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FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Boyd Brothers Transportation Inc. was a powerhouse carrier for decades

A Boyd Brothers Transportation tractor-trailer. (Photo: Gary Morton Collection)

Boyd Brothers Transportation Inc. was founded by Dempsey Boyd and his two brothers, Cecil and Hilly, in Clayton, Alabama in 1956. The company remained largely family owned for several decades – even after going public.

The initial Boyd Brothers Transportation fleet consisted of only three tractors and flatbed trailers specializing in hauling steel products and building materials. However, by 1989 Boyd Brothers had established a network of regional operations that extended across two-thirds of the eastern United States.

In the 1990s, Boyd Brothers Transportation began to introduce new technologies to its operations to remain competitive within the industry. One of these innovations was a satellite-based OmniTrac system in each of its tractors. These systems greatly improved the efficiency and quality of operations. Over the next few years, Boyd Brothers also installed on-board computer systems in each of its tractors. These systems generated reports that helped the company assess the performance of its equipment and drivers.

When the company went public in 1994, it had a fleet valued at $50 million. The fleet consisted of approximately 400 tractors and 700 flatbed trailers located at 12 terminals. Revenue jumped to $59.1 million the first year after going public, up from $50.3 million the year before, but the company reported a loss of $2 million. 

A parked Boyd Brothers Transportation tractor/flatbed combination. (Photo: Gary Morton Collection)

Boyd Brothers addressed this by restructuring, reducing overhead and employees, and was able to mitigate its losses in 1995. The next two years were unpredictable for Boyd Brothers, and the company seemed to lose ground as soon as it gained it. By 1997, however, it seemed to have regained its footing, as it refocused on sales, service and driver retention.

The company acquired Wellborn Transport, Inc. in 1997. Wellborn functioned as an independent operating subsidiary of Boyd Brothers Transportation. Wellborn had built its business on short- to mid-length hauls, while Boyd Brothers had built its business on longer hauls. Therefore, Wellborn’s established business served as a good complement to that of Boyd Brothers. 

Boyd Brothers Transportation had greater ambitions for growth and began to plan a $3 million super-terminal in Birmingham, Alabama. It also announced its intention to acquire Ruel Smith Transportation Services, Inc. This Houston-based company provided short- and long-haul flatbed trucking services and had a fleet of 150 tractors and 164 trailers. However, the deal fell through in 1999.

Also in 1997, Boyd Brothers Transportation began to implement changes to its driver structure. Owner-operators were now invited to contract with the company with their own tractors. By the end of 1997, Boyd had 54 owner-operators in its program, and by 1999 that number had grown to 230. In addition, drivers were given the option of buying their tractors through a lease-purchase arrangement through the company. Boyd Brothers’ management believed this lease-purchase arrangement would help reduce driver turnover. 

Two Boyd Brothers Transportation big rigs waiting to start the day. (Photo: Gary Morton Collection)

Boyd Brothers Transportation closed the decade with record high revenue and earnings of $133 million. The company set a goal to increase revenues to $200 million by 2001. This goal proved to be too ambitious, largely due to unpredictable fuel costs. In 2000, revenue fell to $126.7 million, and the company reported a loss of approximately $1 million. The freight market had begun to weaken in 2000 and there was a notable decline in requests for steel shipments. Many owner-operators left the company as a result, and Boyd Brothers had fewer available trucks to draw upon for capacity. By the fourth quarter of 2000, Boyd had only 130 owner-operators, down from 550 in 1999.

Dempsey Boyd passed away after a long battle with an undisclosed illness in 2012. At the time of his death, Boyd Brothers Transportation had 730 trucks and drivers, and 85 owner-operators in its employ. 

Boyd merged with Daseke, Inc. in 2013, creating one of the largest open-deck and specialty fleets in North America. The merger also included various Boyd Companies: WTI Transport, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Mid Seven Transportation, based in Des Moines, Iowa; and Boyd Logistics.

The merger made Daseke a top five company by revenue and vehicle count. The combined companies offered full North American open-deck/specialty coverage, including service into Canada and Mexico.

Daseke flatbed rig on highway
A Daseke flatbed rig on the highway. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

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.