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Central Freight Lines
Logo for Central Freight Lines. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

CENTRAL FREIGHT LINES. Central Freight Lines, with headquarters in Waco and regional offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, is one of the oldest continuously operating Texas motor carriers, the state's largest intrastate motor carrier, and a southwestern regional interstate motor carrier. The company was originally known as Central Forwarding and Warehouse Company, when William W. (Woody) Callan, Sr., founded it in 1925 with a single Model-T truck to transport goods from Dallas to Waco merchants. Callan, who was born in 1905 in Valley Mills, Texas, and attended Waco High School, Toby's Business School, and Baylor University, went to work for Sanger Brothers before joining the Weathered Transfer and Storage Company as an assistant to the warehouse foreman. There he learned the freight business by dealing with shippers, railroads, and trucklines at a time when horse-drawn floats and wagons carried goods between railroad stations and customers' places of business. At the time Callan founded Central, security in transportation could not be guaranteed, government regulation did not exist, and trucking lines were seldom considered dependable or reliable because the roads were not paved. During World War II Callan further broadened his experience by serving as a warehousing chief for army service and supply offices in Atlanta and at the Pentagon.

Central Freight Lines
Central Freight Lines' first freight, a Model-T truck that transported goods from Dallas to Waco. Courtesy of Central Freight. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

He was soon joined at Central by his brother, T. H. Callan, who for fifty-three years managed the company's Dallas facility, which grew into the world's largest freight facility owned and operated by a single motor carrier. The company incorporated in 1927, beginning with regular routes between Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin, but promptly abandoned a route to Houston because of poor weather and road conditions. In 1929, as trucking regulations increased, the firm's household-goods business became Central Forwarding, and its general freight transporter was named Central Freight Lines. Central started regular service to Houston in 1933 and began to purchase intrastate operating authority from other companies, including a route between Austin and Houston from Austin Forwarding.

Central Freight Lines
Photograph, Central Freight Lines dispatch. Courtesy of Central Freight. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The Central Federal Credit Union opened in 1940, independently of Central Freight Lines but with membership limited to Central employees. Callan ran both Central Freight and Central Forwarding, and the companies shared facilities and equipment, but Central Freight expanded more rapidly and separated from Central Forwarding in 1951. In 1952 Central opened its first equipment-maintenance shop in Waco. The same year Callan initiated an employee stock-ownership plan and stepped down as president but remained chairman of the board. Under his leadership the Employees Profit Sharing and Retirement Plan was established in 1959. Before his death on March 17, 1987, Callan was active in local banking, helped organize KWTX Broadcasting Company in Waco, and promoted school career days and fairs. R. H. Linam served as president of Central from 1952 to 1979. Woody Callan, Jr., served as president from 1979 to 1992. Tom Clowe became president in 1992.

In the 1980s, as the company faced threats of unionization and deregulation of interstate trucking, Central acquired West Texas carriers Curry Freight Lines and Perry Motor Freight, purchased authority for additional points and short routes in West Texas from another company, and acquired seventy-six Texas intrastate points when Red Arrow Freight Lines ceased its Texas intrastate operations. In 1991 Central expanded into Oklahoma, with terminals in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and implemented a hub-and-spoke system for its expanding operations. In 1992 it began serving more than 300 points in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Tennessee, and opened several new terminals.

Central Freight Lines
Central Freight Lines trucks. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In 1992 Woody Callan, Jr., and Diana Callan Braswell, the son and daughter of W. W. Callan, Sr., retired from Central and together sold their Central stock to the company and the profit-sharing and retirement plan, making Central a truly employee-owned company. Employee owners and other Central shareholders elected to sell Central to Roadway Services, Incorporated, in April 1993. Central became a wholly owned subsidiary in that company's regional carrier group, which includes Viking Freight System in the West, Spartan Express in the central and southern states, and Coles Express in New England. Central now serves more than 5,200 cities and towns in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee and handles more than 3.5 million freight shipments annually, ranging from cotton to oilfield equipment. In addition, the firm provides import and export service through all major ports in its Southwest system and handles international shipments and hazardous materials. Central is non-union, employs nearly 4,000 people, and operates more than 7,000 trucks, tractors, and trailers through three hubs and seventy-three terminals. Revenue exceeded $230 million in 1992.


N. A. Adamson, Railroad and Motor Freight Movement in the Golden Triangle Area (Beaumont: John Gray Institute, Lamar University, 1983). Centrally Speaking, October 2, 1992. Garland A. Smith, Men of Achievement in Texas (Austin: Garland A. Smith Associates, 1972).

Rajni Madan

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Handbook of Texas Online, Rajni Madan, "Central Freight Lines," accessed November 19, 2017,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 19, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.