The Trucking Employees of Coldwater, Michigan in 1974

When I purchase a city directory on EBay there is usually a reason for selecting a particular one. I bought a 1947 Charlotte, NC directory since that city was the headquarters for several trucking companies and also had a massive Associated Transport office and terminal. I bought a Saginaw, Michigan directory merely for the basis of information on Blair Transit and Doyle Freight Lines That later merged to firm Great Lakes Express.

Recently I spotted a 1974 Coldwater, Michigan City Directory for a good deal and did not think much trucking  company information would come from it. After all, Coldwater was not ever a headquarters town for a trucking company, and being such a small city of only nine thousand residents is not a prominent industrial area for the trucking industry. I was so wrong! Once I started reading and studying this directory my eyes were opened as to the importance of Coldwater.

Let me introduce you to some general information on Coldwater, Michigan before getting into details about how  the area fits in with trucking. Coldwater and the few smaller communities of Branch County, Michigan are just north of the Indiana state line and is within two hours drive to major cities of Toledo, Fort Wayne, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Grand Rapids. Chicago is three and a half hours away. Coldwater is easily in the area of automobile and truck assembly plants.

There were three trucking company terminals in Branch County in 1974. Two of them were in Coldwater and one was in Union City. The carriers with terminals were Associated Truck Lines (ATL), Indianhead Truck Lines and Tucker Freight Line. Before getting the city directory I  never realized that ATL had a large breakbulk terminal in Coldwater. That’s not the only information from the directory, but more on that later.

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An aerial view of the terminal that would have been ATL in 1974.

Of the 131 residents of Coldwater listed as working in the trucking industry, 75 of them worked at the Associated breakbulk terminal. That’s more than half! The other two terminals were very small facilities, so where else did all those in the industry work that lived in Coldwater? That’s the fascinating part of the area.

Earlier I mentioned the other cities that were within driving distance to Coldwater. Many residents commuted a long way to work for trucking companies in those cities. Below is a list of those carriers and the number of Coldwater residents that drove to work there:

  • TransAmerican Freight Lines in Grand Rapids-1
  • Graff Trucking in Kalamazoo- 4
  • Transport Motor Express in Fort Wayne- 1
  • Indianhead Truck Line In Sturgis-1
  • RW System In Taylor-2
  • Schneider Transport Of Green Bay, WI- 1
  • Michigan- Nebraska Transit in Kalamazoo- 1
  • Key Line Freight in Grand Rapids-1
  • Indianhead Truck Line In Adrian-1
  • Howard Martin Freight System in Kokomo- 2
  • Blue Arrow Douglas in Grand Rapids-1
  • Murphy Mitor Freight-1
  • Spector Freight System Of Chicago-6
  • Shippers Dispatch in Fort Wayne-1
  • Chicago, Michigan & Eastern Freight Lines in Mendon-1
  • Gateway Transportation in Detroit-1
  • Gilbert Carrier Corp. in Detroit-1

Since Coldwater is within driving distance to the auto assembly plants in Michigan, several residents also had driving jobs with the car carriers, including Anchor Motor Freight, Commercial Carriers In Romulus, E&L Transport, and Automobile Transport in Fort Wayne.

I learned something from taking a chance on a city directory from a city not known for being a big trucking city. Coldwater is a trucking town and is well deserved to be written about in this historical look at the trucking industry.

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