Four fleets, four freight niches: Only two will take home the Small Fleet Champ title belts

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Updated Oct 22, 2023
2023 small fleet champ belts
Just two of these four Small Fleet Champ finalists will walk away with the title belt in their respective divisions.

In the four-year history of Overdrive's Small Fleet Championship, I don't know that we've ever had as close a competition as we did this year when it comes to narrowing the field from 10 semi-finalists -- five each in 3-10-truck and 11-30-truck divisions -- to the final four. In a time of transition, all 10 of the fleets profiled here at OverdriveOnline.com in recent weeks exhibited resilience faced with rising costs, declining rates and freight markets that can be described, charitably, as decidedly mixed -- uncharitably, well ... awfully slow. 

Yet we're proud to highlight the profit, growth, and bedrock stability achievements of this final four, encompassing a wide array of freight niches, from bulk tank to end dump, flatbed to refrigerated. All will square off in the last round -- and one in each category will walk away with the title belt following the November 2 presentation at the annual conference of Small Fleet Champ sponsor the National Association of Small Trucking Companies in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Here's a big thanks to all the small fleet owner-operators who entered this year -- I'll personally encourage you now to keep us bookmarked for entries in next year's 2024 program, beginning in the Spring. And here's a big congrats to our 10 semi-finalists. Among them, without further ado, were the following four. See you in Nashville for the finals! 

Finalists in the 3-10-truck division: 

Butterfly Xpress, Silt, Colorado

Bill ad Karen Barhite's 2024 VolvoBill and Karen Barhite today run in this 2024 Volvo and launched Butterfly Xpress in 2013. They've steadily grown the business to a 10-truck fleet today. The Barhites and leased owner-operators hauled reefer freight solely via the spot market from the start of the company until 2021, when Bill transitioned into dedicated hauls with steady customers. Now, most of his drivers, along with he and Karen, haul loads out of Miami taking them to the West Coast, then apples out of Washington back to Texas, utilizing the spot market to get back to Florida to complete the triangle, with some variation. BFX prides itself on the benefits it offers to its leased-on contractors, which include insurance and various taxes and fees paid by the carrier, with a healthy percentage compensation package. Read more about the fleet via this link.

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Wallace & Sons Transport, Henrico, Virginia

Larry Wallace and his Wallace & Sons fleetLarry Wallace is a third-generation trucker with a versatile skill set, a knack for working on old Detroit and Caterpillar engines, and a sweet little niche carved out hauling bulk bakery residuals and more with the three rigs in the fleet. The owner got his start pulling end dumps, then off the deep end into another one of Virginia's hot trucking niches: Land clearing and logging. Here Wallace had his trial by fire, hauling timber up and down mountain roads and becoming a master of his machine in the process. He traded a windshield and shifter for a desk and mouse a few years back with his Wallace & Sons Transport business, but keeps a close eye on operations from his Henrico, Virginia office. Find Wallace's recipe for success in the profile of the business at this link.

Finalists in the 11-30-truck division:

K&D Transport, Spring Valley, Wisconsin

Adam Johnson is a fourth-generation truck operator and third-generation owner managing the K&D Transport family business. K&D displayed some creative thinking with flatbed LTL consolidation in 2012. The company went from staring down the barrel of closing up shop, to thriving when so many other fleets were struggling just to get by. Since then, Johnson's assumed management of operations at K&D with his father still involved in some of the day-to-day. Over four years, K&D Transport doubled in size to 12 trucks as of the end of 2022, adding more operators this year even as freight volumes have softened. Read more about the fleet via this link.Adam Johnson is a fourth-generation truck operator and third-generation owner managing the K&D Transport family business. K&D displayed some creative thinking with flatbed LTL consolidation in 2012. The company went from staring down the barrel of closing up shop, to thriving when so many other fleets were struggling just to get by. Since then, Johnson's assumed management of operations at K&D with his father still involved in some of the day-to-day. Over four years, K&D Transport doubled in size to 12 trucks as of the end of 2022, adding more operators this year even as freight volumes have softened. Read more about the fleet via this link.

LNL Trucking, Bedford, Indiana

Larry Limp and his wife, Nancy, and Limp's 2000 PeteIn 1981, LNL Trucking owner Larry Limp got his first trucking job hauling grain locally from his hometown in Orleans, Indiana, before eventually going over-the-road in 1983. He bought his first truck in 1984 and has remained an owner-operator almost continuously since. In 2001, Limp filed for his own authority, and he's been operating as LNL Trucking out of Bedford, Indiana, ever since. His growing tanker business owns 12 trucks and employs as many drivers in addition to himself, moving animal fats and other commodities from four direct shippers in smooth bore, rear-unload trailers. In 2022, Limp (pictured here with his wife, Nancy, and the 2000 Peterbilt 379 he drives about a third of every month) served as Chairman of the Indiana Motor Truck Association's board. “I feel the importance” of being a member of a state trucking association “is that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Limp said. “Larry Limp from Bedford, Indiana, tries to call his U.S. Representative or Senator, he doesn’t get much traction. But with the state association, it’s no longer talking to one person, you’re talking to all of us. IMTA is currently 400 members strong.” LNL's "mind the pennies" philosophy around cost control is outlined with more history here.

[Related: 10 hard-won success stories, across two categories: Meet Overdrive's 10 Small Fleet Champ semi-finalists]