Most young boys grow up playing with toy trucks. Not the kids in the England family—for generations, the boys of this Utah family have worked on the real things.
In the years since Chester Rodney England bought his first Model T truck in 1920 and began hauling milk for dairy farmers, the England family has been a force in the trucking industry.
A One-Truck Operation
Chester had no idea that his little one vehicle company would become a four-generation success story for his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. “He was a little bit of a rambunctious entrepreneur,” says Dan England, his grandson and chairman of the board for England. “He was always looking for opportunities. He was a farmer, like all of his ancestors, and he saw a need for transporting milk to the Weber Dairy. So that break in tradition—from farmer to farmer’s helper—was a real turning point in the England family.”
Today, C.R. England Global Transportation, based in West Valley City, is among the top over-the-road trucking companies in the industry. Commercial Carrier Journal ranks England as the No. 1 refrigerated trucking company in the nation, and it ranks among the top 40 in annual revenue as part of an industry with an estimated 1.9 million tracker-trailers and 3.3 million drivers on the road. In December, England Trucking was named FAC International Carrier of the Year by the Food Logistics company, which serves the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Passing the Baton
In the years before and during the Great Depression and in the early ’40s, Chester’s company remained small, transporting farm goods in Weber County and Cache Valley. The vision of what it could grow into was not lost on his sons, Gene and Bill. They worked with their dad as teenagers, often riding with C.R. on his routes. They served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and when they returned to Utah in 1946, Chester turned company operations over to them. “Dad was a potato farmer, and once we got fully involved, he was happy to return to his potatoes,” says Gene, who is now 93.
He teamed with Bill, now 89, to take C.R. England to the next level, adding trucks to the fleet as profits allowed. Under their tutelage, England Trucking expanded into a regional and, eventually, a national entity. By 1957, the company offered coast-to-coast delivery service. An East Coast terminal opened in 1959 in New Jersey. In the 1970s, company revenue had grown to $18 million.
By 1982, the Salt Lake terminal became the company’s transportation hub. C. R. England added a division in Mexico and a separate division just for refrigeration intermodal operation. Terminals were also operating in New Jersey, California, Indiana and Texas. And the third generation of sons began to assert themselves.
A New Generation
It’s been an unwritten “requirement” for each of Gene and Bill’s sons, and the fourth generation that followed, to work for the company in entry-level jobs earn college degrees and then work for a couple of years elsewhere.
"We wanted them to be a part of the company if they wanted to," Gene says. "But we wanted them to experience something else as well, just so they could be sure."
Dan worked as an attorney in private practice before returning to England in 1977. He became the company's general manager in the mid-8os, then CEO in 1988. Dean earned his degree and came up through the executive ranks, as did his brother.
When Gene and Bill helped transition leadership to them in 2005, Dan became chairman and Dean became the company president. Both Gene and Bill continued to serve in executive posts, and Gene continued to drive trucks on occasion until he was 80 years old. They still come into the headquarters regularly.
"To this day, Gene and Bill remain the best of friends," Dan says. "They are a tribute to the harmony and deference to one another. That feeling has continued between me and my brothers."
There are 25 members of the executive committee—nine are Englands. One who isn't is CEO Wayne Cedarholm, who has been at C.R. England for nearly 30 years. He's seen the creation and growth of two more entities within the firm: the truck driving schools, which operate in five states, and England Logistics, which works as a third-party transportation company with other carriers. In 2012, company revenues exceeded $1.3 billion.
"I came on with Gene and Bill before Dan and Dean were involved," Cedarholm says. "I've been very fortunate long term to be with those two gentlemen—and I do mean gentlemen. It's been quite the relationship, watching Gene and Bill kind of exit the business and bring it to Dan and Dean. The fun part is that we've all meshed well.
Every leader has been fair about his objectiveness with decisions that have been made. It's felt very inclusive in the years I've been here."
The Englands have stated, and Cedarholm has witnessed, that in this business, family relationships are the priority. "I have three sons who are full-time employees here," Dean says. "They see camaraderie. They see that we do good things and fill a need for the country. We were taught by the great examples of the [early] generations."
"We have differences of opinions at times," Dan adds. "But there's no arguing. We make the best decisions for the company. That's how our grandfather and fathers grew it, and that's how we expect our sons and grandsons to work as well."
Josh England, 36, who is president of England Logistics, says being the great-grandson, grandson and son of the business' owners hasn't made his career easier. And that's been just fine with him.
"The first impression some people have when they meet one of us is, 'He's spoiled and is there just because of his dad,"' he says. "It makes me work that much harder. We follow all of the same rules, and there's no different set of standards. They see that we're here to work as well, and we don't feel entitled to anything."
Cedarholm attributes the company's success to the England's strong ethics. "They've each worked as hard as they've asked people to work," he says. "That's meant long hours, committed to doing whatever had to be done. They believe in doing the right thing. They're business people—not pushovers, but you can sit down and say, 'Let's hammer this out.' You can sit across the table and have a respectful conversation."