Overnite’s J. Harwood Cochrane: Talking With a Trucking Pioneer

This June, I had the good fortune to interview J. Harwood Cochrane, the 100-year-old founder of famed trucking company Overnite Transportation, for The Journal of Commerce, along with Jack Holmes, the president of UPS Freight. Below are the first two episodes  in a JOC video series about Cochrane’s career, Overnite and trucking history, “Present at the Birth of Trucking.”

Cochrane was born in November 1912, shortly after Woodrow Wilson was elected president. In the same year, The Traffic World launched a column dedicated to “Increasing Efficiency on the Short Haul” through use of “the motor truck,” an invention the Chicago-based magazine predicted “will exert a profound influence upon our industrial progress.”

The motor truck did just that, and J. Harwood Cochrane grabbed the “guiding wheel” for a long and wild ride. He founded Overnite in Richmond, Va., in 1935 with two trucks. Overnite expanded across the country by acquiring more than 50 competitors. The company was sold in 1986 to railroad Union Pacific for the stellar sum of $1.2 billion. Cochrane then founded another company, Highway Express, which he sold in 2003 — at the age of 91.

These two videos look at the early days of trucking and how Cochrane founded Overnite. More episodes are on the way.

For more on the topic, see “Trucking through Time” on the joc.com website, where a full transcript of the Cochrane-Holmes is also available (for paying JOC members only, at the moment). My thanks again to Jack Holmes and J. Harwood Cochrane for their time, their interest and their insight.

— wbc

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September 24, 2013 · 10:17 pm

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