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May 3, 2016 10:30 AM, EDT

Why ArcBest's Robert Young Thinks Retirement is Right

ArcBest Corp.

ArcBest Corp.'s future is "bright" and the company is "in good hands," retiring board chairman Robert A. Young III said recently at the Fort Smith, Arkansas-based corporation's 2016 shareholders' meeting.

After 11 years as chairman and 45 years on the board, Young has officially passed the reins over to ArcBest President and CEO Judy McReynolds to "guide through confusion with simple solutions," he told company officers April 26 at ArcBest Corp. headquarters.

ArcBest ranks No. 12 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

McReynolds was elected by the 10-member board in February to serve as chairman after Young's previously announced retirement.

At 75, Young says he is still mentally and physically able to help lead the company, but he is abiding by the mandatory retirement age rule he initiated more than decade ago for board members.

"I'll miss it, but it's the right thing to do," Young said. "It will take me a week or two to figure out I'm not supposed to be here."

At least two other board members have reached 75 and retired, he said.

"I thought 'We'll never replace those guys, they were really good,' and we have," Young said. "In any business, young ideas are important because the world's changing."

Young went on to explain the way the company reaches customers today is very different than before. Some, he said, simply want to work with ArcBest on the internet.

"For someone my age, that's a little foreign," Young said. "But you take the younger folks and they understand that. They've been living it. And that will continue to happen. Those who are relatively young on our board will slowly become outdated."

Although there is a loss of "some institutional memory" from those who retire, Young said regular replacement is a smart business move and the "trade-off is a good one."

"When we put it in I didn't think it would ever affect me," Young said of the mandatory retirement policy.

When asked if he could still keep going for another five years, Young said "I don't want to hold it back. We need young ideas. … I don't ever want to be in a position to hold this company back just because I got here first. That's just not right."

Young has been associated with ArcBest since he was 10 years old, when his father was an attorney for Arkansas Motor Freight. In 1951, Robert A. Young Jr., bought AMF and created a new era for the company that began as a local freight hauler, OK Transfer, in 1923. In 1956, AMF acquired Best Motor Freight and became Arkansas Best Freight System Inc., later simply known as ABF. The younger Young said he started working full-time for the company in 1964, but had worked part time before then.

He worked his way up to president in 1973 and held the position until 2004, when he was named CEO. He retired as CEO in 2006.

Young said he did not expect ArcBest, formerly Arkansas Best, to grow to the size the company is today. Of the 50 largest trucking companies in 1980, there are only two left, Young pointed out. ArcBest is one. YRC Freight, also known as Yellow, is the other and is a combination of two carriers, he said.

ArcBest had revenue of $2.7 billion last year and now has more than 13,500 employees serving 40,000 active customers.

At the shareholders' meeting, McReynolds thanked Young for his many years of service and congratulated both him and his wife Mary. She called Young's stewardship over the years "simply invaluable." Following his final board meeting, comments poured in on the ArcBest Corp. Facebook page. Many praised Young's leadership and his community involvement with his wife.

Young told reporters his retirement would not be entirely idle. He has real estate investments to tend and he will continue to be associated with the company as a major stockholder. He said he will be "watching from the sidelines" and expects change to come if the company is to survive.

"Change is inevitable, and if you don't change with the times, you don't survive, and I've seen that sink a lot of companies," Young said. "Way out there, 25 year, 50 years out, it won't look anything like it does today. If it is here, it will have changed … but I hope it has the same culture. It's a culture of honesty. It's a culture of hard work, and working together, cooperatively."