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Title: Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Outlaw, John Thomas, interviewee
Interview conducted by Tullos, Allen
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 120 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-00-00, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0277)
Author: Allen Tullos
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0277)
Author: John Thomas Outlaw
Description: 153 Mb
Description: 33 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 5, 1980, by Allen Tullos; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980.
Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Outlaw, John Thomas, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW, interviewee
    ALLEN TULLOS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ALLEN TULLOS:
… about some of the early memories you have about where you grew up or about your family background and circumstances, occupations that your parents or grandparents might have had, things like that. What comes to mind when you look way back?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
My family was a very close family, a large family. My daddy had two sets of children. She died at childbirth, and they had had three children. My mother was the second wife, and he had three children, and I was the youngest of the three children. He was a man that really loved the family and knew how to provide well for them. I can recall so well the family picnics we had as a child, going out at ponds—we had, back in those days, public ponds—to swim. And I recall that he so often would not only carry us out there, but he'd invite friends to go with us as a group. Another thing that's outstanding in my mind is when I was a very young child, our families used to have a reunion at my mother's old homeplace, and it was on a very beautiful river bank called South Edgetow([unknown]) River. Each family would carry its own tent, and we'd camp out there together during the summer months for a family reunion.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long would that last usually?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
That would last two or three weeks or more. The menfolks would come and go to work as they had to—there was always men there—and the wives and children would stay there as their husbands would come and go. I remember one time during that period of time they would have a big barbecue, and they always had black servants that were there to cook. And they would prepare a pig and dig a ditch to barbecue him. Then the next day the distant cousins would come and have an all-day celebration. It was a lot of fun. My daddy had any number of businesses. He was a person that had many, many abilities, and he did well in his lifetime. Unfortunately, he died when I was nine. But

Page 2
he had a dredge business, and I think he owned the first truck that ever was in Columbia, certainly the first dump truck. He built homes, and he did excavation work. He built dams. He had three farms, two sawmills. And all this was going at the same time, and, as I say, he loved the family, and he always liked for me to go with him. I was too young to go to school at that time, so certain memories are very vivid in my mind to this very day. Unfortunately, he died at a time when he didn't have everything organized. My mother I don't think had ever written a check. We had a very big, beautiful home, and it burned when I was ten. And at eleven years old I had this disease called osteomyelitis. It's a bone disease, and it took about five or six years to get it back in shape where I could walk. After that I was almost a grown man. So during that period of time I was very inactive and missed school and that type of thing. I graduated from Columbia High School and then went to the University of South Carolina. But due to a lack of finances and also my sister and I were the last to leave home—the rest of the children had married and left—she just would not get married as long as I was going to school, and so I stopped because I wanted her to get married. So I did not finish the University. Then I took some business courses and night courses at the University of South Carolina in traffic and went to work with the C. C. Pearson Company. It was an organization of wholesalers of groceries and fruits and produce.
ALLEN TULLOS:
About when was this?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
This was about 1936 or '37, and then about 1939 or '38 I went to work with the South Carolina Highway Department in the Traffic Division. And there I learned something about traffic, that is, freight rates, and I worked under Mr. W. L. Glazer, who was one of the top traffic men in South Carolina, and learned a lot there. By that time we were getting ready for war, and so he taught me enough information about traffic that I was able to organize

Page 3
the Truck Rate Bureau of South Carolina. The South Carolina Legislature had passed, about 1941, a Truck Act which was very similar to the Interstate Commerce, and the carriers down there were very slow about complying with that, and so they gave an ultimatum that they would have to have the tariffs in by a certain date. And it was that time they employed me to publish those tariffs and set up a rate bureau known as the South Carolina Motor Carriers Truck Rate Bureau, which is still in existence today. After being in South Carolina for a couple of years or three, it was rumored that North Carolina was going to also require a truck act. And a committee of the carriers up here came down and liked what they saw, so they asked me to come up to this state and set up a rate bureau. And at that time it was set up more or less for specialized haulers. When I came up, the lady heading the North Carolina Motor Carriers' Association, but at that time called the North Carolina Truck Owners' Association… It had not had a man executive secretary for something like ten or eleven years. So she told me that she would like very much for me to have in mind when I came to probably take over her work, too, because she was tentatively planning to leave to get married. So she did, and the board of directors at that time did employ me in the capacity I am today. They started off calling me a secretary, and gave various names at different times. Thinking in terms of the association, I understand that it started in Charlotte in about 1929. There was a group of carriers over there, and the names that I recall were Buddy Horton; it was called the Horton Motor Lines. And then there were the Barnwell brothers, and they headed up another organization. And all the other names I'm not too familiar with, but later that became Associated Transport, and Buddy Horton became chairman of the board, which at that time it was the largest motor carrier in the United States. In 1929 it was a very loose organization, and it did not take on the form of an organization until it moved to Raleigh in 1932. They employed a fellow by the

Page 4
name of Wilkes Horton, who stayed with them just two or three years. He was an attorney, and he ran for the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina and resigned, and the organization was without a male head of the organization until 1943, when they employed me to take over their work. The association in 1943 had approximately 100 members and had an income of about $5,000 a year. It was during the War, and no transportation was available. And they offered me a salary that, really, there was not enough income to pay it, without me getting out and beating the bushes. So immediately after taking over, I started riding the bus all over the state and selling memberships in the association. I recall the first trip out. I was new in the state and really didn't know a whole lot about it, but I took a map and I spotted the members on the map, and east of Raleigh we only had maybe eight or ten members, and the rest of them were to the western part of the state. So I caught a bus out and went to Nashville, North Carolina, and got off the bus and asked two or three people where this certain truck line called Barnes Truck Line was. They said it was out in the country about a mile or a mile and a half. It was a real hot day, and there was no transportation so I walked out there to his place of business. Mr. Roy Barnes was his name. He was a rather tough character. He was not easy to do business with, but some way or another I was able to convince him he ought to join the Association and that was my first sale.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How would you have approached him? What would you have said?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
The Association was right dormant. It hadn't really done anything outstanding. And my whole projection was what we were going to do. And till this very day I've found out that it's not what you have done, it's what you're planning to do that will either sell or not sell. It's not your accomplishments. So I began to talk about setting up a rate bureau

