History of Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc.

3820F046-C431-4081-A85F-7A02219AA2D6Six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, RY Sharpe purchased a small trucking company called Pennie Transportation that was going under. Mr Sharpe was no stranger to the trucking industry as he had been leasing his now fourteen truck fleet to Roadway Express. He renamed the business he just bought Pilot Freight Carriers and what began in 1941 was the start of what would later be one of the top 37 trucking companies in the nation.

Pilot began hauling general commodities between Winston-Salem, North Carolina and New York, New York. On December 22, 1943 the ICC approved the purchase by Pilot of certain operating rights and property of Joseph Meltzer Transfer & Express, Inc. ( from ICC Reports, Volume 38 page 803). R Y Sharpe had a brother with another Winston-Salem based carrier named Mitchell Motor Lines that in October  1946 merged with Pilot. By this time Pilot had terminals in   Winston-Salem, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Paterson, New Jersey. Mitchell contributed terminals in Charlotte, NC, Spartanburg and Batesburg, SC and Atlanta, Ga. By 1950 additional terminals were added in Greenville, SC and Hoboken, NJ. Growth in business meant expansion in the state of New York and by early 1953 there were six terminals in the state since about 20% of its yearly $6 million in revenues came from New York.

In 1957 Pilot bought 13 acres of land on Moonachie Avenue in Carlstadt, New Jersey. A 46 door terminal was built to combine facilities in Paterson, Hoboken and New Brunswick. The new location was Pilot’s largest terminal in the Northeast.

Aerial view of the present day building in Carlstadt, New Jersey where Pilot Freight Carriers once had their largest terminal in the Northeast
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Map of Pilot routes before the Arlington Transportation acquisition.

During the decade of the 1960’s Pilot Freight Carriers grew by making more acquisitions and building terminals. In 1959 the ICC granted temporary management control of Arlington Transportation, Inc. a New England based carrier with terminals in Cranston, Rhode Island, New York, NY, Boston, Mass and New Haven, Connecticut. Here is a list of points served by Arlington Transportation that was added to Pilot Freight Carriers territory: Connecticutt: Arlington, Branford, Bridgeport, Center Groton, Clinton, Coscob, Darien, Devon, East Haven, East Lynne, East River, Fairfield, Flanders Village, Greenwich, Guilford, Madison, Milford, New Haven, New London, Norton, Norwalk, Old Mystic, Old Saybrook, Stamford, Stratford, Westbrook, and Westport. Rhode Island- Abbotts Run, Albion, Anthony, Apponaig, Arkwright, Arnolds Mills, Ashton, Auburn, Barrington, Berkeley, Bridgton, Bristo;, Buttonwoods, Centerdale, Center Falls, Chepachnet, Clayville, Clyde, Conimicut, Coventry, Cowesett, Cranston, Crompton, Cumberland Hill, Daulsville, Diamond Hill, East Greenwich, East Providence, Esmond, Fiskeville, Forestdale, Foster, Georgiaville, Gendale, Grants Mills, Greenville, Greenwood, Greystone, Harmony, Harris, Harrisville, Hillsgrave, Hope, Hope Vally, Hopkinton, Hughesdale, Lakewood, Lincoln Park, Lunsdale, Lymansville, Manton, Mapleville, Mohegan, Mount Hope Point, Nasonville, , Natick, Nayaytt, Nousemeck

Another carrier taken over was Bison Fast Freight, with authority between Akron, Ohio and points in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. In the early 1960’s the largest terminal in the Pilot System was built in Kernersville, North Carolina, a small city near Winston-Salem that also had a huge breakbulk terminal for Roadway Express next door to the massive Pilot facility.

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Aerial View of the terminal that Pilot Freight Carriers built in Kernersville, NC between Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

In February 1983 Pilot acquired Schuster Express inc of Colchester, Connecticut. After Schuster lost $1 million the year before they were faced with sharply higher federal taxes resulting in the need to sell out. With the combined company, Pilot would now have 82 terminals.

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After 1970 Pilot was granted authority to serve all points in Florida east and south of Tallahassee. Note the color scheme on trucks have changed from red to white.

Heavy losses, increased competition from new lower cost carriers and the recession caused Pilot to be acquired in the early 1980’s to TNT, an Australian Shipping Company. By September 1987 heavy spending made TNT Pilot the biggest money loser on TNT’s list of 33 US holdings. But the spending thoroughly modernized the carrier after what some called years of neglect under previous ownership. TNT sold a controlling interest in Pilot to Taggart Group.

In December 1988 US Truck Lines bought Pilot and within months closed terminals, laid off employees and began selling assets. At one time the major terminal in Kernersville, NC had 550 employees and by March 1989 only 83 remained. Shortly after that, Pilot Freight Carriers shut down and ceased to exist.

6 thoughts on “History of Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc.

  1. Looking for Pilot Freight Carriers belt buckle. I will pay your price. Randy Thomas 704-296-0113. P.s. I prefer one from late 60s to 1970 please. Two would be better. Leave message …call 24/7

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    1. I have a brass TNT pilot SAFETY award buckle if you are interested. I also have a PILOT Lapel pin. Call Gary at 770-595-3891

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  2. I broke in to trucking with Pilot in Rochester, NY. After weeks of learning to drive semis, I took my road test, driving a Diamond T 931c sleeper. Passed the test for one reason that was the the test examiner told me he’d never been in a COE sleeper. Piece of cake, and lucky enough to use the Cadillac of road tractors for the test, with lots of hours using that equipment for local deliveries.
    Give an arm to have one of those fine tractors.

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    1. What a memory. I stopped by this fine site and saw my comment from nearly two years ago! I had completely forgotten it, which is no surprise these days. I retired from CF twenty years ago, still working in Rochester. I still miss driving, but the labor needed for the job is probably against me. Besides, driving Freightliners can’t compare to Diamond T 931Cs.
      Rick

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  3. Hello,
    My dad worked for Pilot Freight Carriers, I was wondering if anyone had any copies of the “Pilot Wheel” magazine.
    I would like to get a copy of one made. I would gladly pay for it or maybe it could be just scanned on-line. Also there was an article about “FAW Brothers” my daddy, Uncle Charles, and Uncle Rudd all driving for Pilot. I appreciate any help. Thank you! Kimberely_Faw@msn.com

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