Fleet rolls on after founder’s death

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Trucks bearing Marvin Pritchett’s name will continue to roll down the highways, and his dealerships will continue to sell rigs to other fleets and owner-operators.

According to various news sources, Pritchett, founder and chief executive officer of Lake Butler, Fla.-based Pritchett Trucking, was fatally shot by a former employee on Aug. 24. Hubert Allen Jr., 72, had overseen operations at Pritchett’s farm for years until leaving the job two weeks earlier, only to return to kill his former boss and two former co-workers and wound another before taking his own life at his home.

Pritchett, who was 80, spent most of his life in Lake Butler and was a self-made businessman: Both of his parents died before he was 9, but he endured and excelled in high school football, a sport that landed him a college scholarship. After a Korean War tour, he came home to the Florida Panhandle and bought a timber company that had three logging trucks. He ran the business while attending the University of Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1959.

Pritchett’s life reads like a primer on how to succeed in the trucking business. He realized the potential of transporting raw material to mills and expanded the trucking portion of his timber company. In post-deregulation 1980, he and his son, Jon, increased the size of the trucking company, which now employs 400.

The company’s fleet vehicles include live floor, dump, flatbed, wood byproduct and contaminated dirt haulers. Marvin Pritchett also expanded into other businesses, including the farm and 14 Nextran truck dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Alabama; Jon is Nextran’s president and CEO.

Pritchett Trucking spokesman Steve Perez told the Florida Times-Union that even in the face of tragedy, there had been little disruption in the fleet’s routine. Even though Marvin Pritchett remained CEO, most of the fleet’s daily business has been handled by Jon, who is president, and another son, Phillip Pritchett, vice president of operations. Jon’s sister, Robin Wilson, also is active in the company.

“In terms of day-to-day operations, no, there will not be [interruptions],” Perez told the Times-Union. “In terms of emotions, it’s an upheaval.”