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Averitt Express marked a half century in business last year with celebrations at its facilities across the country, including its corporate headquarters in Cookeville, Tenn.
Thurman Averitt founded the company as Livingston Merchant’s Co-Op in 1958. He eventually would change the name to Averitt Express in 1969. Gary Sasser turned the company into what it is today after purchasing it Oct. 1, 1971. The company marked the occasion at various facilities.
“In 1971, I was just a 21-year-old kid who was going to night school, but I knew that I wanted to be in the transportation industry,” Sasser, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “I was surprised when Averitt agreed to sell, and it didn’t take long to face my first challenge: how to make payroll. We actually sold the trucks and leased them back just so we could have some operating capital to give everyone a paycheck. We learned a lot in those early days.”
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Averitt Express had two associates, three tractors and five trailers when it was purchased 50 years ago. But now the company employs more than 9,000 people and operates approximately 4,600 tractors, 15,000 trailers and 140 facilities across the country. Averitt Express also ranks No. 36 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
“From day one, we surrounded ourselves with good people, people who shared our vision,” Sasser said. “We sat down as a group and figured out what we could do best, where we wanted to go and how to get there. From early on, we knew we weren’t in the trucking business: We were in the service business. Trucks were just the tool, like computers, telephones and forklifts.”
Sasser believes building relationships with associates is so important that he personally welcomes aboard every new hire. All new full-time associates were brought to Cookeville for orientation prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Sasser would meet each one and shake their hands. Now, amid the pandemic, he calls each new associate to welcome them aboard.
“The two most important things we committed to from the very beginning was to focus on people and service,” Sasser said. “It’s people who deliver the freight, not trucks. And when our people provide outstanding service, customers trust us with more and more of their business, allowing us to grow. That’s what secures our future.”
The anniversary celebrations included special ceremonies, grab- and-go meals and employee prize drawings at its facilities. The company also held a grand prize drawing. Five over-the-road drivers had their names drawn and were assigned a brand-new 2022 Freightliner truck.
Grand prize winners were Hickory, N.C.-based driver Crystal Austin; Little Rock, Ark.-based driver Rey Cabigquez; Greensboro, N.C.- based driver Troyshawn Downey; Charlotte, N.C.-based driver Tim Johnson; and Jackson, Tenn.-based driver Rebecca Sanders.
“October marked our celebration of 50 years as a team, and that’s a milestone we are proud of,” Sasser said. “It’s been a team effort, and it will continue to be a team effort as we challenge ourselves to be innovative and creative.”
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