Page 5
and the need for additional weights in North Carolina. And we needed to get into a safety program, and we needed to organize our (a?) sales group and accounting group and maintenance group. And this was the approach that I had at that time. I had a briefcase, but I don't think there was anything in it but a pencil and pad to make notes with. I must have done a pretty good job, for the fact that he asked me where was I going next. He knew I was out in the country; he saw I had no automobile. I told him I was going to Rocky Mount, and he told one of his drivers to carry me to Rocky Mount. And I went on to Rocky Mount. They had some little tiny busses at that time—I guess it was because of lack of transportation—and I caught one of the little busses over to the Henry Transfer Company. Mr. Henry was a very large, outstanding person. He immediately recognized the fact that we could do something if we got organized, and so he joined the Association. I sold several memberships while I was there. I went on down then to Wilson. There at Wilson I called on any number of carriers. The one that comes to mind is Forbes Transfer Company. And I walked out to the edge of the town and thumbed down to Goldsboro. And this was somewhat repetitious; from then on I was doing that all over the state. But then some of the carriers that knew what I was doing either felt sorry for me or wanted to help me, so they would tell me, "If you will come at such and such a time, I'll be able to set aside a day, and I'll work with you and I'll help you sell." One of the outstanding people I worked with back then was a fellow by the name of Wilson. He would actually set aside a whole day, and we would just call on one person and then the other, and we did a lot of selling. Another person that was most outstanding and helped me get the organization going was Mr. Nathan Strause up at Henderson, and he was made president the following year, 1944. He set aside a whole month to work with me, and he knew a lot of the

Page 6
carriers because a lot of these carriers were lease independent operators, and we would work all day and right on into the night. We've sold lots and lots of memberships that way. This is the way the organization went. It kept growing, and as we gained momentum it was easier to sell, and then we, at times, were having people wanting to join the Association. We had very low weight laws in 1943. We had 40,000 pounds gross weight, and our length law, I believe, at that time was forty-five feet. And gradually over the period of many years, as different legislatures, we would get the weight law increased, get the length law increased until now we have right at 80,000 pounds gross, with a length law of fifty-five feet. Those are some of the things that just run through my mind. I'm just chatting. May be you have some questions there that you might want to give me.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let me go back and ask you a little bit about this first group you mentioned. I think you called them Associated Transport?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was that in some way trying to do what you as a state organization later did? Was that an early effort at this, or was that just a haulers' business?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No, the reason why I mentioned them was that Mr. Horton was the first president of the North Carolina Motor Carriers' Association. I think he had the vision of taking seven or eight of the largest carriers and forming a truck line, and that way he felt confident that sooner or later the truck lines would all be large and there'd be practically no small ones, and he even made that statement at one of the meetings that I recall so well, that the day for the small carrier was over. And he was entirely wrong in that, but I think that was the main purpose, to organize and to become like a railroad, for instance, of enormous size and handle all the business.

Page 7
ALLEN TULLOS:
So that's what Associated Transport was. It was a combination of several …
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Truck lines.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they try to carry out any of these functions that your organization would?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No, they were operated just like a truck line. There was no competition between us and them; they were members just like any other group was.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about other parts of the country, comparing the developments in South Carolina and North Carolina to how the same phenomena took place in other parts of the country?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
South Carolina when I left there was considered a much stronger association than North Carolina. They had done well; they had a good association manager. His name was Bill Love. He thought that I would be a good association manager, and he told me when I was head of the Motor Rate Bureau that "You ought to head up one of the state associations." And he made several feelers around, but nothing came of that other than he'd put the thought in my mind that maybe I ought to try to get a job as an association manager. When some of these carriers in North Carolina operating through South Carolina learned that North Carolina had in mind passing a truck act up here, they then approached me about coming up here to set up a rate bureau. Within six months I was also made head of the state association, and then they combined the two together and made it into one organization.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was the Rate Bureau a function of the official state government?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No. A truck rate bureau is for the purpose of getting together the carriers to publish rates, charges as to what they will haul a commodity or commodities for. And to comply legally with it, the state has regulations as to how a tariff should be put together, and it's very well drawn out as to

Page 8
what would be expected of the carriers in filing their rates. Most individuals would not be able to comply with that regulation, because you'd have to have some expertise in rates, plus the fact you'd have to have a mimeo machine or some duplicating machine or that type of thing, and of course the smaller carriers would not have it. The Commission also wanted these rates filed into one tariff, so a shipper, instead of having to look at 500 tariffs, would have everything in the one tariff. The Commission sponsored this legislation, and the carriers reacted and complied with it by setting up a rate bureau, and I was in charge of it. A rate bureau is made up of as many carriers as want to participate in it. It's not compulsory in any respect. But if you have the authority, then the Commission requires you to publish rates. So they were encouraged to set up a rate committee, and that way you elect a committee of the carriers that participate in a particular tariff, and then they are for the purpose of getting together and reviewing what the individual carriers would want in the way of changes in the level of rates. And after the tariff is published, then if they need a general rate increase across the board, the carriers would then meet, and the proposal was submitted to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and then the Commission would either approve it or disapprove it, and whatever the Commission arrived at in the way of a rate, the charges for the motor carriers were published.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How early was it that the state decided that there should be regulation of trucking?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
In 1947. 1935 was when the Interstate Commerce Commission Act was put into effect, on a federal basis. And then it was not until 1947 that the legislature in North Carolina passed it. One thing of interest would be that the railroads, of course, were the cause of the Interstate Commerce Commission being formed, and that was done about 1887. The railroads had

