The Ruan truck parked at the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) new Washington D.C. headquarters is more than a simple head-turner. It’s packed with history and tells the story of an industry veteran, John Ruan. Starting from humble beginnings of buying his first truck in 1932 to one of America’s most influential innovators in transportation management, this truck symbolizes hard work paying off through dedication to excellence – something that still guides the minds at ATA today.
The truck, donated by Ruan Transportation Management Systems, whose history with ATA stretches back as far as the association itself, represents not only the Des Moines, Iowa-based company’s 90+ years of success, but also their contributions to the entire industry. Getting the truck to the spot was no small feat. The truck was painstakingly assembled onsite inside the room, and is intended to highlight the carrier’s tenacity, grit, and dedication to hard work.
“Our founder traded in the family car and bought the truck so he could haul gravel south of Des Moines for a road building project,” said Ben McLean, the company’s CEO, and third-generation leader.
John managed to turn that one truck into three in just a matter of months, and just two years later at the age of 20, he was running a dozen-truck fleet through out the Midwest. Ruan ended up leaving Iowa State University to buy a used 1921 Ford Model T, which helped his family recover from financial ruin after the 1929 stock market crash. On July 4, 1932, he hauled his first load of gravel in that truck.
By 1942, the company played an instrumental role in the creation of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, and he later served as a member of the ATA’s executive committee, becoming the fourth vice president in ATA history in 1949.
Chris Spear, ATA President, said the truck, “harkens back to the early days of ATA — when ATA came into being with the help of John Ruan.”
“The story behind the truck is really why our industry exists, said Ruan President and CEO Dan Van Alstine. “It highlights the essential nature of what we do every day — what it takes for hardworking professionals. It just all is there. “It creates a very big visual when you first enter, but what’s important is what’s behind it. Whether it’s legislators or friends of our industry — or perhaps folks who are not familiar with our industry — to start with the story and talk about what’s behind it: the hardworking people, the entrepreneurs with the fortitude and the grit that it all took. People like John Ruan.”