Motor Truck Equipment Company Celebrates 90 Years of Service

October 2023

CARLISLE, PA…. Motor Truck Equipment Company, headquartered In Carlisle, Pennsylvania is celebrating their 90th Anniversary.  Founded in 1933 by John “Jack” Eldridge and Fred Lloyd, Motor Truck Equipment sold wheels, rims, brake drums, and accessories from the back of a one story brick building in the Allison Hill area of Harrisburg.  Before long the company outgrew their back room and moved to Cameron and Walnut Streets in Harrisburg.  It was through sheer grit and determination that John Eldridge survived his first year in business as well as the Great Depression.

In 1934 Motor Truck Equipment Company was appointed as a Fruehauf distributor for Central Pennsylvania.  The company remained a Fruehauf dealer until Fruehauf ceased operation in 1996.  When 1936 rolled around, Motor Truck Equipment Company was flooded with 6 feet of water in what would prove to be the worst flood that Harrisburg had ever seen.  Cleaning up with  the help of their employees, the company was back up and running within a week.

In 1943 a new facility was constructed at 1603 Cameron Street to accommodate Motor Truck Equipment’s growth.  Another milestone occurred when the company was appointed the Thermo King dealer for 17 Central Pennsylvania counties.  To date, Motor Truck Equipment is the second oldest Thermo King dealer in the United States.

It was during the 1940s that a man named Earle Mitchell joined Motor Truck Equipment Company.  Earle was the son of Herb Mitchell. Herb was an NHL hockey player and the first coach of the Hershey Bears AHL franchise.  By 1950 most of the company’s business revolved around Fruehauf trailer sales.  Labor rates were $3 per hour and employee wages were 70¢ per hour.  The company employed 3 people in the parts department.

The decade of the 1960s saw a lot of change for Motor Truck Equipment.  The company became a dealer for GMC and Brockway trucks, launching them into the truck business.  In 1966, Earle Mitchell became President and COO.  With Jack Eldridge’s death in 1969, the company’s future was uncertain. Earle Mitchell and 5 other employees purchased the company from the Eldridge estate.  In the years to come, Earle Mitchell would buy out his other partners, the last being Jay Barrick when he retired in 2000 with the Mitchell family then becoming the sole owners of the Motor Truck Equipment Company. 

1968 was also a pivotal year for the company when they became a Kenworth dealer, offering their customers the “World’s Best Truck”.

Earle brought his son Gary into the company in 1970, asking Jay Barrick to train him.  1972 was another trial by fire when they were once again flooded, even worse than the first time, destroying everything, including the checkbook.  Earle went to the bank, taking out a bunch of cash so he could float (no pun intended) his employees until the next payday.  Once again, with the faithful employees pitching in to clean up, Motor Truck Equipment was back in action within a week.

The 1970s was a time of prosperity for the company and in 1976 a  second branch was opened in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.  In 1983 a new facility was built at 198 Kost Road, In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, housing the Kenworth and Fruehauf franchises.

Earle Mitchell retired in 1984, passing the leadership of the company to his son Gary, who opened another branch in 1989 in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. Gary’s son Tim joined Motor Truck Equipment in 1991, working over a decade in many different departments of the company before becoming Executive Vice President in 2004.  In the decade that followed, Gary and Tim grew the company, opening additional branches in Clintonville, Shartlesville, York, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania and also adding a PacLease franchise.  The goal was to make the network of facilities more accessible so their customers wouldn’t have to travel far for service.

Gary retired in 2014, naming Tim Mitchell as the President of the company.  Under Tim’s leadership new locations were added in McKees Rocks, Muncy, and Allentown, consolidating all of their Kenworth dealerships as “Kenworth of Pennsylvania”.

When asked to what he attributes the company’s success, Tim replied, “Our employees.  It’s all about people.  If you have happy employees, you have happy customers.”

Today Motor Truck Equipment Company has 10 locations and employs over 300 people, some of whom have been with the company for as long as 50 years.  There are 4 distinct divisions to Motor Truck Equipment Company: Motor Truck Thermo King, Motor Truck PacLease, TRP Allentown, and Kenworth of Pennsylvania.

With the help of their loyal employees, the Mitchell family looks forward to serving Motor Truck Equipment customers for a hundred years and beyond.