Page 9
grown by 1887 to a very substantial operation, and there's no question about it, they were responsible for the growth at that time of our country. They had great competition where there was lots of big cities, but in the rural area, like through North Carolina and other southern states, there'd maybe just be one rail line or one road coming down maybe the eastern part of the state and one to the western part of the state. But the competition got so keen between the major railroads where there was the larger towns that they would get down to the point that the out-of-pocket cost was just not there; they actually would lose money. But then in this area where there was no competition, they would up those rates, so you had the rural areas paying for the competition of the big cities. And so rural people mainly just went up in arms about it, and then by 1887 Congress heard their cries and they enacted the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Interstate Commerce Commission controls the railroads even up to this very day. But by 1935, the motor carriers had, because of the Depression… The railroads were not adapted to shipping in small lots, and another thing, they couldn't move it out to a place of business after it got to the rail head; somebody had to pick it up with a wagon or truck. And the trucking industry first did a lot of the business of picking up the freight and delivering it from the rail head to the receiver or the shipper. Then, as time went on, the motor carriers, in particular during the Depression, fitted right into that, if a shipper wanted to get a small lot of something instead of getting a whole carload, he would ask for maybe a few hundred pounds. Well, they'd send this little truck over, and he'd pick it up and carry it to his place of business. The motor carrier industry, in my opinion, really did get its beginning during the Depression. Then going back to the early twenties, North Carolina was one of the first states to think in terms of paving roads,

Page 10
and by 1921 the state had established a system of roads to every county seat. These were not major highways like you see today, but at least it was a paved slab going from one point to the other. Because of that, the motor carriers soon learned that they could get from one point to the other, and one of the first freight lines, I guess, to move anything of any consequence was the Fredrickson Motor Express at Charlotte, and they moved freight from Charlotte to Hickory, North Carolina. These outlets became their major operations, and then by the time the War began the railroads could just handle so much freight. And there was such a tremendous need for raw materials and then the finished product moving to its destination that they'd use the truck kind of as a conveyor belt. They got the materials in, and the motor carriers would make delivery to the plant where the item was processed or manufactured, and it came out as a finished product at the other end of the plant, and then the trucks would take that and make distribution of it. So the trucking industry grew from the Depression to the War, and then after the War it came out as a major industry.
ALLEN TULLOS:
A lot of the truck lines actually got their start with particular single individuals having one truck?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes. During the Depression, so many of the men graduating from universities and all could not find anything to do. Persons like Grier Beam, who now is the owner of Carolina Freight Carriers. He bought a pickup truck, and he would go to Florida and buy produce and fruit and bring it back to Cherryville and sell it. He had finished the State University here in Raleigh, and that's the way he got up([unknown]). Doc Thurston finished at Carolina, and he bought a pickup truck and started moving in this area, and then grew fast enough that he has made a truck line out of it. I think Grier Beam's operations went from there to now a computerized operation. I believe it's

Page 11
about $300 million they expect to do this year. Malcoln McLean's organization grew from his driving a truck to New York himself to now the McLean Trucking Company. He doesn't own it, of course, but McLean Trucking has 16,000 units. So we went from a very small beginning, and most of the companies that survived did real well. Of course, we had thousands of them that didn't survive, but it took a lot of hard work, a lot of ingenuity. There's one thing that's right interesting, that not all of them are well educated by any means, but those that were not educated, some of them did about as well as those that were.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
By that time, I believe [Governor] Aycock had gotten a bond issue through for the highway system for $100 million. And then shortly after that is when they paved a road to each of the county seats. I think that's the reason why you see that jump from 1920 to 1925.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And the real significant one, too—I guess this was when trucks were just beginning to get started—between 1915 and 1920.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
That's right. A person was more or less buying a truck just to haul freight around town, just purely within the city itself, or town.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They'd take something from a warehouse to a railroad line or to a store?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Correct. Then from 1940, from 87,000 up to 100,000, that's quite evident the War was responsible for that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
There was that big leap between '45 and '50, kind of post-War, where the number of trucks again doubled.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
That's right. By that time industry began to use the truck, as

Page 12
I said, to feed the raw material in and move the finished product out. Like North Carolina being a textile state, the cotton was moved into the processing plants and made into either fabrics or thread, and then the fabrics were moved to New York, and then, after being manufactured into clothes, they were moved back to North Carolina.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When do you think it was that the textile companies themselves began to buy their own trucks? Some of them have their own truck lines.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
That has been so gradual that I don't think you could even stipulate a time. Each company had its own way of just gradually getting into it, but I would say from about 1945 the textile companies began to use their own trucks. But they have always used for-hire trucks, too, to supplement their fleets. The reason is that the textile people would naturally move freight where it was most beneficial to them, and a lot of times it was from warehouse to warehouse. And they could get a two-way haul out of it back and forth. But then when you began to cover like the state of North Carolina, they couldn't have very well afforded to have a truck to just run making a distribution from one point to the other. And the for-hire industry would take the freight and does today and make distribution of it to all parts of the state.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let me ask a question that shows more my lack of knowledge about the industry than anything else. In the railroad industry, there are these old issues about freight rates and basing points and advantages which certain cities … Say, even within the South, Atlanta got a certain sort of an advantage, and then Charlotte got some basing point kind of advantage. Is there a similar thing in the trucking, where a particular city might be given a little special favor or, because of the way that the rate structure developed, certain cities became the centers for the trucking industry more than others

