Charles Hammel, Sr. founded Hammel’s Express in 1919 with a horse, a buggy and one customer. His son, Charles Hammel, Jr., continued in the family business beginning in the 1940s. The company founded by his grandfather and continued by his father was where Charles (Chuck) Hammel, III began to learn about and began to love the transportation industry.
Chuck, Bob and Ken, the three sons of Charles Hammel, Jr., purchased three trucks and leased a small, one-door warehouse in East Liverpool, Ohio in 1979. The three Hammel brothers began hauling less-than-truckload (LTL) freight between Pittsburgh and Ohio. They named their business PITT OHIO EXPRESS (which was changed to PITT OHIO in 2011).
The trucking industry was deregulated in 1980 when Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which was subsequently signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
Because of deregulation, Charles Hammel, Jr.’s vision of providing next-day service to customers between states was realized when he provided the guidance and funding for his sons to start their own business.
PITT OHIO EXPRESS opened terminals in Cleveland, Baltimore, Norristown, Pennsylvania and Charleston, West Virginia, between 1979 and 1983. Over the next 10 years, the company opened six additional terminals in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. PITT OHIO EXPRESS provided good service to its customers and focused on “stretching next day lanes farther than any other carrier in the LTL industry.”
PITT OHIO EXPRESS won its first Quest for Quality Award in 1993 from Logistics Management Magazine. The award is based on customer satisfaction.
Beginning with its first three trucks in 1979, PITT OHIO EXPRESS had grown to 525 trailers, 450 tractors and 1,000 employees in 10 terminals by 1994. It was delivering 3,500 shipments (100% direct), throughout a seven-state region. Of these deliveries, 95% were overnight deliveries. In the mid- to late 1990s, PITT OHIO EXPRESS had opened another five terminals in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The company celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1999, opened a new corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and also launched its first corporate website. PITT OHIO EXPRESS also was the first regional carrier to offer expedited service (which was named FAST TRACK).
New markets and partnerships
The company began service to Detroit in 2001 as well as to the southern region of the nation when PITT OHIO EXPRESS began a partnership with Averitt Express.
Expansion continued in 2003; PITT OHIO EXPRESS opened a terminal in the key Midwest hub of Chicago. By the following year, the company had nearly 2,500 employees and 21 terminals. It operated 1,550 trailers, more than 600 tractors and 300 straight trucks, as well as 40 non-CDL straight trucks and 13 non-CDL vans. In total, the company delivered 9,000 shipments daily to over 14,000 destinations; the PITT OHIO EXPRESS on-time delivery record was 98%. In addition, the company received its 11th consecutive Quest for Quality Award, which is considered the most prestigious award for customer satisfaction in the transportation industry. Also, an expedited category was added to the survey for the first time, and the company’s expedited service, FAST TRACK, was recognized among national carriers.
ECM TRANSPORT and further expansion
In 2005, PITT OHIO EXPRESS acquired a partnership interest in ECM TRANSPORT, LLC. The company then launched a truckload service that included 300 tractors and 1,200 trailers. The next year, the company once again expanded its coverage area, including North Carolina’s Triad (Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point). Also in 2006 the PITT OHIO EXPRESS coverage area was expanded westward, and terminals were opened in Indianapolis and Battle Creek, Michigan.
Further expansion of territory served and services offered
With five other carriers, PITT OHIO EXPRESS founded The Reliance Network (TRNet) in 2007. The network spanned North America. Through a strategic partnership with Sunline Express, the company also expanded its coverage to New York City and Long Island.
Starting a “Protect From Freezing” service, PITT OHIO EXPRESS introduced Heat Track in 2008. That same year, the company also released mobile web and applications that allow customers to access PITT OHIO anytime/anywhere. It also began using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to establish more connected relationships with customers and employees.
Responding again to customers’ needs for a more flexible small package solution, the company began offering a ground service in 2010. Meanwhile, improvements were also made to TRNet; two new carriers in the western United States were added. That same year, PITT OHIO EXPRESS received its 16th Quest for Quality Award for its LTL service and its FAST TRACK expedited service received its sixth Award (and ranked first among six other carriers).
In addition to changing its name in 2011 in order to better reflect the different transportation solutions it offered (supply chain, ground, LTL and truckload), PITT OHIO also developed a new logo and website. That year PITT OHIO also earned its fifth President’s Trophy from the American Trucking Associations. The trophy is awarded to carriers with the most comprehensive safety programs.
PITT OHIO relocated to larger terminals in Cincinnati, Chicago and Norristown, Pennsylvania in 2014. In October of that year, PITT OHIO opened the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified terminal in western Pennsylvania. The 96,000-square foot facility includes a 100-dock door terminal, shop and office building and is located 13 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The facility houses both PITT OHIO and ECM TRANSPORT.
In August 2015 the company expanded its direct coverage area again, adding Louisville, Kentucky. The following year PITT OHIO added 614 heated trailers to its LTL fleet for use with its Heat Track solution. Also in 2016 PITT OHIO received a SmartWay® Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an “industry leader in freight supply chain environmental performance and energy efficiency.”
In 2017 the company ended its relationship with TRNet after a decade. However, it continued to maintain North American service and coverage with several regional carriers, many of which were also members of TRNet. That year PITT OHIO expanded and improved its service to the Midwest through partnerships with Dohrn Transfer and US Special Delivery (USSD). It also expanded its truckload service area and offerings through a partnership with Palmetto State Transportation.
PITT OHIO extended its coverage area in the western United States in 2018 through Dohrn Transfer and USSD. It expanded and improved service to New England through LTL carrier Ross Express. It also expanded its truckload service area and offerings through Motor Carrier Services.
The company also extended its Heat Track coverage area to points between New England and Nebraska. It increased its Heat Track fleet to 80 heated straight trucks and 1,300 heated trailers.
In 2019 PITT OHIO celebrated its 40th year in business. It enhanced its Canadian service through partners Polaris Transportation, Rosenau Transport and Groupe Robert. It also began offering next-day service to the greater Toronto area.
The company also launched its Delivery Track service offering, which gives customers the “ability to track the truck carrying their LTL shipment and gain access to an estimated time of arrival, including stops remaining.” In addition, it enhanced its Heat Track offering by adding more heated trailers and expanding the service’s coverage area to include New York.
Also, PITT OHIO installed a second wind turbine at its Pittsburgh terminal. It also installed the first of eight wind turbines at the site of its new terminal in Parma, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland).
PITT OHIO began offering next-day service from Harrisburg, Allentown and East Windsor, Pennsylvania terminals to New England in 2020. It also opened next-day lanes from terminals in Pennsylvania and Cleveland to western New York state.
The company received a “patent for sustainable, renewable energy process” as well.
In 2021, PITT OHIO began offering warehouse and distribution services. On the business side, it divested its interests in ECM, MCS and Palmetto State Transportation. Also, “Summit Packaging Solutions completed a recapitalization with PITT OHIO to strengthen the company’ balance sheet and position the business for continued growth.”
Legacy (to date)
Today, PITT EXPRESS is one of the top trucking companies in the United States. Over the more than 40 years it has been in business, PITT OHIO has grown tremendously and expanded its service offerings and service territory. The company has also worked with numerous charities and causes. Its employees have shared their time and money generously.
In addition, the company has received many accolades and awards from the industry and its customers. Listing them all in this article (which would not have been possible without information from the PITT OHIO website), would be difficult. Visit www.pittohio.com to see more about its charitable activities and the company’s industry recognition.
The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Averitt Express (No. 24) and Dohrn Transfer (No. 190).