Heartland founder steps down

Russell Gerdin, the founder, chairman & CEO of Coralville, IA-based truckload carrier Heartland Express, is stepping down from his day-to-day management role after being diagnosed with liver cancer

Russell Gerdin, the founder, chairman & CEO of Coralville, IA-based truckload carrier Heartland Express, is stepping down from his day-to-day management role after being diagnosed with liver cancer. He handed the reins of the company to the company’s five top executives, including COO and son Mike Gerdin, and CFO John Cosaert.

Russell Gerdin is something of a legend in truckload circles, building Heartland up from just four people and 16 trucks in 1978 to a $21.6 million carrier in less than 10 years, becoming a publicly traded company in 1986. In 2005, Heartland’s revenue totaled a whopping $523.8 million, with net income climbing to $71.9 million – a 15.1% jump over 2004.

The carrier’s operating ratio is among the best in the business -- 77.6% -- and its net margin reached 15.5% in the fourth quarter last year, averaging out to 13.7% for all of 2005. Gerdin has a conservative stance toward acquisitions, buying only four carriers since 1986. The most recent acquisition is Great Coastal Express in 2002.

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