Page 13
would in North and South Carolina?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Now you cannot discriminate. Back in the early days when the railroads were in their heyday, so to speak, and to protect the large movements of freight up in the New England areas, they had preferential rates for that part of the country. And they were higher down this way, as I mentioned earlier, but not quite in this manner. It was 1947, I believe, it was, or in that vicinity, that the southern governors got together and sued the railroads, and the courts ruled that they could not discriminate, therefore, in the future. Rates would be the same in both areas. But for a long time they had had these differential rates that were very preferable [preferential] to the Northeast. After that was done, that's when the textile industry moved south and began to grow and to flourish as we have it today.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would there have been anything like that at all in the trucking industry earlier([unknown])?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No, because after the Truck Act of 1935, whatever the carriers' rate was on different brackets, like from ten-mile brackets on up to 500 miles or 1,000 miles, any shipper that was moving anything in any of those brackets would have the same rate. Now the carriers can have a different rate in there, but that carrier cannot show any preferential treatment or give anything to one shipper that they would not give to the other, any preference of any kind.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Again, because I don't know very much about all this, would there be rate differentials depending on what was being hauled in the truck, the difference between hauling, say, yarn and hauling finished apparel?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, surely. The basis for a rate is determined by any number of things, but just two or three of them: one would be the value of the product; and then the density of the product; and then the distance involved. So these

Page 14
are some of the basic things that determine the rate. We have what we call a national classification, and this national classification takes all the commodities that are moved—which is something well over 300,000 items—and instead of having a rate for each item of the 300,000 items, they classify these items. It's broken down on the basis of 100, and the rate gets broken down on the basis of first class, second class, third class, fourth class, fifth class, right on up. If an item of a value would fit into, say, the fifth class, then that item would be put under the fifth class. And the rate base there would be on a basis of mileage, and then the distance would be applied against that particular rate, and that's the way you would arrive at the total cost.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did that happen very early, these combinations of factors?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, it did, because otherwise it would have been impossible to keep track of all the thousands of items that move.
ALLEN TULLOS:
In the 1930's or as far back as you have ever heard about, could you talk about contoversies or political arguments or advocacies within the trucking industry? Would there be traditional kind of issues that would be coming up, either that you would have to deal with the legislature about or with other groups about?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes. Getting into another field, just to broaden out the subject a little bit, when you get in your car and you go from one state to the other, when you pass over the imaginary line from South Carolina to North Carolina, you are not aware of it at all. But when a truck goes from one state to the other, the state must know that that truck is coming through. Before that truck goes, the individual carrier has to provide information that this truck is going to buy so many gallons to get it through the state. And they do that by a method of requiring a report from each carrier as to the vehicle

Page 15
itself and the number of units they have that are operating within the state. Then they keep records of the miles involved, and on that basis, for each mile you travel through a state, you have to buy an equivalent amount of fuel. If you don't buy it in there, you still have to pay the tax as if you did buy it in there. Then the license fee has always been a real problem for the fact that again, when you put a license plate on your car, you can go anywhere in the country you want to. But with a truck line, we now have allocations made, and we have different methods of taxing for the license, such as the ton-mile tax in the State of New York, where a truck pays on the basis of moving one ton one mile, and that's the basis of the charges for their license up there. In Ohio, it's the actual mile tax. And in North Carolina at one time we had the gross-recipts tax. It's still on the books, but today everybody pays a flat fee. To try to overcome the great variety of charges, the industry—and I've done right much work in that field—has come up with what they call an international registration plan. It's purely based on the miles that a truck travels within a state. For instance, in North Carolina, a carrier that… By the way, all of this is on a voluntary basis. A state doesn't have to join. In fact, we only have twenty-six states that belong to the international plan. But if they belong to it, let's say in North Carolina, we'd go down to the Motor Vehicle Department, and the Motor Vehicle Department would determine what states I was going to operate through, and then they would figure the miles of last year that the vehicle(s) travelled in that particular state. And then you would apply that as an individual truck, the cost involved for the miles involved per truck, and you'd pay the Motor Vehicle Department for your license in North Carolina. And they in turn would also collect for the other states that participate in it and send their fees to them, but you can use just only the North Carolina

Page 16
license. It's quite an advantage to have.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How early did these kind of issues appear in the industry?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
From the very beginning. I recall so well that back right after World War II, the federal government and the President of the United States had asked all states to eliminate all restrictions on trucks as to requiring licenses and that type of thing to go through, make it as easy as possible because they had to get the freight moved. So as soon as the War was over, these states quickly realized that here's a source of revenue that we're not even touching, and so they began to apply license fees against these trucks.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And those had been there before the War.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, they had been there before, but it wasn't enough movement then to be of any real consequence. The great distances of a truck moving was not too much involved. Tennessee was one of the first states to start requiring a license. Then some of the other states would say, "Well, you have so many trucks going through here, and we want you to buy a full license." It was just a hodge-podge of different things. North Carolina was a trucking state, because, for some reason or other, we did get ahead as far as the motor carriers were concerned, and we had more carriers really operating long distances domiciled in our state than any state in the nation. So we were more than just interested; we had to do something about it. I was on a committee that met in Atlanta, Georgia, with the other southern managers' association, and we decided that we just had to get the governors to intercede for the fact that each of the highway commissioners or the motor vehicle commissioners had complete authority to charge anything they wanted to. There was no way to break around that; if you want to operate through there, you just have to pay the full bill, more or less. So we

