Watkins – An Old Name With A New Direction
It all began when Bill Watkins, better known as "BW," used the $300 he had earned working on the family's farm in Metcalf, GA, to buy the first Watkins truck--a red, three-quarter-ton Dodge pickup. He used it to bring his chickens to the market in Jacksonville, FL. His first long haul was to Colonial Stores, then known as D. Pender Grocery Company, in Norfolk, VA.
Three months later he traded the pickup for a two-ton Dodge and a 20-ft. Dorsey stake-body trailer. Before long BW was buying, selling and hauling produce, peanuts, pecans, cottonseed meal, feed, hay and shelled corn for others as a private exempt carrier. The fleet quickly grew to six trucks with payloads up to 12 tons. The fledgling company, known as Watkins Produce Company, used the Thomasville Farmer's Market as its base of operations. In1937, BW established Watkins Motor Lines to handle the portion of the business that required operating authorities and became a refrigerated truckload carrier. In 1963, he acquired Highway Transport, Inc., a bulk chemical and petroleum carrier based out of Knoxville, TN.
By 1981, Watkins Motor Lines was primarily a LTL carrier and spun off its truckload and refrigerated segments to form Land Span, a separate company under Watkins Associated Industries. In 1984, BW retired and turned the company over to his sons, Buz and John.
In 1997, Watkins purchased Sunco Carriers, Inc., a refrigerated truckload company, and merged the refrigerated operations of Land Span into Sunco. Land Span remains as a dry truckload premium service carrier utilizing a team driver operation. In February 2002, Sunco purchased the assets of the Southeastern division of Rocor.
In 2003, Buz's son Chip succeeded John as president of Watkins Motor Lines, and John's son Clay became an Executive Vice President of Operations. John assumed the role of Chairman of the Board and CEO, while Buz became the Board Vice Chairman of Watkins Motor Lines.
The company established Watkins Regional Express and entered into the LTL overnight delivery market in January 2004. Regional hubs opened in Austin, TX; Manassas, VA; Newark, NJ; Orlando, FL; Shreveport, LA; Louisville, KY; Tulsa, OK; and Thomasville, GA.
In 2006, the assets of Watkins Motor Lines were sold to FedEx Corporation. Meanwhile, Highway Transport, Land Span and Sunco Carriers continued to operate in their specific truckload markets.
In 2008, the Watkins name and old logo were back on the road again as Watkins Truckload Services. This new Watkins dry truckload company is a short haul regional carrier providing service in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast.
In 2012 Watkins continued to diversify and enhance all trucking and logistics operations. Chip Watkins is leading the way as President and CEO with Clay Watkins at the helm of Operations and compliance. Watkins Truckload has dropped the regional shorthaul operation to focus on Coast to Coast team freight. Highway Transport based out of Knoxville, TN. continues to offer premium liquid chemical transportation and logistics services. Sunco Carriers name has changed to Watkins Refrigerated with continued emphasis on premium refrigerated service in regional markets throughout the Eastern half of the United States. These changes offer customers expanded shipping opportunities while offering our owner operators and company drivers multiple fleet choices with a stronger and more abundant freight base.