Campbell’s “66” Express, Inc. was founded by Franklin George Campbell in Springfield, Missouri, in 1926. The company was initially named Campbell Fuel and Transfer, but transitioned to trucking in 1933 when a banker asked Campbell if he would take over Rapid “66” Express, an ailing trucking company in the area. Rapid “66” Express operated from Springfield to St. Louis, Missouri along Route 66. Campbell agreed, and Campbell’s “66” Express was formed.
Campbell’s “66” Express was known throughout the Midwest for its mascot – a camel named Snortin’ Norton – and its slogan – “Humpin’ to Please.” After the company added refrigerated service, its refrigerated trailers featured the phrase “Humpin’ to Freeze.”
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was given authority by the U.S. Congress to regulate the trucking industry in 1935. The ICC regulated nearly every aspect of interstate truck transportation. Those trucking company operators who could prove they had provided regular service between cities were awarded authority by the ICC to continue that service.
However, to gain new authority (operating routes) a trucking company had to prove that service performed by an existing carrier was inadequate. This was very difficult to prove; it was far easier to acquire another carrier that could be connected to the acquiring trucking company’s authority by proving to the Commission that the acquiring company was financially fit and able to take over the other carrier and improve service to the shipping public.
The ICC regulated the trucking industry for 45 years (1935-1980), and throughout that period carriers grew by purchasing smaller or less-capitalized companies that already operated on the routes that they wanted.
Campbell grew Campbell’s “66” Express operating territory and the company by acquiring other trucking companies. Over time, Campbell’s “66” Express grew from the area surrounding St. Louis to 26 states, primarily in the Midwest and South.
Unfortunately, the company’s growth slowed and then stopped when the trucking industry was deregulated by the 1980 Motor Carrier Act. Without regulation, companies were free to set their own prices and routes. This led to years of price discounting and heightened competition between companies.
Campbell’s “66” Express could not survive the deregulated environment, and in 1986, the company declared bankruptcy. At the time of its bankruptcy, Campbell’s “66” Express had 42 terminals in 13 states and employed roughly 1,300 people.
Telling the Campbell’s “66” Express story is important – not only because of its 60-year history, but to recognize the many people who worked for the company who worked to live up to “Humpin’ to Please.”