Page 17
got the governors to call the motor vehicle commissioners together—most of those handled the licenses in the various states—and they met and at that time worked out what was called the Multi-State Agreement. Here in the South we really were greatly benefitted for the fact it was operating almost as full reciprocity. If you did buy a license in North Carolina, you could then operate into any of these states that were part of that agreement. Some of the other states like Michigan and Maryland liked the idea, too, and so they joined in with us, although we called it a Southern State Agreement at the time. We later changed it to the Multi-State Agreement to incorporate that so it wouldn't have a southern name.
ALLEN TULLOS:
About when was that?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
That was in the late forties and early fifties.
ALLEN TULLOS:
This early advantage that you're talking about that North Carolina had, when would that have actually been visible, in the thirties? Already by that time you could see the fact that there were more trucks here and more trucking …
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No, I don't think it was until after World War II that North Carolina was recognized as a trucking state. I think up to then no one would have even paid much attention to how many trucks were in the state. They just were not important up to that time.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Charlotte has emerged somehow to be a kind of trucking center. Why has that been?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I don't think anybody really knows why Charlotte became a trucking area except the advantage in the early stages of the paved highways, because Charlotte was a big city, and of course there was a lot of commerce in and out of there, and therefore the carriers in that area. There was a lot of individuals that bought trucks and started operating. And Charlotte is right in line with Atlanta, Georgia. In your mind's eye, probably you think

Page 18
in terms of going down the East Coast to get to Atlanta, Georgia, but from New York down Charlotte is right in line with it. Then because North Carolina had this advantage of good roads here and these carriers operating, as the other states joined in and tied in with our highways, our carriers then were able to operate very easily into the other states. And I think that in the other states, because they did not have the highways we had, the trucking industry didn't grow as fast. We had already had the experience of moving freight from one state to another, before the others got started. That's just my estimation about it. The man that was really back of this Multi-State Agreement for the southern states was Walter McDonald. He was blind, but a very progressive person. And I remember hearing him tell the story that one time that he was the commissioner of Georgia, he had a funeral to leave Georgia to come to South Carolina, a whole procession, and when they got in South Carolina the Highway Patrol stopped and arrested everybody in the funeral and tied it up. And they got in touch with him, and he in turn got in touch with the South Carolina officials, who got them released for that particular time. But that's how [Laughter] independent each state was during those years.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Real interstate traffic, like you say, didn't start to develop until after the War, at least heavily.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Not to the point you would recognize it as an outstanding industry. It just grew without hardly being noticed. In fact, it was so slow that the railroads paid no attention to the competition. They wouldn't even admit there was a trucking industry. They could have easily gotten into the trucking business if they'd wanted to, but they just didn't consider it worthwhile.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there some early pioneering figures that are worthy of special mention or attention in North and South Carolina?

Page 19
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
You mean individual persons?
ALLEN TULLOS:
Yes.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
It depends on how you think of it. I would think every president of this association would have been considered a pioneer, thinking in terms of the industry. By the way, we do have all the pictures and the past presidents out here on the wall. Uncle Johnny Wilkinson was another pioneer of the trucking industry. He was a household mover, and that company has the number one Interstate Commerce authority as far as household movers are concerned. Mr. Charlie Fredrickson's company was the first freight line that was recorded to move freight from Charlotte to Hickory, and I believe they have the number one certificate for the State of North Carolina, intrastate. Certainly Mr. Malcolm McLean would be considered a pioneer. All of these gentlemen that I mentioned started before the thirties or in the thirties. He built a very strong organization. The story is told on him that I had friends tell me about that it was his brother-in-law; Malcolm, when he first started operating, he was operating on such a close margin that he would borrow his credit card to buy fuel from here to New York. I think his had expired for the lack of payment of fuel or something.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And as you say, there must have been a number of people who did try that and had a bad break and just failed.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes. And finally North Carolina grew to the point that they had enough substantial carriers that it was considered the trucking state as far as the East Coast was concerned, and probably the United States. And I have heard two different Interstate Commerce Commissioners say that North Carolina had more long-line carriers domiciled within this state than any other state in the nation. That is not true today.

Page 20
ALLEN TULLOS:
We haven't talked about any South Carolina pioneers in the same way. Can you think of any?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I remember M. D. Hicklin there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where was he from?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
He was from Columbia, South Carolina. His brother now is Mr. Alec Hicklin, and he's from St. Matthew's. I think they both started in business about the same time, but Columbia did much better, grew much faster in the common carrier field than the other brother.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And it's called Hicklin?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
It was M. D. Hicklin in Columbia. It's now grown to be the Southeastern Freight Lines. And the Southeastern Freight Lines, there were two men working for M. D. Hicklin. Most of his business was in the oil business, but he then had the common carrier authority, too. He decided to retire, and so he sold the business to C. L. Fuller and W. T. Cassels. W. T. Cassels took the dry freight, and the other one, I think, took the oil company. W. T. Cassels now operates the Southeastern, which is the largest domiciled truck line in South Carolina. And C. L. Fuller, I don't know exactly the size of his operation.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about in the Greenville-Spartanburg area? Are there any in that?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
There are now, and it would be best for me not to try to get into that, for the fact that I really don't know names like I should because I've been away from there so long. But there is at least one ig there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You say "there are now," as if that hasn't happened but recently.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
It's happened since I've been here in North Carolina. At Greenville there are not a lot of big truck lines at all. Just one.

