0xSword Origins: What Lead A Young Trucking Exec To The Metaverse & Web3?
I’ve been getting increasing questions about my background. It’s not easy to summarize a journey that started over a decade ago. There’s never been a time where I’ve had to summarize “how I got here,” or even write a resume that collects my work history in one place. I suppose I’ll start here…
Growing up in a trucking company along Famous Route 66 in the 90’s was an interesting experience. Grandma & Grandpa started with one truck and were able to expand rapidly with easy access to credit. Dad lead the mechanics in the shop while Mom did the book-keeping. Grandma ran operations and kept an eye on me as everyone worked at the expanding transportation company.
In later years I was mentored by my Grandmother & taught how to handle business decisions and treating people. My earliest memories are in that office space where drivers would come through and play with me as they waited for their next delivery. Trucking is a strange industry where belly size indicates success and there is little benefit to wearing a suit. Curse words were normal.
The earliest days of transportation started in the 1920’s along these very same routes. Famously known in later years, Route 66 had limited companies able to operate on it. Operating Authorities granted rights to a few select transport companies and often acquisitions were used when a company wanted to expand into new territory. It stayed this way until President Carter in 1980.
One of the most influential & powerful companies (that you’ve probably never heard of) was built during this time. Carnegie Steel and other notable organizations were transporting their goods through a company with a funny logo & motto, started the same year as Route 66 began to gain attention. The company was called Campbell 66 Express, their motto: “Humpin’ To Please.”
In 1926, Campbell 66 Express began acquiring operating authorities in the midwest and other areas. They would absorb companies, ultimately becoming a huge transportation line that lasted until the deregulation period of the 80s. The employees of this line are getting older across the United States. Grants have been made by cities and states to record the stories for future generations.
Operating in the heart of America, it still is common when talking to older individuals for them recall grinning at the funny motto as they’d see the trucks pass by. A variety of different goods were transported by these trucks to cities being built in the “fly over states,” and they were commonly seen each day passing by. They were popular for their company-wide newsletters.
The Campbells were especially well-liked by employees and the companies they acquired, and famously in the newsletters, “Camel Tracks,” the family that ran the company was seen mingling with drivers. Sharing boat rides or picking up a wrench to help mechanics, these are foundations that the trucking industry is built on. Veterans all agree: Executives had to work too.
This type of work ethic is incredibly fulfilling. It was shared with me from an early age that I should understand every facet of operations, that I should get my fancy boots dirty, and even my designer jeans in later years weren’t above getting oil-stained if the job demanded it. The Campbells built their legacy over the course of many years until they could not continue further.
Famous figures such as Brad Pitt’s dad became involved with the company in it’s final years. Still to this day, it’s said that the family does not like to talk about the company. Which is a shame, because I think it’d make a great movie for the film star to feature in. The company’s assets became spread during the final stretch, even criminal cases were opened against the Campbell’s successors.
Throughout the 90’s there were rocky roads for what remained of the company, all the assets & trailers became spread across the US, left abandoned and creditors unable to reclaim them. Still to this day they are being uncovered, many with loads of items inside that were never delivered, parked on backroads or in the woods. Hundreds, perhaps thousands exist.
The company and assets are an interesting story, which is where I come into the equation. I’ve never introduced myself as “The President of Campbell 66 Express,” because the title offers little credence in this day and age. The line has no assets, no trucks, no operating authority — There’s little beyond it’s corporate registration & trademark to be found. But it’s mine, I’m the president.
My ambitious and hardworking family in the midwest acquired the corporation and trademark after the company closed it doors. Bill Pitt had the chance to claim it first, but wanted nothing to do with the company; the owners responsible for it’s downfall were jailed. And so, my family came to acquire the famous trucking company that now only exists in memory.
For most of my teenage and adult life, I’ve considered how to revive the company. The hard part is how difficult credit is to acquire now. Grandma’s fleet reached ~200 trucks, dad’s fleet was able to get to ~75 semi trucks. Mine however peaked at 8 semis, which was very difficult to keep running.
