• ITVI.USA
    15,353.780
    -79.690
    -0.5%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.732
    0.005
    0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.880
    0.030
    0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,332.660
    -75.700
    -0.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.280
    -0.020
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.190
    0.050
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.560
    -0.030
    -1.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.420
    0.090
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.220
    0.050
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,353.780
    -79.690
    -0.5%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.732
    0.005
    0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.880
    0.030
    0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,332.660
    -75.700
    -0.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.280
    -0.020
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.190
    0.050
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.560
    -0.030
    -1.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.420
    0.090
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.220
    0.050
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
BusinessFreightWaves ClassicsInsightsLess than TruckloadNewsOnline Haul of FameTrucking

FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Motor Cargo Industries built on its original intrastate Utah lanes

Motor Cargo Industries was founded in the small town of Tooele, Utah in 1922. At that time it was named Barton Truck Line. The company was small and had only two trucks, and would stay a small operation for some time, as Utah was a sparsely populated state and did not enjoy much economic prosperity during that period. The economic outlook of Tooele only darkened as the nation suffered under the Great Depression, and while Barton Truck Line did not succumb to the financial pressures, it was unable to grow. World War II increased demand, however, and by the time the war was over, things had begun to look up.

The Bartons sold their trucking company to the Tate family in 1947, a father and son partnership whose previous experience had primarily been on the Tooele Valley Railroad. The Barton Truck Line, Inc. was incorporated in 1954. William C. Tate was the company’s president, his wife Vera was vice president, and his son Harold was secretary and treasurer. 

The company continued to ship along its established lanes in Utah – between Tooele, Salt Lake City and Ogden – and expanded further north into Logan, which was near the Utah border with Idaho and Wyoming. In 1973, the Tates merged Barton Truck Line with Bonanza Trucking Company, another company of Harold Tate’s. The businesses continued under the Barton name.

At that time interstate trucking was still controlled by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The merger allowed the expanded Barton Truck Line to use the ICC-approved routes that Bonanza Trucking Company operated into Colorado and California. A few months after the merger, Barton Truck Line changed its name to Motor Cargo Industries.

A Motor Cargo Industries tractor and twin trailers. (Photo: Gary Morton Collection)
A Motor Cargo Industries tractor and twin trailers. (Photo: Gary Morton Collection)

When Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and President Carter signed it, trucking was deregulated. Some carriers responded to deregulation by cutting their rates to the extreme in order to remain competitive. However, Motor Cargo Industries resisted that urge. 

In the years following deregulation, Motor Cargo Industries instead focused on expansion of both its routes and facilities. Service facilities and terminals were opened in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona as well as Portland and Medford, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Shipments into several markets increased, such as the Albuquerque market. The expansion efforts were successful, and in 1989, the company reported revenues of $49.1 million. 

By 1993, revenues had increased to $68.7 million. Motor Cargo Industries also boasted the highest on-time delivery percentage of any less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier in the West at the time, at 98.7%. Unlike other LTL carriers, the company avoided satellite terminals and the traditional hub-and-spoke system. Instead, Motor Cargo Industries relied on two-driver teams that focused on non-stop transportation. By 1994, the company had further expanded operations and was delivering to 10 states. It also offered intrastate delivery in Arizona, California, Nevada and its home state of Utah.

A dramatic advertisement for Motor Cargo Industries.
A dramatic advertisement for Motor Cargo Industries.

The 1990s saw further innovations for Motor Cargo Industries, especially in technology. The company’s management realized that if a company was not willing to join the information age, it would be left behind. By the end of the decade, Motor Cargo Industries had completely overhauled its internal information services to remain competitive with the national carriers that had the resources to invest in high-tech systems. These innovations included cell phones for their drivers, satellite based GPS and laptop computers. 

In 1998, the company generated revenues of $114.7 million, an increase from $105.4 million in the previous year. Motor Cargo Industries also opened a Chicago division in 1998, designed for customers that wanted to ship West from the East. However, the office was soon closed due to lack of profits. In fact, net profits fell  from $5.8 million in 1998 to $4.7 in 1999. Rising fuel costs going into the new millenium posed additional challenges for Motor Cargo Industries, cutting into profits.

A Union Pacific train heads to its next destination. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
A Union Pacific train heads to its next destination. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In October 2001, Union Pacific Railroad and its trucking subsidiary, Overnite Holding Inc., (Overnite Transportation Company) announced the  acquisition of Motor Cargo Industries for $80 million. At the time, Overnite supplied LTL service regionally, inter-regionally and long-haul, offering full-state coverage in 32 states. The acquisition bolstered Overnite’s presence in the western states that Motor Cargo covered.

An Overnite tractor-trailer on the move. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
An Overnite tractor-trailer on the move. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

On August 8, 2005, UPS purchased Overnite Transportation Company (and its subsidiary Motor Cargo) from Union Pacific Corporation (parent company of Union Pacific Railroad) for $1.25 billion. On April 28, 2006, Overnite Transportation officially became UPS Ground Freight, Inc.

A UPS tractor pulls twin trailers. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
A UPS tractor pulls twin trailers. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Recent FreightWaves Haul of Fame articles include:

FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Indianhead creates a Midwestern legacy of service

FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Ringsby Truck Lines prospered while trucking was regulated

FreightWaves Haul of Fame: American Carriers, Inc. failed due to increased competition and a bad acquisition

Happy reading, happy hauling and Happy Holidays!

Scott Mall, Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics

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.

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