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McLean Trucking Company

by Robert E. Ireland, 2006Malcolm Mclean, founder of Mclean Trucking Co. Image available from PBS.

McLean Trucking Company Patch. Image available from NC Historic Sites. In 1931, when Malcolm P. McLean began working at a service station, North Carolina was rapidly becoming a major east-west transport route. Recognizing the potential for motor freight carrying, the Maxton native bought his first truck in 1934 and began hauling dirt for WPA road construction projects. Later, he transported textiles to New York. By the mid-1960s, the McLean Trucking Company had become the fifth-largest trucking company in America, with a fleet of 5,000 trucks and trailers and 65 terminals scattered throughout 20 states. The Winston-Salem terminal was considered the largest in the world when it was constructed in 1954.

McLean (who died in 2001 at age 87) sold his company in 1955 for $6 million and bought a small tanker firm, which he renamed Sea-Land. After becoming a pioneer in container shipping, he cashed in those shares for $160 million in 1969.




Thomas C. Parramore, Express Lanes and Country Roads: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1920-1970 (1983).

Additional Resources:

Article in Chicago Tribune:

North Carolina Digital Collections search results for McLean Trucking Company

Image Credit:

Malcolm Mclean, founder of Mclean Trucking Co. Image availabl from PBS. Available from (accessed June 18, 2012).

McLean Trucking Company Patch. Image available from NC Historic Sites. Available from June 19, 2012).


Origin - location: 



My dad Richard Brown (RC Brown) drove for 21 years, he worked out of Inman, SC the last few years he was alive, he died in 1975, and my uncle Virgil Holt worked on the dock both in Winston-Salem!


Did you know my father? Grant C Wolfe. He worked for McLean in Winston Salem for many years. i think he retired in 1968.


Did you happen to know Wiley Majors.. he was a Truck mechanic for McLean Trucking for 30 years before retiring in 1976.


I went to work for Herrin Transportation in 1967 and McLean bought Herrin out in 1969. I was a road dispatcher for McLean in Memphis, TN until 1983. I remember your father as he came into Memphis on a regular basis. At one time he ran a bid run from Indianapolis to Memphis.
Good to hear from one of the old timers like me.


I was wondering if you remember a Elzie Sanders triving out of Memphis? He was my dad, retired about 85 or so?


I am getting to get a pin (tie tack, lapel?) collection which has several "McLean Trucking" pins, safe driver pins, etc. I think there are 24 pins. Is there a value here? Is McLean still in business?


Carol, if you still have them they are very collectible, with the more years service the better. The prices fluctuate from very high to cheap depending upon the collector, or the persons desire.


No, McLean Trucking Co is not in business. During the years of McLean's operations, their drivers were known for being members of the Teamsters' union. My late pa paw also drove for McLean from 1945 until 1980 when he retired and I remember him getting newsletters regularly from the Teamster's union in the mail. He went by the CB handle: Piano Picker since he played music in his spare time and had a music room in his basement, just outside of Shelby, NC. The problems for McLean started around 1981 when President Ronald Reagan first came into office. One of the first things that he did besides terminate all the air traffic controllers who were on strike at that time was to deregulate the trucking industry, which opened the doors for non-union trucking companies with non-union drivers to level the playing field by offering shippers cheaper rates on freight, which McLean couldn't compete with and continue paying their drivers union wages. So under siege of this, McLean was forced to file bankruptcy and immediately shut down operations in 1986. Some drivers in the Winston-Salem terminal had just finished delivering their loads and headed back to their terminal to find out that they no longer had a job, which was an immediate blow to those who hadn't yet acquired tenure with the company, like my pa paw had. When they shut down, I remember it being a huge news story all across North Carolina and the nation and I remember watching it that night on my pa paw's old RCA console TV set in his living room on Charlotte's WBTV Channel 3's news programme. You can read the New York Times' archive article about the shutdown.


Hi Carroll,

Thank you for using NCpedia and taking the time to leave your question. The pin collection you mention sounds very interesting! An antique dealer would be the best resource to appraise these items.

I'm forwarding your second question to Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library. A librarian will contact you soon, if you'd still like information on the McLean Trucking Company.

Best of luck!

Laurie Reeves, NC Government & Heritage Library


My Dad drove for McLean Trucking from the early Hayes Freightline days (1957/58 Springfield ILL) until he retired in 1985/86 (Indianapolis In) His name is William A (Bill) Jones. I am looking to get further history and pictures on the company for him, he will be 87 this year and he thinks he may be the only remaining person from these two companies from these cities. I would like to surprise him with a few mementos from one or both of these companies. Thank you for any help you can provide me.

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