Page 21
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let me ask another question that reflects more my lack of information. In trying to understand something about the truck drivers a little bit, I can imagine a question that would have to do with the fact that most of the truck line owners seem to be in the category of small- to medium-size businesses.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And I guess then they began to hire drivers pretty early, some of them, and others more recently. What about this whole question of unionization within the trucking industry and its relationship to the Motor Carriers' Association?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Since we do not deal with the unions at all in this association, I have very little knowledge and operating interest in it. I'd like to just talk about the driver himself. Starting back, of course the individual drove, and then he would buy a truck and get someone else to drive it. There were no regulations on safety or anything else at that time, either pertaining to the truck or the driver. So when World War II came on, there were literally thousands of drivers out there, and the Army and the federal government didn't feel that this was a profession they would give any exemptions to, so they just took all the drivers and put them out on the battlefield and left nothing but 4-F's and people of the kind that maybe you wouldn't want to work for you to drive. And they did a pretty good job of it, because the freight did move. But after the War the industry knew that it was absolutely essential that they get these men off the highways and put qualified people on. So the industry thought in terms of having a truck driver training school to help with that, and by 1949 Ed Ruggles and I—Mr. Ruggles was head of the Extension Division of the State University—decided that we'd try to get a truck driver training school in connection with the University. So we were able to, and it was the very first in the

Page 22
United States. But getting back on the drivers after the War, the carriers …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
… place, and the different carriers began to set up what they called safety departments, which at that time was a very mediocre-type thing. They would either get a driver or they'd get a highway patrolman or get someone to head up the department. And they'd take that particular person and try to give him as much safety training as they could. Then they would depend on that particular individual in the company called the safety supervisor to do the hiring and firing of drivers. And working in with the school at the same time, working towards improving the driving on the highway system brought about the name that later became right famous, the Knights of the Highway. And people respected the truck driver for his ability to drive and also the way that he drove as a gentleman of the highway. Emily Post even wrote a little book about the manners of a professional truck driver. So they did make a very fine name for themselves. And these safety men in North Carolina got together then and, with encouragement from the Association and me, organized the Safety Council of North Carolina. It was one of the first in the United States, and then other states began to do the same thing and improve their driving. Our program was, of course, limited. We'd moved along far enough that we decided we'd have a contest between the states to see who was really doing the best job among the state associations. They set up a trophy to be won by the most outstanding one, and so our men were doing such a fine job that we won the first trophy. In fact, we run it three or four times, and it looked like we were going to win it every time, so they changed the system, and now

Page 23
they award what they call the Summa Cum Laude Award, and any state that carries out the entire plan gets awarded this particular plaque. Most every part of the program in the safety field that is now nationwide started here in this state because the safety men were thinking ahead and putting different plans into effect. And usually after they were tried out, the American Trucking Association, through its national committee, would adopt them as the national plan.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Talking a little more about the drivers of the trucks, can you go back again into the twenties and thirties and say anything more about them? Would it be more common for someone who was driving for a company then to have owned a tractor, or would it have been more common for them just to have hired on for a year or two or by the job? What were those early drivers like, who did not really own their companies, but who were just …
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Driving for someone else?
ALLEN TULLOS:
Yes.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
They were just right off the street. They'd go in and say that they wanted to drive, and probably without any training or with any test of any kind they would start driving. A lot of times they would just drive within the city itself, and then later on would get outside of the city, and then on outside of the state. But the chances are that these individuals were persons that actually didn't know anything about driving. Their knowledge was completely limited as to even how the vehicle functioned. But, some way or another, they came through. And the braking system at that time was extremely inadequate. They first had the same types of brakes that the automobile had. But that wasn't strong enough and efficient enough, so they started out with a vacuum brake. And the vacuum brake worked real well when it worked, but it was never always secure. It never was a thing

Page 24
that they could absolutely depend on. And then after that they went to the air brake like the railroads have on the trains, and that …
ALLEN TULLOS:
Can you date those changes at all?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I'm just not that close to it; I really am not. Now another thing that came along with safety was the maintenance. There was no such thing as preventive maintenance. Just greasing a truck, like you do an automobile, would be about… And no records kept at all. And now there's highly sophisticated information on each unit. A trucker that's really on the ball, they know the miles of the truck, and at intervals they will pull the truck in to give it an overhaul. At certain times they bring it in, of course, for greasing and so forth. But it's all done on a very systematic basis, and some of the companies even keep track of the tires. They know exactly how many miles are on each tire, so it's very complex.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let me go back for information's sake and see if I can get you to tell me about this question of unions, just from the point of view of someone who doesn't know anything about it. Are there large union memberships of truck drivers in this state?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, really …
ALLEN TULLOS:
When did that begin, and how large, and so on?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
The Teamsters were actually team drivers of mules and horses in the northern areas, not in the southern areas. And as the truck came in, instead of a man driving mules or horses in New York City and that area, in those big cities, he then got a job driving a truck. They replaced the wagon with a truck. And that's how they got the name "Teamsters". And this type of thing was more or less only in the very large northern cities. Then as time went on and the industry grew, the truck companies of North Carolina that went into the northern area, they would not let them unload

