C.J. Donovan started his Donovan Transport business with his father, Jim, in August of 2000 as a one-truck operation.
Today, the business consists of five full-time employees, a couple part-timers, plus C.J., who splits time between the road and office. Jim, too, is still “very much an integral part of the business,” C.J. said. The fleet also uses a handful of owner-operators on trip-lease agreements.
Despite challenges across the board in trucking in recent times, Donovan said his fleet has managed to stay “extremely busy” of late. The company dispatches about 15 open-deck trailers with three full-time reefer trailers.
Donovan said the fleet is “at capacity,” mostly due to “strong relationships we’ve had from 20 years ago.” He added that his company has “treated them right, and they’re treating us right,” noting that the long-term relationships are “keeping us going in this very tumultuous market.”
About 70% of the fleet’s business is from direct customers, with the remaining 30% being brokered freight. “If I had to live off the load boards, I’d probably be selling equipment right now.”
Donovan Transport’s equipment ranges in age from mostly new to well into antique territory, but it all works. One of the fleet’s oldest rigs, which Donovan drives himself when he’s needed, is no stranger to the pages of Overdrive, having won the Antique category in the 2020 virtual Pride & Polish competition.
This year, that same 1984 Peterbilt 362 cabover has once again earned recognition from Overdrive readers, being voted the winner in the Working Combo, 2007 & Older class, hooked to a matching 2023 Great Dane stainless spread-axle reefer.
Donovan said the truck runs anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 miles a year, on average. It’s the “jack-of-all-trades” truck in the fleet, he added, and is outfitted to hook up to reefers, open-decks or anything else needed. This year It’s mostly pulled that brand-new 2023 Great Dane reefer, painted to match the rig, and running throughout the summer for the Gordonville, Pennsylvania-based fleet.
With winter bearing down, though, the COE is parked until Spring, the reefer behind another rig. “We hired another couple employees, and we’re running out of equipment,” Donovan noted. “I have that reefer hooked to another truck right now. It was a business decision. I can’t have it sitting around for the fun of it.”
After all the work Donovan put into the cabover, though, he wants to keep it off the highways and away from the copious road salt of the season.
As reported in 2020 when the truck first won in Pride & Polish, Donovan bought the rig in 2017. It was in pretty good shape, and his initial plan was to plate it and put it to work right away.
“I bought it because I wanted a cabover and needed a truck to jockey trailers” between Donovan’s yard and a customer’s, he said. “I just needed basically a street-legal yard dog.”
But after doing a little bit of work on the truck, one thing led to another and it turned into a full-on restoration. “We added 20 inches to the frame and the next thing you know, it’s in the paint shop," he said. "I didn’t buy it with the intention of making a show truck, but as we started fixing things, we kept fixing things. We didn’t know where to stop. The better a job that everybody did, the better the truck kept getting”
Up until recently, Donovan didn’t know much about the truck’s history. Yet he’s started to dig into what the truck did before he got ahold of it. He was invited to and attended Peterbilt’s Pride & Class truck show in October, where he happened to meet two gentlemen who worked on the assembly line when the truck was built.
“Talking to those guys while still employed before they retire and disappear, it was great to meet them,” Donovan said. “They were excited to be reunited with the truck. I think they enjoyed it as much or more than I did. Being invited to the [Peterbilt] plant and experiencing that was the highlight of my year so far.”
Through relationships forged at that show, Donovan has also enlisted the help of someone else to track down serial numbers and more of the truck’s history. He said he’s been able to get reprints of the factory documentation, and will continue “chasing the lineage” of the classic Pete. Stay tuned.