entire Bekins fleet, plus the Bekins A-1 Movers, Inc. fleet and drivers.
For nearly 120 years, Belden has been a leader in the design and manufacturing of insulated wire, cable and related products. Since then, Belden has transformed itself from a cable company to a signal transmission solutions provider with a complete product portfolio including cable, connectivity and more.
The company has its own fleet of trucks and trailers. It has grown significantly since it was founded by Joseph C. Belden in Chicago, in 1902. The company’s first major breakthrough took place in 1905 when, after much experimental work, “Beldenamel” insulation was created. The flexible enamel insulation would provide the foundation for Belden’s early success.
In 1927 a Belden engineer invented the soft rubber plug that was attached to the end of most electrical devices that were plugged into a socket.
Beginning in early 1942, Belden shifted its manufacturing efforts to exclusive support of the Allied war effort. Its products were used in tanks, airplanes, submarines, ships, mobile radios and a variety of other military machinery.
During World War II and for 15 years of subsequent growth, buildings were added to the company’s primary facility in Richmond, Indiana. Wire mill operations were transferred from Chicago in order to make the Richmond facility completely independent and self-sufficient. Containing a total of nearly 700,000 square feet, Richmond was Belden’s largest manufacturing facility for more than 70 years.
After World War II, Belden established its clear leadership in wire and cable technology through research, engineering and product development. It became one of the first wire producers to apply plastic insulation to wire and cable. It also sought out market niches that required sophisticated and high-quality products, adding value in insulation, cabling, shielding and jacketing.
In 1980 the Company moved into a new headquarters near its facilities in Richmond, Indiana. Belden also merged with Crouse-Hinds Company, a manufacturer of electrical products located in Syracuse, New York.
In 1981 Cooper Industries acquired the combined entity of Belden and Crouse-Hinds. A dozen years later (1993) Belden became an independent publicly held entity again. It established its corporate offices in St. Louis. Through acquisitions and organic growth, Belden’s revenues grew from under $400 million in 1993 to more than $1.1 billion in 2000.
Belden merged with Cable Design Technologies Corporation (CDT) in 2004. Some of CDT’s operating companies were more than 100 years old. Acquisitions continued, and in 2007 Belden acquired Hirschmann, a leading industrial networking brand. This expanded Belden’s product portfolio of industrial automation and networking systems.
Belden also acquired Lumberg Automation in 2007, which produced connectors for the industrial automation space, completing Belden’s end-to-end industrial Ethernet product offering.
Acquisitions continued. In 2009, Belden acquired Telecast Fiber Systems, a major player in the broadcast industry. In 2010, Belden acquired GarrettCom, an industrial networking products manufacturer, to complement the networking product portfolio. It also purchased Thomas & Betts Corporation’s communications products business in 2010, expanding Belden’s coaxial connectivity solutions offerings.
In 2011 Belden expanded its South American footprint with the acquisition of Poliron, a leading Brazilian cable company. It also acquired SCADA, a security solutions provider, and Byres Security, makers of the Tofino brand of industrial security solutions. In 2012 Belden purchased Miranda Technologies, a worldwide provider of hardware and software solutions for the broadcast television, cable, satellite and IPTV industries. It also acquired PPC, a leading developer and manufacturer of connectivity solutions for the broadband service provider market.
In 2013 Belden introduced its unique Certified Industrial Network Program to certify entire industrial networks, providing peace-of-mind and minimizing downtime through enhanced warranties and dedicated customer support.
The acquisitions continued in 2014, when Belden acquired Grass Valley, a manufacturer of innovative end-to-end broadcast solutions and in 2015, when Belden acquired Tripwire, a leading provider of advanced threat, security and compliance solutions that enable enterprises, service providers and government agencies to confidently detect, prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats.
In 2018, Belden purchased Snell Advanced Media Limited, a UK-based broadcast solutions company that was subsequently integrated into the Grass Valley operations. Belden also acquired fiber provider, Net-Tech Technology (NT2), adding a range of optical passive processes to supplement PPC’s fiber business.
Last year, Belden acquired Opterna, an international fiber optics solutions business that is managed alongside PPC Broadband.
One of the fastest-growing furniture retailers in Texas, Bel Furniture has retail locations in locations across the state. It is headquartered in Katy, Texas, which is just west of Houston.
Bel Furniture is run by two brothers and also has a fleet of trucks to move furniture to its stores. The company now has 15 retail locations and three distribution centers. The company has a goal of reaching 25 showrooms in Texas over the next five years, and plans to expand into adjacent states as well.
Bel cuts out the middleman, enabling the company to pass savings and benefits directly to its customers. The company’s policies help its customer base grow by 5,000 each month. Bel Furniture has grown into one of the foremost furniture retailers in Texas.
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There are more profiles to come as FreightWaves salutes the American trucking industry and all those who work to keep products moving!