PITTSBURGH — Charles Hammel III says he owes much of his family’s success in the trucking business to those who came before he and his brother Robert established Pitt Ohio Express in 1979.
So when his friend and industry researcher, Satish Jindel, suggested inviting some of those pioneering executives in the less-than-truckload freight industry to come together for an evening of remembrance and recognition, he jumped at the chance to host the event here at the historic Duquesne Club.
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More than two dozen executives and their spouses attended the June 12 event, dubbed an evening for legends of the LTL industry. They included Arthur Imperatore Sr. of A-P-A Transport, Ed Arnold of New Penn Motor Freight and Robert Young of ABF Freight System.
All in the Family
Invitees to the LTL legends evening featured a number of father-and-son teams and family members spanning multiple generations. Here’s a look at who was on the list:
- Earl and son Dave Congdon of Old Dominion Freight Line
- W.T. and son Tobin Cassels of Southeastern Freight Lines
- Peter and son Billy Latta of A. Duie Pyle Inc.
- Chuck Hammel III and brother, Robert, sons Chuck Hammel IV and Dave Hammel of Pitt Ohio Express
- Mack and son Reid Dove of AAA Cooper Transportation
- Tom Cronin and nephew Anthony Rocco of Dayton Freight Lines
- Bill G., son Bill T. and grandson Billy Ward of Ward Transport
- Rob Estes and cousin Billy Hupp of Estes Express Lines
- Mike Shevell and grandson Zack Shevell of New England Motor Freight
- Matty and son Matthew Moroun of Central Transport International
- George Powell III of Yellow Freight System and James Welch of YRC Worldwide
- Robert Young III of ABF Freight System
- Ed Arnold of New Penn Motor Express
- Arthur Imperatore Sr. of A-P-A Transport
- Bob Robertson of Con-way Freight
- David Vander Pol of Oak Harbor Freight Lines
- Daniel Sullivan of Roadway Express
- Gordon MacKenzie of Preston Trucking, Overnite Transportation and UPS Freight
- Steve O’Kane of New Penn Motor Express, A. Duie Pyle Inc. and St. Johnsbury Trucking
- Herbert Trucksess III of Saia Motor Freight and SCS Transportation
- Jack Middleton of SMC3
- Louis Saia III of Saia Motor Freight
A number of invitees came with several generations of family members: Mack and Reid Dove of AAA Cooper Transportation (which ranks No. 50 on the new TT100 for-hire list), Earl and Dave Congdon of Old Dominion Freight Line (No. 11 on the for-hire TT100) and Bill Ward with his son Bill and grandson Billy of Ward Transport.
Nearly all of the guests had stories to tell about battles with union organizers in the early years of the trucking industry and the financial struggles that followed deregulation in 1980.
Imperatore said his approach in dealing with the Teamsters was to face them head on, resisting pressure to accept potentially crippling contracts but also fostering a close working relationship with his employees. For many years, he insisted on meeting every new driver hired even as his company grew to more than 30 terminals and at its height was the nation’s fourth-largest interstate freight carrier.
“I look back on my life in trucking with great fondness,” the 93-year-old Imperatore said. “It was exciting, unpredictable and very rewarding.”
A-P-A Transport closed in 2002 and for the past 30 years, Imperatore has operated a ferry service from New Jersey to New York City. In 2017, he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
ABF’s Young talked about the time in 1988 when he faced a hostile takeover by a corporate raider, forcing management to quickly strike a deal to take the company private through a leveraged buyout, which saddled the company with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
Had there been a recession at the time, Young said that the company “might not have made it.”
“Luck,” he said, “was on our side.”
More than one executive credited Ed Arnold for setting the bar on performance. Although a Teamsters carrier, New Penn consistently led the industry in profits until it was sold to Roadway Corp. and now is a business unit of YRC Worldwide (No. 6 on the TT100).
Three generations represent Ward Transport at the Legends of the LTL Industry dinner. From left: Billy Ward, CEO Bill T. Ward and Bill G. Ward, the son of company founder William W. Ward. (Murat Uzman)
“I was a numbers person,” Arnold told the group, recalling a time when he was involved in national contract negotiations and had written down on his notepad how much he figured that a proposed contract would cost. Meanwhile, another group that had used a computer to calculate the impact of the new contract had come up with a different, lower number.
Arnold’s numbers would later prove to be more accurate.
“It was my finest moment,” he said.
Imperatore: Trucking was “exciting, unpredictable and very rewarding.” (Murat Uzman)
Myron Shevell, who also was invited but was unable to attend, heads New England Motor Freight, which is marking its 100th anniversary this year.
NEMF started delivering products for New York City-based National Biscuit Co. in 1918 and was purchased in the 1970s by Shevell, who built it into a regional LTL powerhouse. The company remains part of the Shevell Group, based in Elizabeth, N.J.
Another LTL carrier, Auburn, Wash.-based Oak Harbor Freight Lines, also has been in business for more than a century and has been run by members of the Vander Pol family since 1936.
David Vander Pol, who owns the company with his brother Edward, said thinking about the journey his grandparents made from Holland to America reminds him of the special appeal that the United States still holds for immigrants.
“We have a great thing going,” he said.
As the evening wound down, Hammel of Pitt Ohio (No. 46), who said he models his company after New Penn and A-P-A Transport, took a last look around at the group assembled and marveled at how the commingling of industry legends and today’s LTL leaders might be “the one time in history when this could happen.”