Patrick E. Quinn, a former attorney who built a billion-dollar trucking enterprise with partner Max Fuller and helped develop and promote a broad vision for trucking and transportation policy in the U.S., died Dec. 13.
The co-founder of U.S. Xpress Enterprises, the fourth-largest truckload carrier in the U.S. by revenue, succumbed to brain cancer at age 65. He was one of a generation of leaders credited with redefining trucking in the era of deregulation.
As his career advanced, Quinn developed a long view of transportation that transcended trucking’s boundaries, as he assumed leadership positions at the American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association.
From 2006 through 2008, Quinn served on a congressionally appointed commission that tried, unsuccessfully, to break the gridlock over long-term infrastructure funding in the U.S. The commission’s findings still underlie that debate.
“He was the full package,” said Jack Schenendorf, a Washington attorney who was vice chairman of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. “He brought a bigger dimension to our discussions than just a narrow focus on trucking. He had much broader views on transportation and was able to help find the sweet spot where we could come up with recommendations.”
That broader view evolved at U.S. Xpress Enterprises, where for 26 years, Quinn and Fuller had a unique partnership, sharing responsibility and authority at the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company. Trucking has many chairmen, but few co-chairmen. Together, they built U.S. Xpress from a 48-truck operation in 1985 to a company with approximately 8,500 trucks and $1.6 billion in revenue in 2010, according to financial data supplied by transportation research firm SJ Consulting Group.
Along the way, they tested and rolled out groundbreaking technology that helped transform trucking, raising service standards and shipper expectations for truckload carriers much as FedEx and UPS did for the expedited package business.
Fuller, in particular, pushed the envelope on technology, from early onboard mobile communications systems to early use of the iPad in trucking operations. Describing their partnership with his characteristic humor, Quinn once said, “I make the money, and he spends it.”
“Pat was a tremendous business partner, and he had a real passion for working to make a difference in our industry,” Fuller said. “We could count on each other to divide up the leadership responsibilities. Both of us knew our strengths.”
Quinn began his career as an attorney in 1971, arguing cases for motor carriers that wanted expanded authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission, including a Chattanooga company called Southwest Motor Freight run by Clyde Fuller. He hired Quinn as general counsel in 1977. After Fuller sold Southwest in 1984, his son Max and Quinn established U.S. Xpress. They started the company with $100,000 apiece. The carrier first passed the $1 billion revenue mark in 2004.
Quinn was a candid, insightful executive who would willingly discuss difficult topics, such as the need to raise driver pay and truckload rates, even at times when his customers and some of his own salespeople probably weren’t eager to listen.
“The shipping public is due for some sticker shock from trucking,” Quinn said in early 2010, when trucking was just beginning to pull out of the recession. He also acknowledged driver pay would have to increase significantly. “I don’t know what we can do but pay them more for the difficult job that they do,” he said in 2010.
Quinn was ATA chairman from October 2005 until June 2007. “Pat Quinn was a remarkable man who devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy in support of the trucking industry he loved,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., appointed Quinn to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission in 2006. The 12-member commission, one of two formed by the 2005 surface transportation spending reauthorization law called SAFETEA-LU, was tasked with finding ways to resolve the infrastructure funding impasse on Capitol Hill. The committee itself ended in political impasse, with a majority, including Quinn, calling for a 25- to 40-cent-per-gallon increase in the federal fuel tax opposed by a minority led by then-Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.
“Pat’s participation … was one of many examples where his knowledge and passion for transportation brought him to the forefront in his service to the industry and nation,” Graves said. “He will be greatly missed.”
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.