McCorkles combine carrier management with long dedication to trucking industry

April 1, 2002
THIS year is proving busy for David and LaVern McCorkle, owners of McCorkle Truck Line Inc of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Operating a company with annual

THIS year is proving busy for David and LaVern McCorkle, owners of McCorkle Truck Line Inc of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Operating a company with annual revenue of $12 million and a fleet of 130 dry bulkers, 60 dump trailers, 50 tractors, and 40 owner-operators is enough to keep them in perpetual motion. But in addition to running the company, they are even busier with David serving as chairman of the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

David has been active in the ATA throughout the years, culminating with the gavel acceptance in October 2001.

Recruiting and retaining professional and safe drivers is a top priority with him, and led to his vigorous participation in the federal hours-of-service proposal that is now being finalized. Part of his research for improving driver performance is evident by a book in his office. The Promise of Sleep by William Dement contains a study of sleep and its relationship to fatigue.

“The driver sleep cycle runs counter to the hours-of-service rules,” McCorkle says. He should know. He holds a million-mile record, which means that he has completed a million miles of driving without a chargeable accident or citation. When he talks about the problems drivers face, including fatigue, he isn't speaking philosophically. He's speaking from experience.

Several years ago, David began his emphasis on reforming the hours-of-service rules. He anticipated the Department of Transportation would develop new regulations. “The industry had to develop its own position,” he says. David was appointed chairman of the ATA Hours-of-Service Subcommittee, which submitted a plan to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last year, but the FMCSA presented its own proposal for notice and comment. Congress halted the implementation of the FMCSA proposal. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has put the issue on hold for further deliberation. Studies on the ATA proposal and other proposals, including those from the FMCSA, remain under consideration. “The fight is still on,” David adds.

Agenda Issues

Many of the issues on his agenda as ATA chairman are part of his and LaVern's day-to-day operational concerns, just as they are for many carriers. Insurance rates are skyrocketing, and security fears have become a number-one problem. On top of those concerns, is the country's lagging economic condition. “It feels different from anything I've felt before,” he says.

With ATA, David is working on projects that he believes will ameliorate the situation. They include a new ATA security plan expected to be implemented this year, as well as on-going efforts required for effecting the hours-of-service proposal.

He is also working to gather potential affiliates into the American Trucking Associations fold, due in large part to his persuasive techniques and his dedication to both ATA and the Truckload Carriers Association.

An ATA-TCA task force to re-examine the idea of affiliation has been formed, and a report on its determinations is scheduled for June.

A long-time proponent of ATA and the association's services, David gives the organization credit for his success in operating a safe company. The ATA relationship began in the early 1960s when he was hired to direct safety for a carrier. “I had no idea what I needed to do, so I called ATA,” he recalls. When he received the safety information, implemented it, and realized its potential, David was sold on the trucking association. His enthusiasm for the programs hasn't waned since that time.

David isn't alone in his association fervor. LaVern was the first woman to serve as chairman of the Oklahoma Motor Carriers Association, and she continues to be active in industry organizations. David also devotes time to local trucking associations and legislative matters.

Company history

The trucking interests began while David was in high school. In the 1950s he bought a 1941 Ford truck and began hauling cattle and hay. As his father was a cattle auctioneer, the son's venture fit the family's niche. After graduating from high school in 1953, he began expanding his business, adding a new Chevrolet truck that today remains in the company fleet for parades and other special events.

In 1957, he and LaVern were married, but the United States Army soon interrupted their bliss, drafting David and sending him to Korea for duty. While he was there, LaVern kept the business going. She had the opportunity to purchase an Oklahoma trucking authority from a long-time friend, Clara Tuttle, whose husband had died. Noel Tuttle had been a mentor for David and LaVern for many years. LaVern cashed in her savings and the authority was purchased. Eventually, a corporation was formed with LaVern holding the majority of the stock.

When David returned from Korea, he and LaVern continued to operate the company, he on the road and she administrating. It was during this period that David completed one million miles without an accident. By the 1970s David and LaVern were operating as a full-fledged carrier, and by 1978 the company was dedicated to dry bulk in an effort to remain specialized.

