Crete Carrier Chairman Acklie Dies at 84

Crete Carrier Corp.

This story appears in the Sept. 26 print edition of Transport Topics.

Duane Acklie, an attorney and banker who built one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, died Sept. 17 from complications of an extended illness. He was 84.

The death of the chairman of Crete Carrier Corp. in Lincoln, Nebraska, was confirmed by his son-in-law, company CEO Tonn Ostergard.

He said his father-in-law possessed an “incredible amount” of common sense. “He could make the complex simple and related well to people. He was a good judge of character and was very intelligent.”

Ostergard also said that Acklie had a high amount of energy, made use of every minute and dealt well with people of varied backgrounds.

“Duane had a unique ability to respect and appreciate drivers,” Ostergard said. “His lasting legacy is that the DNA of the company is embedded with values he manifested: to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

Lincoln-based Crete Carrier, which also owns Shaffer Trucking and Hunt Transportation, had annual revenue of $1.01 billion last year. It ranks No. 33 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.

Acklie also served as chairman of American Trucking Associations in 2000-2001.

“Duane was nothing shy of an industry icon, an ambassador for trucking,” ATA President Chris Spear said. “He was a husband, father and a gifted leader. He was beloved by many, from U.S. presidents to his drivers. Duane gave more than he took. He leaves this world better than when he entered it.”

Acklie was born Dec. 14, 1931, in Madison County, Nebraska, the only child of farmers William and Irene Acklie. He graduated from the University of Nebraska law school and then served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957 as a counterintelligence officer.

Acklie started with Crete in 1966, with his law firm representing trucking company founder Ken Norton, who asked Acklie to incorporate the company. In 1971, Norton decided to leave, and Duane and Phyllis Acklie bought him out after a deal with another buyer fell through, Acklie told Transport Topics in a 2000 interview.

Industry regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission made it difficult to grow, he said. He became active in ATA to advocate for deregulation, which happened in 1980 and allowed Crete to make acquisitions.

David McCorkle, chairman of McCorkle Truck Line and Acklie’s successor as ATA chairman, credits Acklie with the successful management of events leading to the hiring of Kansas Gov. Bill Graves to become the federation’s new president.

“Duane called me when I was first vice chairman to tell me that Walter McCormick resigned without notice as ATA president [in early 2001]. He said; ‘Take my speaking engagements so I can go to Washington and find out what happened.’ ”

McCorkle credited Acklie with appointing a search committee with representation of all industry factions, describing Acklie’s efforts as “a masterful job.”

Bill Canary, an ATA executive at the time, succeeded McCormick for almost two years until Graves could finish his second term as governor before starting with ATA in January 2003. “He was a real motivator and a leader,” McCorkle said of Acklie.

Lee Shaffer, chairman of the Kenan Advantage Group who preceded Acklie as ATA chairman in 1999-2000, said: “Duane Acklie was the consummate chairman of the board of his company and of ATA. I truly loved and respected the man.”

Prior to his term atop ATA, Acklie was chairman of the Contract Carrier Conference, one of the two predecessors of the Truckload Carriers Association, from 1978 to 1980. He and his wife of 62 years, Phyllis, also founded the Acklie Charitable Foundation.

His active civic life led to involvement in Republican politics at the national, state and local levels from 1960 to this year. He also served on boards of directors for USO, the military personnel assistance organization; the Nebraska State Highway Commission; the Nebraska Economic Development Commission; the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation; and Nebraska Wesleyan University.

In addition to his wife, Acklie is survived by daughters Laura Schumacher and Holly Ostergard, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Daughter Dodie Nakajima predeceased him.

A memorial service was held Sept. 22. The family requested donations be made to the Wyuka Historical Foundation.