Donald J. Schneider, the former president, CEO and chairman of Schneider National, died Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76 years old.
For 26 years, Schneider steered the company his father founded through deregulation and built it into one of the largest truckload carriers in the U.S. His investments in technology and diversification of the company from its asset-based trucking roots had a profound impact on trucking and transportation in the U.S.
Schneider National, with $3.1 billion in revenue, is one of three largest truckload carriers in the nation, along with Swift Transportation and Werner Enterprises.
“The transportation and logistics industry has lost one of its most passionate and influential voices,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.
“Don Schneider was a visionary, bringing business acumen and technology to blaze a trail and set the standard in the modern day development of our industry.”
Schneider was born in 1935, the year his father Al Schneider sold the family car to buy his first truck. He joined the company in the early 1950s as a mechanics helper and then as a driver.
He rejoined Schneider as a manager in 1961 and became president of the then $82 million Schneider Transport in 1976, shortly before deregulation reshaped the trucking market. The company survived a wildcat strike by the Teamsters and fuel shortages in the late 1970s to prosper in the open national truckload market created by deregulation.
The company received 48-state operating authority in 1981 and reorganized as a primarily nonunion carrier in 1985. Schneider began making extensive investments in technology.
In 1986, Schneider became the first trucking company to install two-way satellite communication systems in its trucks, ushering in what could be called the era of Qualcomm.
The carrier shifted into higher gear in the 1990s, surpassing $1 billion in revenue in 1992, launching Schneider Logistics in 1993, and passing the $2 billion revenue mark in 1996.
Don Schneider handed the company to president and CEO Chris Lofgren in 2002, but remained chairman until 2007. The decade saw Schneider expand into intermodal.
“Don Schneider was one of the finest individuals I have ever known,” said Lofgren.