As the years passed, David and LaVern had three daughters. Today, David is board chairman and LaVern is company president. Their daughters and husbands are involved in the company, as well. Linda Nettleingham serves as vice-president, accounting, and her husband, Steve, is vice-president, operations. Karen Manwell is a teacher, but her husband, Scott, oversees intermodal and bulk storage. Cindy Miller serves as risk manager and her husband, Jason, directs finance. Together, the family members add up to a strong management team for the trucking company and have all participated in its growth in recent years.

McCorkle Truck Line hauls various kinds of dry products, but one mainstay is ceramic beads used in the oil and gas industry to fracture underground rock formations. Other cargoes include specialty sands, lime, fly ash, cement, gypsum, and oxides. The company operates in 45 states, Mexico, and Canada, boasting an 82% to 83% loaded average.

One example of the company growth is the addition of seven storage tanks with 2.5 million pounds of capacity. They were built in the 1980s at the Oklahoma City headquarters. Storage trailers add an additional capacity and can be transported to construction sites when needed. A rail spur with seven car spots is adjacent to the storage area.

In 1992, the company added a cleaning bay. Rieskamp Engineering, Gastonia, North Carolina, designed the facility. Gamajet spinners are used in the process.

Maintenance Department

All maintenance is conducted on site as well. Bays are dedicated to tractor and trailer repairs, respectively. While oil and filter changes typically are handled at 15,000 miles, McCorkle is testing a new engine oil product in an effort to attain 30,000- to 40,000- mile oil changes. The company also is testing a tire pressure equalizer system that operates off an air compressor on the tractor. “We have six of those we are trying,” says David.

Typical bulkers at McCorkle Truck Line are Fruehaufs, supplied by LBT Inc. The trailers are purchased through Southwest Trailer & Equipment in Oklahoma City. Newest aluminum trailers have 1,525 cubic-foot capacity and are equipped with Knappco swing check valves and manholes, Sure Seal bottom aeration and butterfly valves, Milwaukee Valve Co aeration control valves, and Bayco pressure-relief valves.

The running gear includes Hendrickson Intraax air-ride suspensions and axles, and MeritorWabco antilock braking. A Stemco hubodometer is installed on the curbside front axle. Grote light-emitting diode lamps and a Truck-Lite harness system are part of the lights and wiring system. Binkley provides the landing gear.

Peterbilt Model 379 conventionals are the newest tractors in the fleet. They were specified with Caterpillar C15 engines rated at 475 horsepower, 10-speed Eaton Fuller transmissions, and 40,000-lb capacity Dana drive tandem. Drum and Gardner Denver blowers are mounted on the tractors.


The Peterbilts are driver-pleasers, according to David, and he likes to keep his drivers happy. Having been a driver for many years, David takes an active role in the recruitment and retention of the company's 65 drivers. He gives each prospective driver a road test before hiring.

“I want to see if they have the skills to handle the truck,” he says. “I want to see how close they follow the vehicle in front of them, how they recognize potential hazards, and how they manage turns. Turns are a big accident-producer. After the test, I decide what we should emphasize in their training.”

Applicants must be 25 years old or older and have a tank endorsement on their commercial driver license. Driver training includes company policy orientation, Department of Transportation regulations, and defensive driving.

When drivers are hired they receive a $100 incentive each time they satisfactorily complete a roadside inspection.

Drivers are issued a company identification card.

An Adtronics identification program has been implemented that provides drivers with ID cards and stores the information for administrative purposes. “More and more, our drivers are having to show IDs,” says Cindy. A visual verification system (VVS) is part of the identification program that can be used to e-mail driver photographs to shippers and customers. The driver identification card has a bar code that can be applied to gain entrance at a terminal gate or at a door entrance.

These security measures are not new for McCorkle Truck Lines. The company has emphasized security for years. Its yard is fenced, gated, and has a night guard. As with security, David, LaVern, and their family continue to operate the company with a forward-thinking philosophy. “We believe that to be successful we have to remain asset based and keep ourselves strong, but we've also got to convince shippers of the problems we face today,” David says.

As ATA chairman, and with a history of a progressive carrier operation between himself and LaVern, David is well-qualified to lead the way not only for the McCorkle Truck Line, but for the trucking industry as a whole.

About the Author

Mary Davis