Page 25
or load unless they had union help. And then they could put the pressure on that they would not unload them unless they had a union driver. So it meant that any carrier in North Carolina having equipment go up that way would have had to get… I'll give you a right interesting thing that happened over a period of years. The unions would not let you drive a truck into New York City… They went through the Holland Tunnel. They had drivers on this side of the tunnel, and when they got there our driver would have to move over, and the union driver would drive it through the tunnel on the other side, and they'd charge twenty-five dollars at that time. That was tremendous money. And that was done for year in, year out, and finally after a whole lot of procedures and efforts they finally got rid of that. But then the union did move into Atlanta, Georgia, and other places, but we do still have a large number of carriers in North Carolina that are not union. But those that do operate real frequently and a lot into Atlanta and to the northern area.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How early are you talking about when the first North Carolina truck drivers would have been Teamsters? Was it after World War II?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I believe, frankly, that I don't remember a union driver before World War II. It could have been, but I don't think there were.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Have there been any organizing efforts within the state itself?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Oh, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
None that you can remember before World War II?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I don't think so. I imagine there were some drivers that were, that operated into New York City. In fact, I know there had to be, pretty well, so there were some, but it was very limited. And today, from the overall([unknown]) standpoint, carriers that operate within the state of North Carolina are not unionized, and those that operate into the various major areas of

Page 26
the country are unionized.
ALLEN TULLOS:
One other kind of direction would be the other sorts of industries that came out of the trucking industry. I'm thinking of things like mechanics and machinery, repair people and equipment servicing and all of these kinds of industries. Could you talk any about the growth of those related… Or do companies make it traditionally a practice to conduct those things themselves within their own company, or are there specialized servicing mechanic companies?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Starting back with more or less the Model T Ford, naturally most any man that had a little adaption to being a mechanic could almost fix a unit. And when the operations began to expand into different areas, this light equipment just couldn't stand great distances. So the trucking industry, we'll say in North Carolina, a carrier would probably have three or four places to repair his own equipment or at least have it maintained, say from here to New England, New York. It was just understood that the truck was going to break down in those days and have flat tires and so forth, so the carriers began to think in terms of how to prevent that. And then they began to make demands on the manufacturers for bigger and better equipment, which the manufacturers did supply. And the equipment then started off with the gas motors, and in as little as 50,000 miles they'd have to have an overhaul. And there were always repairs to be made, and that's the reason why a number of carriers would have any number of different maintenance places up and down the highways. At least they would make a contract with a garage or something to fix their equipment. And then came the diesel, and the diesels, almost from the very beginning, could operate 100,000 miles without any major repairs. And now today they have diesels that operate way above 300,000 miles without any major repairs. And usually then they bring

Page 27
them in because of the distance they've travelled, and they have what they call preventive maintenance. All the diesel records are kept, so that they know exactly what is being needed to be replaced. For instance, if a carrier is having a problem with a certain thing about a tractor trailer, they could tell the manufacturer right quick, "Well, this item is breaking down on this unit, and we want you to give us some help here." I have known manufacturers to send their top personnel to a company to review and see the operations and go over it and correct problems that come about. Just like in the safety end of it, where the Safety Council was formed, by the early fifties it was necessary to form a Maintenance Council within the Association, and that Maintenance Council still meets now on a monthly basis, more or less in Charlotte for that area, and then a few years ago we organized another Maintenance Council around the Triad Area, and we have one that was organized two years ago in the eastern part of the state at Wilson and Rocky Mount and that area. But these men get together, and they have the very top engineers to come down, and if they're going to have something new like a fuel pump or anything that needs to be explained, where the individual's got to work on something they are not accustomed to or know something more intricate about a certain part of a truck, they send these people in, and they lecture to them and give them the full background on it. And, too, if any of the carriers are having a problem in safety or maintenance or whatnot, they can talk among themselves and get information. They're very free with this type of thing. Now the Interstate Commerce Commission, of course, besides regulating rates, regulates accounting and that type of thing, and we organized an Accounting Council within the state in the late forties. And these accountants get together, and quite often the Interstate Commerce Commission would issue an order that maybe would be absolutely impossible to comply with, or such and such a thing that would not be a reasonable way

Page 28
of arriving at a certain line item, the cost or whatnot. So these members will form a committee, and they'll go before the Interstate Commerce Commission representing either this Association or a group of carriers and very often can get it modified or changed, so they do a very good job there. The Sales Council… Back in the old days, anybody could be a salesperson. In fact, they'd just call and say, "Do you need anybody to haul?" or something like that. Now we have very fine young men calling on customers with real knowledge of their company and real knowledge of their rates, and they're professional salesmen. And we have a very large Sales Council and a very outstanding one.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And that's one that works for the industry as a whole.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes. It's made up of individual companies with their salesmen, and they come together for seminars and councils([unknown]) of that type.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about the existence of any manufacturers within North and South Carolina of trucks or trucking equipment? Would that come about?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, the Corbett Company at Henderson started, I assume, in the late twenties or in that vicinity, and they built a very fine unit. The company was owned and operated by the Corbett family, and they manufactured hundreds of units. Then during the War they manufactured the Army trucks, and they manufactured ambulances and any number of different specialized… And busses, by the way. And then I've never found why, but for some reason or another, as the family got older the company began to subside, and so they went out of business right after the War, I believe it was. I think in one or two places the equipment is still being operated. A fellow by the name of Johnson over at Charlotte started with the company as a boy, and he has some beautiful pictures in …
ALLEN TULLOS:
What is his … [Interruption]