When one or two trucks has maintenance problems in a large fleet, the loads can be redirected and powered by other units. When a small fleet of only 8 trucks has maintenance problems, the loads have to be cancelled — I graduated in 2010, and credit opportunities were harder to find. Dad in the 90’s was able to buy trucks using credit cards; each of my units cost ~ 80k.
Grandma closed her doors during the 2008 recession, at the same time as new regulations were going into place that limited emissions related to global pollution and political changes. A perfect storm of new credit regulations made it difficult for many fleets with less than 500 trucks to survive the economic conditions, during this time a mass industry consolidation began.
Smaller fleets that wanted to survive began to haul loads for “mega-carriers” that handled directing the drivers. It’s said that trucking today “isn’t like the old days,” and here is the reason why. Mom-and-pop type companies were forced to haul underneath larger authorities still able to access large amounts of credit. Buying used equipment often meant breakdowns & great trouble.
For someone like me, who’d envisioned resurrecting a trucking company and being on the cover of “American Trucker” magazine, this was a devastating set of macro circumstances. Dad’s smaller fleet managed to survive these years by switching to a “lease to own” model, where drivers were responsible for the payments. Instead of managing a large fleet, I learned to sell these trucks.
Drivers on average in the industry spend around 6 months at a job, then moving to a new carrier or opportunity. That’s the nature of the industry as a whole, and there are great debates on how to increase retention rates. Well, drivers that were with me spent 2 years paying their trucks off. Generally they had no credit, poor driving history, but they were highly motivated to own.
I sold them on a vision of owning their trucks, and we successfully made this happen for many. It was hard, and one of the primary aspects of my job working for dad was to answer phone calls in the middle of the night. A driver would call, pissed off and ready to quit, and it was my job to talk with them and ultimately keep them on the path. Frequent follow-ups were required!
If a driver felt ignored, they’d leave the truck on the side of the road. This meant that performing at a high level was required, from first phone call to final payment, it was necessary to check in daily & weekly with many of these drivers, to remind them of what they were working towards, and help them accomplish their goals, even on weeks where they were having a hard time.
There were some snags along the way that ultimately caused Dad’s fleet to be closed down. Daily management of the office and fleet was my responsibility, and I operated with a small skeleton crew to manage ~ 72 trucks on the road. Emissions laws that were enacted between 08–12 came into full enforcement, so as we upgraded our units, untested technology was put on the road.
I’d sell a new unit, get the driver in, and it was likely that within 200 miles of the office, I’d receive a terrible phone call. Trucks began to break down and within a short time, more than 20% of our fleet was spread across the country in maintenance shops. Many drivers were given a bus ticket home, and even worse, the parts needed to fix the units were unavailable or on back-order.
Ultimately, our operations on Route 66 came to a halt. All trucks were ordered back to the lot, and the doors were closed. My days of running a fleet were finished, and ultimately my Dad moved to Hawaii where he worked as a concierge at a Hyatt Regency. A small trucking dynasty was shuttered due to the credit crunch and emission regulations. Doors & opportunities shut.
In the years after our company fell, I ran a computer repair company as a way to cover my bills, and I began to create websites to share knowledge about the trucking industry & opportunities for drivers to get ahead. Teaching other people how to be successful is something that anyone can do, anon, and regardless of their current circumstance. I held classes for small fleet owners.
Oftentimes my clients had assets & credit to invest in their truck fleets, but lacked direction. I found that my straight-forward approach was effective for getting them to take action. Often my clients had multi-million dollar fleets and were trying to retain drivers and sales talent, so training became my primary income. The industry has continued to consolidate however…
The current state of the industry is even worse than before, companies have continued to place their trucks under larger “Mega-Carriers,” who are responsible for filling the trucks with drivers. Smaller fleets are shrinking, an number of aging owners are unable to pass their companies to their kids, as credit availability has not recovered. Small trucking families are nearly gone.
And that journey has led me to Web3. As the “President” of one of the oldest trucking companies that few remember, I’ve discarded my dreams of yester-year, and I’ve found an interest in Apecoin DAO and it’s future impact.