Al Heringer IV was not planning to go into trucking. The plan was to work for QuikTrip in Tulsa, then go back to Jonesboro and follow in the footsteps of three Al Heringers before him in the petroleum marketing business.
The first Al Heringer founded Lone Star Co. in 1926.
But after playing tight end for the Razorbacks for four years, Heringer IV ended up needing some knee surgeries and opted to stay in Arkansas.
Where his dad needed him wasn't at Lone Star though. It was, instead, in a tiny, new trucking operation, Star Transportation. It had opened in 1994 and had six trucks when Heringer IV joined in 1998.
"I billed and dispatched every load," he recalled. "Me and one other guy were in a small, double-wide trailer. I just kind of fell in love with it, and we built it from there."
Today, the company has about 100 trucks hauling petroleum and diesel. And Heringer, vice president of Star Transportation, was recently elected chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association board of directors, replacing Butch Rice, president of Stallion Transportation Group.
When asked how Star Transportation's growth happened, Heringer said, "I was flying by the seat of my pants."
"As long as we are showing [his father] our returns, he stays back and lets us do our job," he said.
He has long been involved with the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association. So, he sought out a similar community in the trucking industry.
"I was trying to [increase] our trucking business and was looking for more knowledge," he said. "I was just trying to understand our scope, trying to learn more about how the trucking side worked."
In 2010, Heringer joined the board of directors.
At the beginning, the 41-year-old said he did a lot of listening. "I started out just walking around and trying to keep my mouth closed. I looked more like a security guard than a director."
"I don't feel very young, but as part of the board of directors I was always the young kid, even though I'm a big old boy," he said.
What he has learned from his fellow board members has been valuable, he said. His market represents a small niche compared with most in the association. "I'm different compared to everybody else that I sit on the board with, so it was really neat to try to learn what they do and how they do things the right way," he said.
He said the position afforded him a unique opportunity.
"I sit on a board with Wal-Mart and all these big companies that have this political leverage and garner attention. I could come along and feel like I could give a voice to a small carrier and get to tag along because I was with [fellow board members] Craig Harper or Dan Cushman," he said of J.B. Hunt's chief operating officer and P.A.M. Transport's president and chief executive officer.
Plus, he said, an absence of competition can help. "I think everyone feels safe talking to me because I'm no threat to them. I don't do what they do, and they don't do what I do."
Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said Heringer's age is not indicative of his experience.
"He has been engaged and on the board for quite some time now. He has some previous experience with other trade associations and boards, which lends him credibility and confidence in addressing our issues at the Legislature and with the public."
"He has taken it upon himself to be engaged, and that has led him to be a leader among his peers," she said. "I look forward to working with him. We have a good friendship and a good working relationship, so I'm excited about his term as chairman."
Doug Voss, board member and associate professor of logistics and supply chain management at the University of Central Arkansas, agreed.
"He is very knowledgeable about the industry and the problems it faces, and he works very well with everyone in the association and the industry," Voss said. "He certainly has a great deal of name recognition in the state, too."
Heringer played for Danny Ford and Houston Nutt at the University of Arkansas from 1994-98.
"He's the kind of guy that people like to be around," Newton said. "He's a good storyteller. He has had a lot of life experience being involved with Razorback athletics. People love to hear those stories and reminisce about football and Houston Nutt and his time there."
"And he's smart," she said. "He has a lot of experience in the family network to draw upon to help him do well in business and relate well to others."
Voss applauded Heringer's decision to take on the time commitment of Trucking Association chairman. "The tasks that he is assigned are very time-consuming. You have to be willing to put in the work and willing to share your knowledge and information with those in the association, as they do the same with you," he said.
"You have to work together like you would in any other workplace, but you do it for free."
As to what he hopes to accomplish during his term, Heringer highlighted one long-standing issue: "I would really like highway reform. I don't know if I'll get that though, so maybe I need to come up with a Plan B."
SundayMonday Business on 06/04/2017
Print Headline: Trucking board new chief kept ear to ground