Transportation company marks official date of its 50-year anniversary with celebrations across the country; 5 drivers drawn for 2022 trucks
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Averitt Express recently marked the official date of its 50th year of service with celebrations at its facilities across the country that included special ceremonies, grab-and-go meals and employee prize drawings for a variety of items.
Five over-the-road drivers were drawn at random for the grand company-wide prize – being assigned a brand-new 2022 Freightliner truck. They were Crystal Austin (Hickory, N.C.); Rey Cabigquez (Little Rock, Ark.); Troyshawn Downey (Greensboro, N.C.); Tim Johnson (Charlotte, N.C.); and Rebecca Sanders (Jackson, Tenn.).
The company’s roots go back to 1958, when Thurman Averitt founded the company as Livingston Merchant’s Co-Op in Livingston, Tenn., running dry goods between the town and Nashville. In 1969, he incorporated the company and called it Averitt Express.
While making regular deliveries in Nashville, Averitt became acquainted with Gary Sasser, a 21-year-old dockworker who, a short time later, would become the driving force of the company.
On Oct. 1, 1971, Sasser bought the company, which at the time consisted of two associates, three tractors and five trailers. Today, he serves as Averitt’s chairman and chief executive officer, and the company now employs more than 9,000 people and operates approximately 4,600 tractors, 15,000 trailers and 140 facilities across the country.
“In 1971, I was just a 21-year-old kid who was going to night school, but I knew that I wanted to be in the transportation industry,” says Sasser, who also took logistics training while serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. “I was surprised when Mr. Averitt agreed to sell, and it didn’t take long to face my first challenge: how to make payroll. We actually sold the trucks and leased them back just so we could have some operating capital to give everyone a paycheck. We learned a lot in those early days.”
One of those lessons had to do with the cost of doing business. Sasser is often asked why he never changed the name from Averitt Express.
“The simple answer is it was too expensive,” he said. “By the time we could afford it, the Averitt brand was well-established, so there was no reason to make the change.
“From day one, we surrounded ourselves with good people, people who shared our vision. The industry had a reputation for not being service-minded. We wanted to change that. We sat down as a group and figured out what we could do best, where we wanted to go and how to get there. From early on, we knew we weren’t in the trucking business; we were in the service business. Trucks were just the tool, like computers, telephones and forklifts.
“The two most important things we committed to from the very beginning was to focus on people and service. It’s people who deliver the freight, not trucks. And when our people provide outstanding service, customers trust us with more and more of their business, allowing us to grow. That’s what secures our future.”
As the years progressed, these three elements – Our Customers, Our Associates, Our Future – were chosen as elements of Averitt’s Winner’s Circle. The company’s culture and values built on four core statements still hold true 50 years later:
“Always Averitt” – Building on its unique culture of helping people succeed, including its customers and associates
“Profit Sharing” – Sharing financial rewards with its associates
“Associate Sharing” – Giving back to its communities through Averitt Charities, including Averitt Cares for Kids and the Team Up Community Challenge
“The Averitt Way” – Recruiting the best of the best and promoting from within
“There are four statements of belief that are foundational to our team,” Sasser said. “We believe these statements make our team unique. They set us apart from every other organization in our industry and across all industries.
“The thread that runs throughout these beliefs is our philosophy of ‘Our Driving Force Is People.’ Hiring, coaching and retaining the right people is one of the most important things we do.”
Building relationships with associates is so important that Sasser personally welcomes aboard every new hire. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all new full-time associates were brought to Cookeville for orientation, and Sasser met each one and shook their hands. While health and safety guidelines don’t allow for that today, he still calls each new associate to welcome them to the team.
“October marked our celebration of 50 years as a team, and that’s a milestone we are proud of, Sasser said. “It’s been a team effort, and it will continue to be a team effort as we challenge ourselves to be innovative and creative.
“We like to say, ‘We’re proud of our past and even more excited about our future,’ and that’s because our future is very bright. We look forward to many more successful years and milestones together.”
Several trucking companies across the country are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021, including Hire Master client ContainerPort Group, a top 10 nationally ranked owner-operator drayage carrier.
Five Averitt drivers were drawn at random to be assigned brand new 2022 Freightliners as grand prize winners in the company's 50th anniversary celebration. They are (from left) Troyshawn Downey, Rebecca Sanders, Tim Johnson, Crystaal Austin, Rey Cabigquez. Lower inset, Averitt chairman and CEO Gary Sasser (left) checks on some details with Nashville frontline leader Derrick Jones.