J.W. Ringsby founded Ringsby Truck Lines in Denver, Colorado when he purchased a new REO Speedwagon in 1932. Ringsby Truck Lines’ first services were less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload service between Denver and Chicago. Within a short time, Ringsby Truck Lines began establishing service and terminals in other western states.
In 1947, Ringsby Truck Lines made one of its first acquisitions. The company purchased Wyoming-based Russell Freightways. Interstate trucking was highly regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), and one of the few ways to grow a trucking company was to buy another in order to take over its ICC-approved routes.
The acquisition of Russell Freightways gave Ringsby access to several routes in Wyoming and Nebraska. Later in 1947, Ringsby established a new terminal in Lusk, Wyoming. In 1948, Ringsby made another acquisition, this time of Utah-based Comet Motor Express. The purchase of Comet gave Ringsby access to another large market in Salt Lake City. By 1950, Ringsby had major terminals in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Omaha and Salt Lake City.
In 1951, the company established St. Louis-Omaha service. In 1953, the company began offering refrigerated coast-to-coast service through its new subsidiary, Ringsby Refrigerated, which was headquartered in San Francisco.
Expansions continued throughout the remainder of the 1950s. In 1955, Ringsby Truck Lines acquired three companies, along with their equipment and ICC-granted operating authority. These companies were Inland Freight Lines, Eastern Utah Transportation Co. and Uintahk Freight Lines. Each of the companies were headquartered in Utah, and the acquisitions gave Ringsby Truck Lines access to 250 vehicles as well as terminals in: Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Stockton, California; Reno, Nevada; and Duchesne, Heber City, Ogden, Roosevelt, Salt Lake City and Vernal, Utah. Expansion continued in 1959; Ringsby acquired Nevada Fleet Lines, adding routes to Las Vegas on its routing guide.
In 1960, it constructed a brand-new terminal in San Jose. After purchasing Converse Trucking Service in 1961, Ringsby established service further north to Portland, Oregon. To close out the 1960s, Ringsby made two large acquisitions in 1969, purchasing majority control of United-Buckingham Freight Lines as well as Norwalk Truck Lines. At the time, both companies were losing money, and Ringsby began losing money as a result – after nearly 28 years of profitable operation, even with revenues in excess of $100 million.
In 1972, Ringsby constructed a large terminal in Cheyenne, Wyoming. By this time, Ringsby had become the largest family-owned carrier in the United States, and one of the top 20 carriers in the United States.
Unfortunately, the company’s management began to realize that some of its recently acquired routes were not fitting into its business plan. In 1973, the company managers decided to sell some of its operating authority in Nevada to Delta Lines in order to streamline operations. Delta Lines acquired Ringsby’s intrastate authority as well as its terminals in Hathorne, Las Vegas and Tonopah. Later, Ringsby sold its route between Los Angeles and points in Nevada as well. In 1976, Delta Lines acquired Ringsby’s operating rights in Oregon and Washington.
Even though Ringsby had sold some of its routes and assets, the company still had 39 terminals across the United States in 1975, and its service area extended as far east as Youngstown, Ohio. That year, the company established another subsidiary, Ringsby Truck Rental, which provided truck and trailer rental services. Unfortunately, the company was still losing money even after selling unprofitable lanes.
Ringsby management attempted to negotiate with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union to reduce wages and come to an agreement on flexible work rules. The result was a massive Teamsters strike against Ringsby that began in 1976 and lasted over three years. The strike cost Ringsby millions of dollars. In 1979, the company sued the union, alleging that it conspired to drive Ringsby out of business for good when the company withdrew from bargaining.
Deregulation of the trucking industry was signed into law in 1980. Although the Teamsters strike finally ended and the company broke even in 1981, the newly deregulated environment was too much to contend with after the massive losses incurred during the strike. Ringsby closed its doors for good in 1984. At the time of its closing, Ringsby Truck Lines had 43 terminals in 26 states and 3,000 pieces of equipment.