Consolidated Motor Lines was one of the eight trucking companies that merged together in 1942 to create Associated Transport, Inc. Like Associated, Consolidated was formed earlier by swallowing up other carriers until it was one of the largest trucking companies in New England. This is the story of that company, as well as the brainchild of a father and son team with the surname Arbour.
Joseph Arbour began his career in 1907 with one horse and a converted fire wagon and began hauling freight from the New Britain, Connecticut railroad station to local factories. Later he bought another wagon and two more horses. In 1911 he made his first merger by buying the business of John Halverson. In 1914 he bought his first truck. His early experience with motorized transportation occurred during the era of solid rubber tires, trucks with no windshields, and a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour over roads with mud and holes.
From 1913 to 1930 the fleet grew from one truck to 70,
His son, Everett Arbour, joined the firm in 1916 and the name of the business changed to J. Arbour and Son.
In 1928 United Arbour was formed when Joseph and Everett Arbour joined Harold C. Davis to operate touted north to Hartford, Springfield, Providence and Boston as the Arbour operated south to New York City. At that time the newly merged company had 25 trucks. Soon after, terminals were added at Bridgeportand New Haven.
In 1930, the trucking industry began to see its future. A culture of dominant carriers, the idea of growing through merger, and the evolution of family pioneering in the industry began to unfold. The Arbour family set out to strategically form a plan to create a massive trucking company, the likes of which the growing industry had never seen, First, another trucking company was acquired, this time it was Woodland Express Company. Then, on May 26, Consolidated Motor Lines, Inc. was created to merge the businesses of Joseph Arbour and Sons, United Arbour Express and Woodland. The new company would have 125 trucks in its fleet. Everett Arbour was elected Chairman of the Board, and Joseph Arbour would be President of the Company. While there were 9 terminals initially, plans were already announced to extend the system as far west as Detroit and south to Washington, DC.
In 1932 the company leased terminals at the following locales:
- New York, NY 255 West Street
- Bridgeport, CT 2 Main Street
- New Haven, CT 450 Quinnipac Street
- Waterbury, CT 192 Meadow Street
- New Britain, CT 56 Whiting Street
- Hartford, CT 449 Wethersfield Avenue
- Springfield, MA 79 Page Boulevard
- Boston, MA 15 Battery Wharf
- Providence, RI 189 Charles Street
In 1937 Simpson Transportation Lines was added to the firm which by this time was as far west as Buffalo, New York. By 1940 Consolidated was operating 600 trucks and trailers, from 79 terminals and had 1500 employees. Also in 1937 two other carriers were acquired. They were Ralph’s Motor Express and Thompson Motor Transportation Company. New terminals were built in Newark, New Jersey Hartford, Connecticut and Norwich, Connecticut. Additions to existing terminals were made at Boston, Springfield and New Britain.
in 1941 it was announced that the largest single order for trailers from Fruehauf was made by Consolidated, with 158 new trailers to be added to the fleet.
A new terminal was announced for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1942 to be constructed at 4021 G Street.
A plan for a massive trucking industry merger was announced in the early 1940’s. A new subsidiary called Transportation, Inc. was formed with a plan to gain control of about 20 trucking companies in the east. Yes, Branch Motor Express was one of the companies to be included in this plan. More on this massive plan to be derailed in a later article in this blog!
The Interstate Commerce Commission held hearings about this big take over and decided that it was not to be allowed. But that did not stop the Arbours from creating the biggest trucking company at the time! Just two years later, from initially wanting 20 companies to come together, this time it was eight, with Consolidated being one of them to form Associated Transport.