Southern Pacific Railroad History Center


Trucking Subsidiaries of Southern Pacific

Pacific Motor Trucking Company, Southern Pacific Transport of Texas and Louisiana, and Southwestern Transportation Company

As of 1977, B. R. Johnson was president of the Pacific Motor Trucking Company (PMT) (west of El Paso), Southern Pacific Transport of Texas and Louisiana (SPT) (east of El Paso), and Southwestern Transportation Company (SWT), a subsidiary of the Cotton Belt.  Truck service generally paralleled the areas served by the Southern Pacific System, but there were some exceptions.

Although wholly owned by Southern Pacific and the Cotton Belt, the trucking operations were managed independently, and had certified rights in their own names under which approximately of 71% of total revenue was earned from providing service to the public.

Assisting Mr. Johnson in the management of the trucking operations were:

  1. T. T. Edwards, vice president and general manager, San Francisco
  2. D. W. Hildebrand, assistant to president, San Francisco
  3. J. P. Jones, sales manager, San Francisco
  4. F. H. Callahan, traffic manager, San Francisco
  5. D. Humphrey, vice president, Dallas

District managers at Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston.

The administrative offices for PMT and SPT were located in San Francisco and Dallas, respectively.  Accounting services were provided by Southern Pacific personnel headquartered in San Francisco.

The trucking subsidiaries were formed in the late 1920s to provide pickup and delivery of rail traffic, which essentially helped to recover revenues lost to over-the-highway truckers.  In the 1930s, the trucking operations were expanded to respond to further erosion of business lost to truckers.  In 1977, the three trucking subsidiaries operated over 27,048 route miles.  As of January 1, 1977, the following data reflected some of the resources and performance of the three companies (PMT, SPT, SWT, and Totals):

Units of Equipment                             5,099                 1,111                1,481                         7,691

Route Miles                                         15,439               8,640               2,969                        27,048

Number of Employees                         2,729                  762                  861                           4,352

Gross Revenue                          $83,208,519   $30,229,533     $23,552,153              $137,008,665

Gross Rail Revenue                   $23,422,447    $12,231,129      $ 4,042,021               $  39,695,597

Percent Rail to Total Rev.               28%                 41%                    17%                             29%

Generally, PMT’s interstate franchises were not restricted in Oregon, Nevada, California north of Salinas, Monterey, and Sacramento, and east of Yuma, Arizona to El Paso, Texas, including those cities.  In the territory between Yuma and Salinas-Monterey-Sacramento, except within the Los Angeles and Los Angeles Harbor Commercial Zones, PMT’s interstate operating authority was restricted to the handling of freight in substitute service on rail rates and billing.  In addition, so-called key point restrictions applied which, for example, prevented taking any traffic southbound into the Los Angeles Basin or northbound into the San Francisco Bay Area and the Port of Stockton.  Under various temporary authorities from April 1966 to July 1967, PMT provided an unrestricted interstate truck service in and between southern Arizona, California, and Oregon.  An application with the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1967 for similar permanent authority was approved.  A Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity was to be issued and operations were anticipated to commence in August 1977.  The new unrestricted authority would override the substitute service and key point restrictions outlined above and would close gaps in PMT’s current authority between northern California and southern California, southern California and Arizona, and northern California and Nevada.  The new authority augmenting the then existing authority would permit transportation of truck billed traffic over regular routes via major highways between Portland, Oregon and El Paso, Texas, through California, Arizona, and New Mexico and from Sacramento, California to Wells, Nevada, through Reno, Nevada serving intermediate points on described routes and off-route points which were rail stations in most of the counties in California and Arizona served by the lines of railroad of Southern Pacific.  Alternate route authority between Klamath Falls, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona through Nevada serving no intermediate points not otherwise authorized, could be used for truckload shipments between the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.  There were no restrictions on intrastate traffic.  SPT and SWT were full interstate carriers; however, there was a restriction on SPT’s authority preventing a direct connection with PMT at El Paso.

The services provided directly for SPT by trucking companies principally consisted of:

  • Pickup and delivery of less-than-carload (LCL) shipments to the limited extent provided by the tariffs then in effect
  • Pickup and delivery of trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC) shipments
  • Loading and unloading of trailers at TOFC ramps
  • Loading and unloading of automobiles on and off tri-level and bi-level rail cars.
  • Substitution of over-the-road haul of freight, both TOFC and LCL, including mail, for rail service between various points. (That made it possible to discontinue or minimize unprofitable rail service for both freight and passengers in certain instances.)
  • Sub-haul arrangements with contract truckers to transport cotton to compresses; nuts, fruits, and other similar commodities to packing facilities; and canned goods to distribution centers
  • Arrangements with bulk cement haulers for rail to truck transfer and delivery from railheads to job sites.

As a whole, these services were provided by the trucking companies at a cost to SPT substantially less than would be charged by independent truckers.

In addition to the tangible economies resulting from services provided by the trucking subsidiaries for Southern Pacific, there were additional benefits such as:

  • From an operating standpoint, there were reductions in yard congestion by the trucking of cotton; improvement in the utilization of trailers in TOFC service by them for regular truck service to reduce idle time; and increased box car supply for carload traffic by releasing cars from cotton and other short haul carload service.
  • From a traffic perspective, valuable carload traffic remained captured by Southern Pacific by providing terminal unloading and delivery services on freight forwarder and pool carload traffic, and by accommodating shippers with LCL truck service; expeditious and competitive service was provided, especially in branch line territory and to intermediate points on Southern Pacific’s mainlines; traffic solicitors were able to offer either rail or truck transportation, or a combination of both, at rates competitive with other motor common carriers; and participation in motor carrier tariffs.

The over-the-highway services provided by the trucking subsidiaries for their own accounts consisted principally of:

  • Hauling a great variety of commodities under tariffs published by regularly constituted trucking rate bureaus, including cement, petroleum, and perishables
  • Hauling automobiles from General Motors assembly plants at Warm Springs, Raymer, and South Gate (Los Angeles), California under contract and from multi-level ramp points to dealers in California, southern Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona
  • Providing services for other companies, such as pickup, delivery, and terminal services for the handling of Hawaiian and East Asia container traffic at Los Angeles Harbor, San Francisco, and Oakland for Matson Steamship Company, States Lines, and several Japanese-owned lines; and air freight for various air lines.

The Pacific Motor Transport Company held “express” operating rights co-extensive with Pacific Motor Trucking Company routes in California under which less-than-truckload shipments were handled with a savings in state of California taxes.  However, in 1977, the tax benefits of the savings were under review.  Pacific Motor Trucking Company as the underlying carrier, provided its equipment and facilities for the actual handling of freight for Pacific Motor Transport Company under a contractual arrangement.  Pacific Motor Transport Company no equipment or facilities and did not have any employees.

Louis Heller, Inc., (Louis Heller) a PMT-controlled trucking company, held an intrastate common carrier certificate between all point in Nevada.  It was acquired in 1959 principally to provide the distribution of bulk petroleum products transported to Nevada by Southern Pacific Pipe Lines, Inc.  As of 1977, there had not been any opportunities to use the certificate for that purpose.  In 1977, Louis Heller owned one truck and handled only a small amount of general commodity traffic.



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