Russell Gerdin, the son of a truck driver who founded one of the most profitable companies in trucking, died Oct. 15. He was 70 years old.
Gerdin founded Heartland Express, a North Liberty, Iowa, truckload carrier, in 1978, shortly before federal deregulation redrew the map of the trucking industry. Deregulation created the irregular route, long-haul truckload carrier, and Heartland Express expanded rapidly in the 1980s, going public as early as 1986.
Today the carrier is one of the most profitable companies in trucking, with an operating ratio of 76.2 percent and a 16.4 percent net margin in the second quarter. Heartland reported a $62.2 million profit last year on $499.5 million in revenue. The company is the 17th largest truckload carrier in the U.S. ranked by revenue.
Gerdin took a leave of absence in January due to poor health. His son Michael Gerdin was named president, CEO and chairman.
Russell Gerdin “was driven at making Heartland Express the best company he could and doing the best at anything he tried,” Michael Gerdin said.