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FreightWaves Classics: Victory Express thrived under ICC and beyond

FreightWaves Classics articles focus on various aspects of the transportation industry’s history. If there are topics that you think would be of interest, please send them to This article was originally written for the FreightWaves Online Haul of Fame. To see other FreightWaves Online Haul of Fame articles, follow this link.

Victory Express was founded by Carl Schaefer in 1943 in Medway, Ohio. The company began as a local hauler, hauling “anything and everything” for businesses in the surrounding area. By 1952, Victory Express had expanded its business operations to five states. That year, the company was granted authority by the Interstate Commerce Commission to operate in an additional 38 states. Victory Express had grown from its original two-man, two-truck operation to a company with 23 tractors and trailers, and plans to add another 15.

Seal of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
ICC seal. (Image:

Schaefer was charged with tax evasion in 1957. Schaefer was sentenced to 13 months in jail and served five. After his release, his son Richard Schaefer took over management of Victory Express. Unfortunately, this would not be Carl Schaefer’s last brush with the law. In 1978, Carl attempted to start a gravel pit business in Guatemala and began shipping expensive equipment overseas after beginning business conversations with several local men. His business partner in the endeavor sold the equipment to vandals and had it stripped down for parts. 

While Schaefer was away tying up other loose business ends in Puerto Rico, his business partner forged his signature on bill-of-sale documents of the remaining equipment. When Schaefer came to ship what was left of his business across the border to British Honduras (now Belize), he was arrested by government officials for civil robbery, having been framed by his former business partner. While in police captivity, Schaefer suffered two heart attacks and nearly died. Miraculously, guerilla forces found him in a government hospital, and with the help of his son Richard, they were able to plan his escape from the country.

In 1987, the company moved to a new complex after outgrowing its first headquarters. The company employed 200 people at the time, with plans to increase payroll to at least 400 within the next five years. The fleet had grown to 170 trucks that hauled paper products, magazines and foodstuffs in the Midwest and along the eastern seaboard. That year, annual revenues were projected at $18 million. The company’s goal was to grow that number to $30 million. By 1988, the company had slowly begun to expand, employing more than 300 and utilizing 200 tractors and 375 trailers.

In 1992, Victory Express reported $45 million in gross annual sales. The company was  the largest Ohio-based trucking company, employing 585. The following year, revenues grew 20% percent, and were reported at $54.6 million. In 1994, Victory Express reported annual revenues of $59.5 million, and had over 800 employees. 

Newspaper clipping profiling Victory Express.
Image: Dayton (OH) Daily News

Victory Express also began to heavily invest in technology in 1994. Its fleet was outfitted with the latest in satellite communications, laptops and tracking systems, allowing for up-to-date and real- time data on shipments in transit for its customers.

On December 16, 1997, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. announced that it had reached a tentative agreement to acquire the privately held Victory Express Inc. for $51 million in cash. It will also assume about $3 million in debt. U.S. Xpress expects the acquisition to push 1998 revenues over $500 million and to contribute to earnings in 1998. 

At the time of its acquisition, Victory Express reported annual revenues of $65 million and operated a fleet of over 500 tractors and 1,100 trailers.

A U.S. Xpress tractor-trailer roll down the road.
A U.S. Xpress tractor-trailer rolls down the road.
(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes U.S. Xpress (No. 13).

Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.