C.R. England, Pride, Knight, Swift reps gather for premier of trucking film
OGDEN — You’ve probably seen a C.R. England semi if you’ve spent any amount of time on the U.S. interstate system.
Maybe you’ve seen a Pride Transport truck or big rigs from Knight or Swift transportation.
They are all big U.S. trucking companies, and curiously, the key players in creation of the firms all have roots in Plain City. Some have joked over the years that there must be diesel in the water around Plain City for such a quirk, and that quip figures in the title of a new documentary on the companies and the men behind the firms, who gathered in Ogden for the premier of the film.
“Why did we all spring up from there? I don’t know,” said Gene England, now 102. He’s chairman emeritus of C.R. England and son of Chester R. England, who founded the trucking firm in 1920, now operated with the help of the fourth generation of Englands.
Gene England gathered onstage at Peery’s Egyptian Theater ahead of Wednesday’s screening of “Diesel in the Water: Small Town Pioneers of American Trucking” with sons Dan England and Jeff England, the founder of Pride; Keith Knight, one of four founders of Knight; and Swift founder Jerry Moyes. There, they held forth on the improbable turn of events that gave rise to Plain City’s connection to four large trucking companies, their bonds (even if they are competitors) and more.
“These are the titans of the trucking industry,” Scott Jenkins, the Weber County commissioner and former Plain City mayor, said in introducing the men. Jenkins and Sasha Clark, co-executive producers of “Diesel in the Water,” served as emcees during the discussion with the trucking firm officials.
Dan England, chairman of C.R. England, now based in Salt Lake City, alluded to “that Plain City DNA that we all have” and lauded the small city. “Plain City has been great,” he said.
Knight, who now serves as executive chairman of Knight-Swift Transportation, the parent company of Knight and Swift, which merged in 2017, also noted a seeming bond among the trucking company executives that stems from passion for the industry.
“It’s either in your DNA or it isn’t. I know for all of us, it’s there,” he said.
More definitive explanations, however, are tough to come by, though it all flowers out from C.R. England, the common denominator in the firms, aside from the Plain City connection.
Moyes’ dad, Carl Moyes, had driven a truck for C.R. England before starting the firm that would become Swift Transportation in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1966. The Moyeses, like Chester R. England, are also from Plain City.
Then in 1979, Jeff England, grandson of Chester England and until then an executive with C.R. England, left the family firm to form Pride.
“I felt that I needed to do my own thing,” he says in the film. Pride, like C.R. England, is based in Salt Lake City.
Finally, Kevin Knight teamed with brother Keith Knight and their cousins, Randy and Gary Knight, also brothers, to form Knight Transportation in 1990, based in Phoenix, Arizona. They are from Plain City and had worked for Swift.
Despite the potential for tension since the men work in the same industry and compete, at least to a certain extent, they regard each other as friends.
“The trucking industry is very fragmented,” explained Dan England. That is, there are so many players in the trucking industry, none holding dominating market shares, that company executives don’t have to be cutthroat with one another.
The film, funded by the four trucking firms, is posted on YouTube for all to see. Weber County officials hope to use the story to bolster the entrepreneurial credentials of the county in a bid to lure new business. For those from the four companies, meantime, it’s about noting Plain City’s role in the evolution of four trucking firms.
“We all have our roots in this little community and it’s fun to celebrate it,” said Dan England.