"Never Look Back" Philosophy Was Music to His Ears

Dale K. Craig Learned to Look Forward, Change with The Times

Interview for Transport Topics and the American Trucking Association

By Jennifer Botchie, ATA Web Editor

August, 2002

 

Every Craig Transportation Co. trailer has a large arrow on the side, pointing forward. The arrow is a throwback to the company Dale Craig's father started in 1927, and a fitting symbol for the forward-thinking Craig.

"We cannot look back and solve our problems," he told Transport Topics. "The worst is behind us now. Things change and we must adapt to the changes. It is time to get moving."

Craig assumed the role of ATA chairman in 1984 it was a time when the association needed to move forward. Deregulation had changed the industry, and a new president was on his way to ATA. Craig was ready to not only look forward, but roll up his sleeves and pitch in.

"We've been through a lot. But now we have a new leadership at ATA," he said at the time. "This is in no way a criticism of what has been done in the past. It is just that things do change. I am looking forward to working with Tom Donohue and the ATA staff. There is a lot to be done, but there is no doubt in my mind but that we can and will do it."

Although Craig had roots in trucking stretching back practically to birth, he knew how to change with the times. A 1984 Transport Topics article described how Craig Transportation Co. had survived deregulation and was doing strong business.

The irregular-route truckload carrier originally took a hit after deregulation when the "new guys on the block tore us up on rates," Craig said. However, his company stayed the course and eventually found its customers coming back after receiving less-than-satisfactory service elsewhere. The company also adapted by use of a new electronic data processing system, as well as increasing its sales and tariff staff.

All these changes made at Craig Transportation might have been surprising to Craig's father, the one responsible for putting him on path to trucking. In 1927 Norwood S. Craig decided that, along with a new son, he needed a new venture to supplement his farming income. So he began hauling automobiles and soon added other goods to his carrying repertoire, inspiring the slogan, "We haul anything anywhere." He even built his own trailers using wood side posts and tin nailed to the side posts, Dale Craig said.

From there, N.S. Craig built Craig Trucking Inc., based in Albany, Ind., and became active in the Indiana Motor Truck Association and ATA. He also brought young Dale on board, eventually as a driver during the war years, when drivers were in short supply.


"I started sweeping floors, changing oil and tires, riding with drivers and at 15 started driving truck in Indiana, driving a Mack Jr., delivering freight in Indiana and Chicago," Dale Craig said. "Starting at this young age, through the years, gave me an insight to trucking."

Despite his job, Craig found time for "normal" high school activities such as basketball and playing the saxophone in the high school band. The sax became a second source of income for him; he could earn $2 a night playing for dances.

Music stayed a part of Craig's life. While he served in the Army at the end of World War II, he played at USO dances; when he went to Indiana University, his musical skills and his fraternity put him in contact with numerous big band leaders and up-and-coming star Elliot Lawrence. Craig and Lawrence became fast friends and Lawrence hired him as an advance man and band manager. In this position Craig traveled ahead of Lawrence and his orchestra, promoting them to newspapers and radio stations. That friendship continues today; Lawrence is a member of the board of directors of Craig Transportation and Craig still does some public relations work for Lawrence.

As much as Craig loved music and "the business," trucking was still his first love, and when Lawrence went off the road to become music director of the Red Buttons television show, Craig went back to the road. Having earned his bachelors degree in business from Indiana, he returned to Craig Trucking in 1950, working through the ranks to executive vice president.

Craig's career took a bit of a different turn in 1962; with his father's blessing and encouragement, he sold his interest in Craig Trucking and struck out on his own, buying Hofer Motor Transportation Co. in Perrysburg, Ohio. When Craig Trucking was sold in 1971, Dale Craig quickly adopted the family name and Hofer became Craig Transportation Co.

Like his father, Craig took time to participate in industry affairs. He was active in the Ohio Trucking Association, serving on numerous committees and as state vice president to ATA. He was president and chairman of the Common Carrier Conference-Irregular Route, which he called "a great training vehicle to be chairman of ATA."

Craig also served as ATA secretary, TruckPAC chairman and on numerous committees: the Policy and Finance Committee, Executive Committee, the Blue Ribbon Committee studying deregulation, Regulatory Policy, Nominating Committee and the nominating committee for the ATA Foundation. Most notably, Craig was on the Few Committee and the committee that selected Donohue as ATA president.

Donahue's transition was a main focus of Craig's chairmanship. Craig's three objectives were to help Donohue learn about the trucking industry and its people as quickly as possible, to act as a bridge between old and new staff and to carry the word of ATA's new mission and new plan across the country, Bob Halladay wrote in "Partner In Progress."

"Tom Donohue was exciting to work with," Craig says. "His vision was like mine, 'Never Look Back, Keep Looking Forward.' Tom, working with the ATA chairmen who followed me, made ATA a major player in Washington.

"As the new chairman, we had challenges," Craig adds. "Some state associations and conferences felt they had been ignored by ATA, and ATA was losing its input in Washington and on the national scene. Our challenge was to unite them with ATA and together become a major player for the trucking industry. We needed them and they needed a strong ATA. Their state problems could become national problems."

Craig's upcoming successor, Vern Garner, will be in a similar situation during his term as he will oversee the transition of the ATA presidency from William J. Canary to Kansas Gov. Bill Graves in January 2003. When asked, Craig had some insight to pass along to Garner.

"My advice  would be to unite all of us in trucking. We still have problems, they just change their name," Craig says. "We need to work together in the states, in Washington and our nation. Recent years have been some of the toughest I have ever experienced in trucking. With deregulation, brokerage, logistics, third party operations, intermodal, etc., trucking has changed and the economy has changed.

"Vern came from the bottom up, himself driving truck then running his own trucking company," Craig added. "He has been very active for our industry, and will serve us well. He will be a great chairman."

For his own efforts throughout the years in ATA and other endeavors, Craig has earned several honors: ATA's S. Earl Dove Highway Award, the Interstate Truckload Carriers Conference Past Chairman's Award, the Automotive Hall of Fame's Distinguished Service Citation and the Toledo Transportation Club/Toledo Lucas County Port Authority Transportation Professional of the Year Award.

Today Craig works with sons Lance and Michael in the daily operations of Craig Transportation. He and wife Gail spend winters in Sarasota, Fla., and summers in Ohio; he is also still involved in music public relations.

"Being chairman of ATA was the highlight of our life. Gail and I met the most wonderful people in the trucking industry, something we will never forget," Craig says.

ATA is not likely to forget Craig either, for a lot of reasons - least being his willingness to be in the thick of the action.  "During my year, I made 22 trips to Washington, probably a record for a chairman," Craig told Halladay.

And all the time, he kept looking forward - and taking ATA with him in that direction.