JOPLIN, Mo. — When Ursul Lewellen decided he wanted to get into trucking in 1951, little did he know that the one-truck and two-trailer Joplin-based business he launched as Contract Freighters Inc. (later to become CFI) would persevere through challenges including recessions, natural disasters, acquisitions, divestitures and other obstacles. Today, CFI is an operating company of TFI International Inc.
This year, CFI reached its 70th birthday, a milestone few businesses achieve. In late September, the company held a ceremony at its Joplin headquarters to commemorate both the milestone and the journey.
“CFI has called Joplin home since our first day in business, and we have been blessed with strong leadership and dedicated associates who have always represented our company with passion, professionalism and integrity,” said Greg Orr, president of CFI. “That includes a remarkable team of fleet managers, safety and support personnel standing behind a group of professional drivers who continue to be an inspiration and are the backbone of the safe, reliable service we deliver to shippers every day.”
CFI marked its 70th year in business with several events, including the delivery of the company’s 15,000th truck from Kenworth, a 2021 Next Gen T680. CFI bought its first company-owned truck from Kenworth in 1985.
In addition, CFI honored six drivers, presenting them with custom-made trucks and trailers with special graphics highlighting their backgrounds and foundational themes of CFI’s culture. The honored drivers include Ricky and Mary Norman, Michael Woods, Steve Landon, Les North and Albert Arriola Jr.
The Normans received CFI’s 15,000th Kenworth tractor, a Next Gen T680 model, and will operate it nationwide. Together they have run 5.2 million miles with CFI.
Woods now pilots a new 2021 Kenworth T680 that’s outfitted as CFI’s “First Responder” truck. The first responder series features special large-format graphics honoring emergency medical personnel, police and firefighters. He represents first responders around the country as a 22-year EMT and firefighter as well as a 19-year member of the Army National Guard.
Landon, a 26-year Army veteran who served in Afghanistan as a combat medic, also received a new Kenworth T680, this one illustrating CFI’s “True to the Troops” program honoring the nation’s active, reservist and veteran servicepeople and their families.
North, who drives for CFI’s temperature-control division, has served in both the reserves and active duty. He retired as a major from the Air Force. He also received a truck with “True to the Troops” graphics.
Arriola is a 28-year driver who has logged 3.3 million driving miles with CFI. He will pilot the specially logoed, commemorative CFI 70th anniversary Kenworth W990 tractor.
About 14% of CFI’s nearly 2,000 drivers are military veterans. CFI supports a variety of military-affiliated charities and is the national transportation sponsor for Holy Joe’s Cafe, which donates Green Mountain/Keurig coffee to military bases around the U.S. and 70 countries worldwide.
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.