COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Averitt Express celebrated 50 years of operation Oct. 1 with events at facilities across the country, including its corporate headquarters in Cookeville.
“On Oct. 1 and dating back to National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 12-18), the festivities at Averitt’s facilities included special ceremonies, grab-and-go meals and employee prize drawings for wireless headsets, GPS units, gift cards, televisions, iPads and more,” a company news release noted.
For the grand company-wide prize, five over-the-road drivers had their names drawn to be assigned a brand-new 2022 Freightliner truck.
The winners were:
- Crystal Austin of Hickory, North Carolina;
- Rey Cabigquez of Little Rock, Arkansas;
- Troyshawn Downey of Greensboro, North Carolina;
- Tim Johnson of Charlotte, North Carolina; and
- Rebecca Sanders of Jackson, Tennessee.
In 1958, Thurman Averitt founded the company as Livingston Merchant’s Co-Op in Livingston, Tennessee. By 1969, Averitt had incorporated his company and renamed it Averitt Express.
While making regular deliveries in Nashville, Averitt befriended Gary Sasser, who was a dock worker at the time. Sasser asked Averitt one day if he would be interested in selling his company. After some thought, Averitt agreed.
On Oct. 1, 1971, Gary Sasser, at the age of 21, purchased Averitt Express, which consisted of two associates, three tractors and five trailers.
Today, Sasser serves as Averitt’s chairman and CEO, and Averitt Express is one of the nation’s leading transportation and logistics providers. The company now employs more than 9,000 people and operates approximately 4,600 tractors, 15,000 trailers and 140 facilities across the country.
“In 1971, I was just a 21-year-old kid who was going to night school, but I knew that I wanted to be in the transportation industry,” said Sasser, who also took logistics training while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
“I was surprised when Mr. Averitt agreed to sell, and it didn’t take long to face my first challenge: How to make payroll,” Sasser recalled. “We actually sold the trucks and leased them back just so we could have some operating capital to give everyone a paycheck. We learned a lot in those early days.”
One of those lessons had to do with the cost of doing business. Sasser is often asked why he never changed the company’s name from Averitt Express.
“The simple answer is, it was too expensive. By the time we could afford it, the Averitt brand was well established, so there was no reason to make the change,” he explained.
“From Day 1, we surrounded ourselves with good people, people who shared our vision. The industry had a reputation for not being service-minded. We wanted to change that. We sat down as a group and figured out what we could do best, where we wanted to go and how to get there,” he said. “From early on, we knew we weren’t in the trucking business; we were in the service business. Trucks were just the tool, like computers, telephones and forklifts.”
Sasser believes people are the most important assets a company can have.
“The two most important things we committed to from the very beginning was to focus on people and service. It’s people who deliver the freight, not trucks. And when our people provide outstanding service, customers trust us with more and more of their business, allowing us to grow. That’s what secures our future,” he concluded.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.