On July 8, 2019 FreightWaves’ Mark Solomon reported that New Penn Motor Express (“New Penn”), one of three U.S.-based regional less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers controlled by YRC Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ:YRCW), that it would close its corporate offices in Lebanon, Pennsylvania after 88 years, and consolidate operations there with YRC’s Field Resource Center at the parent’s Overland Park, Kansas headquarters.

Prior to that announcement, what was the company’s history for the 88 years leading up to its consolidation in 2019?

New Penn’s early history

New Penn was founded in 1931 by Henry Arnold and Floyd Early. The company was originally founded as New Pennsylvania Fast Motor Express and its initial focus was to provide next-day service between Lebanon, Pennsylvania (which is about 90 miles from Philadelphia) and New York City. Despite rough roads and the difficult economic conditions during the Great Depression, New Pennsylvania Fast Motor Express thrived during its first few years in business. When the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) began regulating the trucking industry in 1935, New Pennsylvania Fast Motor Express was one of the first companies to seek a certificate of authority. The company was initially granted interstate authority, and operational authority in New Jersey followed shortly thereafter.

New Penn tractors and trailers ready to hit the road. (Photo: Stanley Houghton Collection)

The company was incorporated in 1936 with the original partners as officers and stockholders. By 1937 the fleet had grown from the original two trucks to include 22 tractors and 30 trailers. Arnold took complete control in 1945 after a complete reorganization of the company, at which time the company had grown to 26 tractors and trailers in use. Arnold became the company president and treasurer and served in those capacities until his death in 1976. New Penn first hauled commodities such as gas masks, road maps, nuts and bolts, steel castings, clothing and other miscellany that even included live rabbits. 

Mid-century changes 

Growth continued steadily over the next 30 years. The company’s name was shortened to New Penn in 1957. By the 1960s, New Penn had terminals in Jersey City, New Jersey, as well as Easton, Harrisburg, Reading, and York, Pennsylvania, as well as its home terminal in Lebanon. The company slogan was “New Penn Motor Express Inc: Big Enough to Service You – Not Too Big To Know You.” 

By 1962, New Penn was operating a fleet of 160 tractors and 180 trailers servicing New England. The ICC granted the company permission to purchase Long Island Transportation Company, which more than doubled company operating authority within its three-state operating area and permitted an overnight transportation service. By 1965, New Penn operated 400 tractors and trailers and moved roughly 500 million pounds of freight annually. Business was booming and New Penn was able to continue opening new terminals, including terminals in New York City and Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. In 1971, New Penn extended service through Connecticut, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts. In 1972, New Penn went public. Operating revenues for that year reached $17 million. By 1975, New Penn operated 10 terminals and had grown its service area to six states. 

This photo shows New Penn’s all-green color scheme. (Photo: Stanley Houghton Collection)

The impact of deregulation

Deregulation in 1980 wreaked havoc on many trucking companies, especially those located in the highly competitive Northeast. New Penn was no exception initially, and in the third quarter of 1980, the company reported an 80% drop in profit, from $980,000 to $200,000, in spite of revenues increasing during that time. By 1981, however, it seemed New Penn had gained ground. Earnings in the second quarter of 1981 increased 10% from the same quarter in 1980. In 1982, New Penn attempted to save approximately $250,000 per year by closing down its terminal in Bethlehem Township, citing operational expenses associated with the trek into New Jersey, where several of its customers were located. In that year alone, five nearby trucking companies had gone out of business. New Penn was able to shut down the terminal without laying off any of its employees, who were able to transition their employment to other area terminals. Much of the business from the Bethlehem terminal was transferred to the Reading location. 

In 1983, Arnold Industries Inc., the parent company of New Penn Motor Express, reported record earnings of $60 million. The following year, the company broke its own record, reporting revenues of over $76 million. In 1988, New Penn Motor Express was ranked the 57th-largest trucking company nationally by gross revenue. However, revenues fell dramatically in the early 1990s, with New Penn reporting $25 million in 1992 and $29.9 million in 1993. 

A current New Penn tractor-trailer on the road. (Photo: New Penn)

New Penn acquired

Roadway Corporation, the parent company of Roadway Express, acquired New Penn in 2001 for $475 million. At that time, New Penn had grown to service 12 states including parts of the Midwest and Southeast. The company also serviced Canada and Puerto Rico. The acquisition gave Roadway access to the next-day ground market on which New Penn had established its business. New Penn still operates today as a subsidiary of Yellow Roadway Corporation, which is known as YRC Worldwide.

As a unit of YRC Worldwide, New Penn provides next-day, day-definite, and time-definite regional LTL services. Its service area includes the northeastern United States, the province of Ontario, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

YRC’s other regional LTL trucking companies (Holland and Reddaway) provide one-stop freight service throughout the western, midwestern and southeastern regions of the U.S.