In 1980, when the federal goversnment deregulated the U.S. trucking industry, the model in which trucking services had been provided for 45 years was changed forever. With the stroke of a pen, then-President Carter ushered in a new era, one in which competition and innovation would remake an industry and open the door to new opportunities and services – while driving dramatic improvements in transportation value for shippers.
Through that door stepped the Con-way organization, which in May 1983 launched Con-way Western Express, with 11 service centers in three Western states, followed one month later by the startup of Con-way Central Express, with 11 locations in seven Midwestern states. On their first day of business, the two carriers, which collectively began with 230 employees and 334 trucks, tractors and trailers, handled 113 shipments. The business model: provide next-day service for regional freight delivery within 500 miles.
Twenty-five years later, those startup carriers have grown up to become Con-way Freight, a Con-way Inc. company and recognized leader in less-than-truckload trucking with more than 400 service locations; a fleet of 32,000 trucks, tractors and trailers; and more than 20,000 employees who deliver coverage and transit times throughout North America. Con-way Freight celebrates its silver anniversary this week with enterprise-wide activities and special commemorative ceremonies at many of its original 22 operating locations.
“Con-way Freight embraced the next-day regional carrier concept in 1983, when it was practically unheard of,” says John G. Labrie, president of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company. “In just 25 years, we went from a small startup operation with no customers to a thriving organization that serves over 100,000 customers a day in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.”
“I congratulate Con-way Freight on its remarkable evolution over the past 25 years,” says Douglas W. Stotlar, president and chief executive officer of San Mateo, Calif.-based Con-way Inc., Con-way Freight’s parent company. “Our employees have proven that by emphasizing superior service for the customer and building a company based on a culture of teamwork and shared values, we can create something unique, enduring and extraordinarily successful. And the good news is, our best years are ahead.”
Following startup, the original service center network expanded rapidly and soon was joined by new startup operations: Con-way Southern Express, which opened for business in 1987, and Con-way Southwest Express, which was launched in 1989. By 1993, after 10 years of operation, the Con-way companies had grown to 7,600 employees at more than 300 operating locations in 32 states, with more than $800 million in revenues and a fleet of 13,660 trucks, tractors and trailers.
In 2007, Con-way Freight transformed its management structure by combining the general offices of its three regional operating entities into a single, unified organization headquartered in Ann Arbor. The company says that evolution into a centralized operation has enabled it to adopt uniform best practices, streamline its processes, become more responsive to the market and improve the customer experience.
Today, Con-way Freight is a $3 billion enterprise with some 20,000 people in more than 400 operating locations, maintaining a fleet of more than 8,400 tractors and 25,000 freight trailers. Throughout the network, the company moves more than 60,000 LTL shipments totaling more than 72 million pounds of freight and completes 120,000 pickups and deliveries daily.
“On this important milestone for our company, I want to thank all of our customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers for their support through this period of growth and development,” Labrie says. “We look forward to the next 25 years, earning our customers’ trust as their preferred carrier and continuing to provide the exceptional service they’ve come to expect.”