Founders of Freightliner Trucks, Iowa 80 Group, and Old Dominion Freight Line Inducted into the American Trucking and Industry Leader Hall of Fame
KANSAS CITY, MO… The American Trucking and Industry Leader (ATIL) Hall of Fame celebrated its annual induction ceremony recently at the home office of the American Truck Historical Society in Kansas City, Missouri. Honorees included Leland James, founder of Freightliner Trucks; Earl and Lillian Congdon, founders of Old Dominion Freight Line; and Bill and Carolyn Moon, founders of the Iowa 80 Group.
Accepting the induction award for Leland James was John O'Leary, President and CEO of Daimler Truck North America, which owns Freightliner. Earl and Lillian Congdon were represented by son Earl Jr., grandson David Congdon, and family of Old Dominion Freight Line. Bill and Carolyn Moon were represented by their children -- Will, Delia and Jill and their families. Guests were greeted at the ATHS home office by six Freightliner trucks (1949, 1955, 1964, 1975, 2002, 2022), provided by Gully Transportation, and a new Old Dominion truck, courtesy of Old Dominion Freight Line.
ATIL Hall of Fame Chair Tom Mullen said, “We are honored to induct such great pioneers of the trucking industry. The ATIL Hall of Fame is proud to partner with the American Truck Historical Society in their mission to ‘Preserve the History of Trucks, the Trucking Industry, and its Pioneers.’”
Each 2022 inductee has their own great American story. Meet the 2022 ATIL Hall of Fame inductees:
Earl and Lillian Congdon started Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL) with one truck in 1934. Their first shipment was a load of crated eggs hauled from Norfolk to Richmond, Virginia. Lillian ran the business while Earl ran the road, with occasional help from Lillian as a backup driver. The couple’s two sons, Earl Jr. and Jack, were born in 1930 and 1933 and would eventually take leadership roles in the company. Today, Old Dominion is one of the largest for-hire and LTL carriers in the U.S. and one of the few remaining that started before 1980.
ODFL Chairman Emeritus Earl Congdon Jr. (93 years-young) and his son David Congdon, Executive Chairman, accepted on behalf of their parents/grandparents. With a tear in his eye, “I couldn’t be prouder,” Earl Jr. mustered to say upon unveiling the plaque donning his parent’s names that will remain on the wall of the ATIL Hall of Fame.
Leland James founded Consolidated Truck Lines, Inc., in 1929 after consolidating four smaller truck lines under the Consolidated name. James had a vision for the structure of his company. He began purchasing various truck lines around the country, eventually leading to a trans-continental network that was the formula of the company’s success. After failing to find a manufacturer willing to work with the preferred material – aluminum – to produce the cabover, James decided that he would build the trucks himself. Freightways Manufacturing Company was started in 1942, changing its name to Freightliner Corporation just two years later. James was a leader in innovating the trucking industry, and his legacy in the industry can still be felt today.
Upon accepting the ATIL Hall of Fame honor for James, John O’Leary, President/CEO of Daimler Truck North America, shared, “An often-repeated quote from [Leland] James is, 'If you do things right, you'll make a profit — but you have to do things right first.' This was the mindset he brought to the industry as he worked to build a durable, lighter, more efficient truck."
The children of the late Bill and Carolyn Moon – Will, Delia, and Jill – represented their parents at the induction ceremony. Will Moon noted his father's passion for the truck stop business and serving truck drivers, as well as just a love for trucks themselves.
"The deal with my dad was, if you went somewhere, if you went to Disneyland, you also went to something truck-related — truck stops or a convention or an antique truck show," Moon said at the ceremony. "That was just the deal, that was all of our vacations. He loved drivers, and he loved being a truck stop owner."
Moon also pointed to the importance of preserving and honoring trucking history. "Everybody knows the battle histories and the political histories and things like that, but really, what makes America great are the factories and the transports and the people that built things in this country and get things to customers. That is a part of history that somehow gets missed in the history they teach at school," he told the audience.
As a salesman for Standard Oil Co., Bill Moon determined locations for truck stops along interstates. In eastern Iowa, Bill found farmland along I-80 that was six hours from Detroit and Omaha and three from Des Moines and Chicago. He wisely considered Walcott, Iowa, the perfect place for a Standard Oil Co. truck stop, and Iowa 80 Truckstop opened in 1964. Bill and Carolyn Moon leased the Iowa 80 Truckstop from Standard Oil in 1965. In 1984, Carolyn and Bill purchased the truck stop from Standard Oil (now Amoco) and built it into what it billed as the largest truck stop in the world. It is home to the Walcott Truckers Jamboree each summer.
Bill Moon founded the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO). He and Carolyn also started Truckomatic, the truck wash company known today as Truckomat, and introduced CAT Scale, the first totally automated, full-length platform scale that weighed truck and trailer units simultaneously with accuracy. Iowa 80 is overseen by the second generation of the Moon Family and is part of the Iowa 80 Group, which owns several other truck stops and trucking-related service businesses. The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum opened in 2008 as a tribute to Bill Moon. Iowa 80 TA Truckstop is a home away from home for drivers, transforming from a small facility into the largest, most-respected truck stop in the world.
“It’s not about the trucks, the rules and regulations, or even the music,” said Dave Nemo, master of ceremonies and 2021 American Trucking and Industry Leader Hall of Fame inductee. “It’s about the people behind the wheel. To them, we say thank you. We’re here to celebrate history.”
During the ceremony, ATHS also recognized Old Dominion Freight Line (Thomasville, NC) with the 75 years of service company award and MacKay & Company (Lombard, IL) with the 50 years of service company award for their profound impact on the trucking industry.
The ATIL Hall of Fame is made possible with funding from ATHS Visionary Partners, Cummins and Daimler Truck North America; Hall of Fame Participating Partners, Walmart Transportation and Women in Trucking, as well as Individual Sustaining Partners. For partnership information, contact [email protected] or call 816-891-9900. Steve Wilson with Cummins shared, “It was fantastic to be a part of this. What was really touching was to see some of the people who were honored today weeping because of how proud they were to be a part of the Hall of Fame. We are happy to be a Visionary Partner with ATHS – it’s important for us to stay grounded and remember where we came from.”
L to R: 2022 inductees and families: Will Moon (Iowa 80), Delia Moon Meier (Iowa 80), David Congdon (Executive Chairman, Old Dominion Freight Line), Earl Jr. Congdon (Chairman Emeritus, Old Dominion Freight Line), John O’Leary (President/CEO, Daimler Truck North America), and Jill Moon (Iowa 80).