Old Dominion LTL, Virginia Based Carrier, a Success Story

Posted On 5th October 2017

One can learn a lot about the history of transportation and the country from the corporate history of Old Dominion Freight Lines. Today, Old Dominion is a 20,000-employee strong, East Coast based powerhouse common carrier.

It started in 1934 when the founding family, Earl and Lillian Congdon, ran a single truck from Richmond to Norfolk, Virginia. In 1935, Old Dominion received the coveted authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to transport general commodities with no limitations. This was a valuable concession – a mini-monopoly of sort - between the approved points of Richmond, VA and Norfolk, VA. The company continued to expand service options and routes when the ICC would allow.

Old Dominion experienced a period of continued growth from 1935 to 1939. And with the advent of World War II, traffic volume boomed between industrial Richmond and the Navy bases in Norfolk, the key lane where Old Dominion owned a monopoly.

The Teamsters organized Old Dominion’s drivers and attempted to force the owners to become a union shop. The Teamsters led an aggressive strike, but the Congdon family fought their efforts. They closed the original Old Dominion and reopened as Old Dominion Lines Inc., a non-union carrier. This gave Old Dominion Lines Inc. a competitive advantage because of the services they provided (including LTL trucking services) and the flexibility their operations could maintain.

When Earl Congdon died in 1950, his wife Lillian took over the presidency of the company. Her sons Earl Jr. and Jack joined the company and became key leaders in Old Dominion Line Inc.’s growth over the next half century. By 1960, Old Dominion Lines had consolidated its dominant position in North Carolina and Southern Virginia – markets that Lillian Congdon had aggressively expanded into in 1957. In 1962 Old Dominion Lines merged with Bottom-Fiske Trucking and moved its corporate headquarters to Highpoint, NC, while maintaining Congdon family control and leadership.

Between 1969 and 1979, Old Dominion Lines purchased competitors and cemented its dominant regional position. In 1980, with deregulation beginning, Old Dominion started service to the key freight hubs Chicago and Dallas while extending common carrier LCL services to Florida, Tennessee and California.

Earl Congdon Jr. wisely negotiated the challenges and opportunities of deregulation and took the company public in 1991. In 1997, his son David Congdon became the President of Old Dominion Freight Lines. Under his tenure, Old Dominion Lines purchased Goggin, Frederickson Motor Express, and Skyline truck lines. Old Dominion Lines also purchased assets and expanded into Nebraska and the Pacific Northwest – Oregon and Washington. By 2005, the company expanded into Canada, Vermont and the Dakotas.

During their expansions, Old Dominion continues to focus on obtaining more freight inside its existing networks and for its existing terminals. In 2011 Old Dominion, with the growth of E-commerce, expanded into household delivery. Today, Old Dominion operates across the entire North American continent.