Virginia Trucking Association
4821 Bethlehem Road, Suite 101
Richmond, VA 23230
Phone:  (804) 355-5371
Fax:  (804) 358-1374
www.vatrucking.org 
July 27, 2016
In Memoriam
 
It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of J. Harwood Cochrane, founder of Overnite Transportation Company and Highway Express in Richmond, VA.  He died Monday at the age of 103 and was preceded in death this past December by his wife of 81 years, Louise.
 
Mr. Cochrane began his legendary career in the trucking industry in 1933, when he traded in his Ford car for a Chevrolet tractor and trailer, and he and a brother started hauling freight from Richmond to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.  In 1935, he founded Overnite Transportation Company, which he built based on his values and work ethic and grew into one of the largest and most successful trucking companies in the United States.  In 1986, he reluctantly sold Overnite to Union Pacific railroad for the unprecedented sale price of $1.2 billion - an offer he accepted for the good of his shareholders.  In 1991, at age 79 and at the conclusion of a five-year non-compete clause, he founded another trucking company, Highway Express, which he sold in 2003.
 
Mr. Cochrane was an active and influential leader of Virginia's trucking industry, serving as Chairman (formerly called President) of the Virginia Highway Users Association (predecessor of the VTA) from 1954 - 1956. He was a member of the VTA Executive Committee and Board of Directors for several decades and was generous with his time and money in support of the Association and its political and public relations battles.  U.S. Presidents and Virginia Governors and legislators sought Mr. Cochrane's advice and counsel on important trucking, transportation and business issues throughout his career.
 
To illustrate Mr. Cochrane's business acumen and vision, here is what he had to say when he was asked to look into the crystal ball for trucking:
 
"I see a great future for motor transportation as an indus¬≠try.  I see more hope in the future than I see success in the past. Our future is largely in our own hands. Our own vision will largely help us write our own future. In spite of the enormous growth of our industry, I don't believe we have much more than scratched the surface as far as the potential of the motor carrier industry is concerned. Even though I be¬≠lieve that many of the prominent named motor carriers that we see from day to day will disappear, I still feel there is a good future for the owners of such companies, by holding substantial stock in the larger consolidated carriers. There is much to be learned about successfully operating such companies, but with experience, such knowledge is bound to develop, and it could be that such owners can avoid many headaches they now have, and still have equally as good a return from the stock as they did from the company."
 
It is amazing to know that these were Mr. Cochrane's words from 60 years ago in 1956, on the occasion of the VTA's 25th Anniversary!
 
As much as Mr. Cochrane will be remembered as one of history's most successful truckers, he and Mrs. Cochrane will also be remembered for their generous donations and contributions in support of numerous arts, community, religious and charitable organizations in the Richmond area and beyond.  You can click here to read an excellent article from this morning's Richmond Times-Dispatch with more details about Mr. and Mrs. Cochrane's profound impact on the trucking industry and the Richmond area.
 
Mr. Cochrane's death means that Virginia's trucking industry has lost the last of its generation of hard-working and persistent founders who nurtured trucking through its infancy, fought to protect it from the railroads and overregulation by the government as it matured into one of our country's most important weapons in World War II and grew into today's modern trucking industry that is the backbone of the U.S. economy. 
 
The VTA sends its heartfelt condolences to the Cochrane family.   
 
 
Arrangements Information
 
Visitation for Mr. Cochrane will be held Friday, July 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. at Woody Funeral Home, 1771 N. Parham Road, Richmond, VA 23229. Mr. Cochrane was a former owner of the funeral home chain.  A funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA 23220.