The History Of Wilcox Truck Line, Inc.
As told by Charles H. Wilcox, Founder and Former Owner
In the early to mid 1960's, I owned and operated a Conoco Service Station at the corner of Cherry and Kimbrough in Springfield, MO. One of my faithful customers was a postal employee supervisor out of St. Louis, MO. He had been assigned to work on "surface transportation" to send the mail via tractor and trailers for a more speedy delivery process. At this time only between 8% to 9% of the mail was being sent by surface mail; this postal employee thought that in less than ten years 90% of the mail would be moving by tractor/trailers. (He was dead on!) He indicated to me he was looking for people to make bids on postal contracts and thought I should consider doing this as I had over the road experience. He explained the procedure to me and said he would have the postal contract office send me solicitations, as they became available.
My first experience was on a contract to run between Little Rock, Arkansas and Kansas City, Missouri. I finished second on the bid (I was $1125.00 higher than the successful bidder). This indicated to me that I was on the right track and gave me the encouragement and enthusiasm to pursue this further.
Shortly after my first bid, I received another solicitation for bid on a contract that ran from Kansas City, MO, to Memphis, TN. I worked on this bid for a couple of weeks and sent it in. Shortly after the opening of the bids, I received a call from the postal department informing me of my successful low bid. I started my first run on June 14, 1966. I hired one driver, a fellow I had known from Mt. Vernon, MO, Joe Curl. We had a round trip a day, 6 days a week. Eleven months later, the Frisco Passenger Railroad stopped running between Kansas City and Memphis, which left a lot of mail to be put on the highway contracts. We negotiated a contract extension and we started the new addition of a round trip a day, 7 days a week.
During those days, because I owned the equipment/business, I was not required to carry or use log sheets. My employees were required to do so however.
The next employee I hired was a good friend of Joe Curl's and was also from Mt. Vernon, MO. His name was Ray Brian. Then I met a railroad employee that was handling mail in Kansas City and didn't work for the railroad on the weekends. We had visited on numerous occasions and he indicated he would be interested in driving the weekend trip. That was when Ray Muier came to work for me. Shortly after this, I needed more help, as it had become necessary for me to do lots of bookkeeping and maintaining the equipment; this was when Carl Friend came onboard. Ray and Carl worked for me the longest of any drivers I had hired since starting the mail contracting business.
One of my early employees that worked in the service station and then went to driving for me was B.L…."Did" Eagon. "Did" was an employee for more than 40 years total between the service station and the truck line. He passed away in 2001. "Did" was an outstanding employee and a very good friend.
I had been in the mail contracting business for about one year when I was asked to make a bid on a Christmas extra contract that ran between Springfield and Little Rock. It was to run on an "as needed" basis and you would bid on the trip. A friend of mine operated a mail contractor business also and the two of us bid on this same contract. Our bids were to the penny the same, per trip. The post office called and told us there was a problem and what had happened; we both went to the post office and it was decided a flip of the coin would be the tie-breaker for who would get the contract.
The Christmas run for the Springfield - Little Rock trip lasted 43-44 days. I'll tell you now, it was a workout! We did our own loading and unloading at each stop, being Harrison, Clinton, Marshall and into Little Rock. Those were the days you earned your money not only from driving but from the loading and unloading of the mail, too. I ran this Christmas extra for the next three Christmas seasons.
Along about this time we had a tragic impact on our lives and home. My wife and I had two children. Our son attended West Point and then went to Korea, Germany and Viet Nam. He left August 12, 1967, for Viet Nam and was killed January 9, 1968. Due to the fact it was such a devastating blow, I quit driving over the road, except in an emergency situation, and devoted my time to taking care of the equipment, bookwork and trying to take care of more at home.
As things started to get better at home, when we knew we had to accept the fate of our son, I decided to bid on other mail contracts. I will try to name the contracts we have had through the years (not necessarily in order): Des Moines to Memphis; Minneapolis to Memphis; Des Moines to Chicago; Kansas City to Harrisonville; Kansas City to Wichita; Kansas City to Joplin; Chicago to Houston, Texas; Chicago to Memphis to New Orleans, LA; Memphis to New Orleans; Memphis to Shreveport, LA; St. Louis to Springfield, MA; Springfield to Nashville; Springfield to Rogers; Springfield to Ft. Smith; Springfield to Jonesboro; Springfield to Memphis. We did run a number of emergency contracts that were only for a few days or trips. We are now operating many different contracts.
The first two tractors I purchased cost me a total of $25,000. I started with two used trailers that cost $1000 each. Now a new tractor runs over $80,000 and an extended trailer at least $22,000 to $24,000.
About 25 years ago, Jack Winfrey owned Jack's Truck Line, hauling mail between Kansas City and Springfield. He wanted to retire and to get out of the business. Visiting with Jack one day, I made him several offers on his truck line and garage. In about 45 minute’s time, we had struck a deal, and I purchased his complete operation. This was when Emory Eaton came to be a Wilcox Truck Line, Inc. employee, as he had been working for Jack for quite some time.
The Wilcox Truck Line, Inc. garage has been located at 440 N. Nettleton ever since. In the early part of 2001, we made the decision to build the corporate office building on an available spot by the garage.
Through the years, I have had the privilege of working with many, many employees and, for the most part, all of them have been very good. I feel I have been blessed beyond measure. My wife, my daughter and I are so very proud of all the fine people that now make up Wilcox Truck Line, Inc. Thank you for the time and energy that you individually have given and continue to give to this company to make it the success it is today.
On April 21, 2008 Wilcox Truck Line was sold to Tri-State Motor Transit. With their reputation as being a strong company in the freight hauling business, I felt this was a smart decision on my part and good time for me to finally retire.
Charles H. Wilcox