Four generations of fathers, sons power Penn.-based R.W. Smith Trucking

| June 13, 2017

As Jim Sweeney, writing for the RoadPro Family of Brands, noted in introducing the guest piece that follows here, “there is a strong father-son connection” running through the trucking industry, something “anyone who knows trucking knows … to be true.” 

Sweeney also noted “there are no statistics to bear this out,” so we want to know: 

Any Father’s Day plans for this coming weekend? Let us know in the comments … Now, for Sweeny’s story about R.W. Smith, a salute to a company “that’s been led for 85 years by successive generations of fathers and sons.” 

Richard Smith Sr. (right) with, from left, his son Rich and grandsons Rob and Kevin | Photo: Art Gentile/The Intelligencer

R.W. Smith Trucking Co. in Danboro, Pa., doesn’t use an ampersand in its name or on its trucks, but if it did, it would need three. Four generations of Smiths have worked in the trucking business.

It started in 1932 when Max Smith began hauling coal from the Pennsylvania mines to homes in Doylestown. His son, Richard W. Smith Sr., joined him as soon as he was old enough to reach the pedals. His trucking career was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, but when he got out, he started his own company, hauling coal, cinder, sand and gravel.

His son, Richard Jr. began driving at age 16, the third generation of Smiths behind the wheel.

“He did give me a choice. He said you don’t have to do this,” Richard Jr. said of his father. But there really was no other option.

“I always wanted to do it,” said Richard Jr., 56. “I always helped him with the trucks. We had a good relationship. It was only natural that everything fell into place.”

Richard Sr. had a stroke in 2004, but recovered and kept driving. He finally retired in 2015 at age 82.

“He was always a very hard worker. He liked to drive and he really liked trucking,” his son said. “He didn’t have any hobbies so he stuck with it as long as he could.”

Richard Sr.’s retirement was the end of a period when three generations of Smiths drove together. Richard Jr.’s two sons, Robbie, 29, and Kevin, 27, got behind the wheel as soon as they could earn their licenses.

Just as his father did for him, Richard Jr. gave his boys the option of doing something else.

“It was never a question what I was going to do,” said Kevin. “My entire childhood was all about trucks.  My brother and I knew we were never going to do anything else.”

As trucking firms go, R.W. Smith is small – eight trucks operating mostly within a 100-mile radius of Danboro. Richard Jr.’s mother, Marlene; sister, Jolene; and wife, Kim, run the front office. They have five other employees, most of whom have been with them a long time. Richard Sr. and Richard Jr. live in houses on either side of the trucking garage. Robbie and Kevin live just a few minutes away.

Not long ago, Richard Jr. saw a local business, a construction firm, end because the founder’s son had no interest in running it. The son sold off the equipment and the company went out of existence. It wasn’t Richard Jr.’s business and not his decision to make, but it made him sad, nonetheless. And happy that it won’t happen to the company started by his grandfather.

“It eases my mind knowing that if something were to happen to me, my boys would keep it going. We’d be in good hands,” he said.

Kevin agreed: “Once my dad doesn’t want to do it anymore, my brother and I will be able to carry on.”

Read more about the Smiths via this post from Overdrive‘s Channel 19 blog:

Dick Smith’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ KW still in action

As seen in the short film from Overdrive's late-1970s N.J. diesel drag races, the winning rig of R.W. Smith Trucking company, and the company itself, ...

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