Page 29
ALLEN TULLOS:
… relationship with Allen.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Are there other companies besides Corbett that you can think of in the Carolinas?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
There was one trailer company that did a pretty good job of building trailers in Charlotte. I can't think of their names. They went out of business just a couple of years after I came up here, and they sold out to Trailmobile, a trailer company. I'm sure that in talking to Thurston or some of those other men, they would remember him.
ALLEN TULLOS:
The only other thing I can think of would be to get you to say just a little bit about something you have touched on a time or two, the fact that this industry did not become on where there were just a handful of large companies, but it has apparently a pretty diverse and large-numbered group.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes. Actually, in North Carolina we have now over 500 carriers that operate within the state and are domiciled within the state and are regulated by the Utilities Commission. Then, in addition to that, there are something like 3,000 independent operators that drive their own trucks. We have a large number of private carriers in North Carolina, and in North Carolina we have better than a million trucks, but that does include the lightweight trucks.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Is it probably because you can start up, compared to other industries, with less of an initial investment that would keep this from being an industry that just had a few companies in it?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I'd say anyone that has a company and has to move freight, if he has enough to warrant buying a truck that he can buy it and move his own merchandise. However, if you were going in the business and you were going to serve other people, you would have to have authority. But the Commission has always been very generous about granting authority, and therefore the

Page 30
main thing would be to convince the Commission that your services were needed. Because if you've got 500 carriers within the state in all of those specialized phases of operation, just to bring in another carrier to put another piece of equipment… It's not any more freight. All freight moves every day that needs to be moved, so when you add trucks that are not needed you just add to the cost to the shipper, because somebody's going to have to pay for the operation of those vehicles. One thing, too, a truck is never moved unless somebody else wants it to move. A company doesn't buy a truck and drive around for pleasure. [Laughter] And therefore, as long as the shippers are satisfied and the receivers and satisfied, then the trucking industry is doing the job that is essential. We do have in North Carolina now a situation where the Interstate Commerce Commission is giving up its authority and now is moving into deregulations, and of course the intended purpose was never to deregulate, but to protect the public through regulations. And the President of the United States is behind this movement, and this ultimately will cause the disruption of the fine service that I'm sure that we have today. It will break it down where it will be like the airlines. Did you see that production the other night?
ALLEN TULLOS:
I know that story, though.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Well, that's the way it will be. Unfortunately, it's going to happen. There will be some deregulations, and there's going to be some great adjustments, and it's going to be very costly to the shipping public.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Can you think of any other reasons that we haven't touched on why there would be such a large number of carriers and it hasn't become monopolized?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I think it's due to the fact that right now, if you wanted to go in the trucking business, you could go down to the Commission and get an exempt commodity authority—that is, if you want to haul for somebody else—and then you could take that statement from the Utilities Commission that you're going

Page 31
to haul exempt commodities. Or you could lease a piece of equipment to some other carrier that has the authority. Get your license. And all you'd have to do is submit your driver's license for your automobile there, because we did not have classified licenses up until recently. Now they are more strict about that, but still it hasn't developed to the point that it'd be much of an effort on your part to be able to get your truck and move it. Now once you buy your truck, you then can rent that truck to anybody else you want to. If you rent your truck in total to a private carrier as if it were his own truck, then you could still own that truck but then the private carrier would use it as its own. Or you could take your truck and lease it to a for-hire carrier on a trip basis or on a permanent basis, and do the same thing. So the individual, once he gets a truck he's got to get it paid for, and the payments are high, and therefore quite often there's a lot of cheating going on of hauling freight that's not exempt. And a lot of carriers can get started that way, and then later on buy some rights or get authority or get a shipper to state that he needs the service and get in on that basis.
ALLEN TULLOS:
One final thing has occurred, thinking back over some of the interviews that we have done with people in the textile industry. There weren't very many blacks involved in the textile industry, but the ones that were involved oftentimes did things like driving trucks; they were haulers of goods from one point to another. I was just curious about whether or not blacks then got involved in the trucking industry and if there are any significant black-owned carriers.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
There are several in this state, but I don't know why they didn't choose to get into it. Apparently it didn't cross their mind about organizing a truck line. There was a family named named Bell over at Jackson who operated a number of trucks. The father then died, and he had a sawmill and

Page 32
a farm and a truck line. He gave Thomas Bell the truck line, and he gave another son the farm, and the other one the other business. And Thomas did a good job. But it just was a matter of not getting into it; anybody could have gone into the business that wanted to, and I don't know why they didn't choose to do it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
There wouldn't be any among the top ten or twenty or thirty or forty carriers.
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
No. They apparently just were not interested.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would there have been any kind of effects of discrimination as there were, say, in the textile industry that kept the blacks on the outside of the mill instead of allowing them to go in?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I don't think so. I never knew of that, because none of the truck lines do have almost all blacks. It would vary, but generally speaking the truckload flatbed carriers that haul cotton and fertilizer and tobacco, a lot of those drivers are black. And I think the reason is that most of that is a rural type of commodity, and there's just more blacks over there in the farm area, and that's the reason why they have them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
As a last question, do you have any sort of speculations about where the trucking industry is going now, with the price of fuel and things like that?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Well, it's one thing for sure: there will never be any less trucks than what there are unless there's a new type or new form of transportation that comes along. The future is beautiful and brilliant for the trucking industry. The method of operations can change and will change—I'm sure of that—but trucks are here to stay, and they will continue to operate on the highways, and they will continue to move the freight. And as industries grow, the trucking industry will grow likewise. Now in what shape or form a company will be in the future just remains to be seen, but I feel like without regulation,

Page 33
if it does become deregulated, that it will be fewer and fewer carriers. And they will be like the railroads; there will be just a few big ones in the United States. Some small ones here and there roundabout.
END OF INTERVIEW