Heartland Express founder, longtime CEO Russell Gerdin dies

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Updated Oct 17, 2011

Heartland Express announced that Russell Gerdin, the company’s founder and longtime chairman and chief executive officer, died Friday evening, Oct. 14. Gerdin, who was 70, founded the North Liberty, Iowa-based company in 1978, and under his leadership and guidance, Heartland grew into a large publicly traded truckload carrier. He recently retired from his leadership role due to health reasons.

The company said Gerdin, the son of a trucker, “was quick to stand in support of drivers, men and women, who with great sacrifice live a life on the road that truly moves America.”

“He was driven at making Heartland Express the best company he could and doing the best at anything he tried,” said Michael Gerdin, who was appointed to the leadership role after Russ’ retirement. “He was always focusing on giving it his 100 percent. We will miss his leadership and industry foresight.”

Russell Gerdin is survived by his wife, Ann, three children and 10 grandchildren. “Russ was a true visionary and pioneer in our industry, a giant,” said Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and CEO. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Ann, and the entire Gerdin family. Russ was not just a savvy and successful businessman, but was also a charitable and compassionate person. Russ’ anonymous charity greatly contributed to ATA’s relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was that type of selfless, quiet contribution to the world around us that I, and all of the trucking industry, will miss with Russ’ passing.”

“It is always sad when one of our own passes away,” said Barbara Windsor, outgoing ATA chairwoman and president and CEO of Hahn Transportation Inc. “Russ was a model trucking executive. Our industry is richer for having him play such a critical role in it and poorer now he is gone. My heart goes out to his entire family.”

“Like Russ, I’m also the son of a trucker who has had the pleasure of seeing his children move into this industry,” said Dan England, incoming ATA chairman and chairman of C.R. England Inc. “Russ’ success in building a strong family business has been an example to all of us in this industry, and he will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.”