Drivers

Don Schneider Dies Following Lengthy Illness

January 13, 2012

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Donald (Don) J. Schneider, chairman emeritus and former president and CEO of Schneider National, died Jan. 13 following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 76.
Don Schneider was one of HDT's inaugural Truck Fleet Innovators in 2006.
Don Schneider was one of HDT's inaugural Truck Fleet Innovators in 2006.


Schneider was born on Oct. 19, 1935, the same year his father, Al (AJ), sold the family car to buy his first truck, a seemingly simple purchase that laid the groundwork for what would become, one of the most successful transportation companies in the U.S.

"The transportation and logistics industry has lost one of its most passionate and influential voices," said Governor Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. "Don Schneider was a visionary, bringing business acumen and technology to blaze a trail and set the standard in the modern-day development of our industry."

Down to earth

Don started working for the family business while in high school in the early 1950s, first as a mechanic's helper and then as a truck driver. He continued in this capacity while attending St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., in the late 1950s, using the job to fund his college education. To mechanics and drivers he was known as "Donnie," a term of endearment he earned and one still used affectionately by retired drivers today.

To most of Schneider National's employees, he was simply known as "Don," a man likely to wear blue jeans, a denim shirt and cowboy boots to work.

Julius Borley has been working for Schneider National for more than 60 years and remembers Don's down-to-earth style. "Don thought of himself as a regular guy and always wanted to stay in touch with the drivers. When I stopped driving and became a company tour guide, he always asked us to bring the drivers to his office during the tour. Don's door was always open. He wanted to meet the guys behind the wheel to let them know how much he respected how hard they worked and to thank them for working for Schneider. That's the kind of man he was."

Schneider graduated from St. Norbert College with an undergraduate degree in business and married his wife, Patricia (Pat) O'Brien, in 1957. After serving a 13-month military tour of duty in Korea, he returned to the United States and enrolled in graduate school at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon earning his master's degree from Wharton, he returned to the Green Bay area in 1961 to join his father's trucking company as a manager. He also taught finance at his alma mater, St. Norbert College, during this time. In 1976 Don officially became president of the then $82 million company. His father, Al, passed away in March of 1983.

Pioneering through challenging times

Schneider led the organization bearing his family's name for more than 25 years. During that time, the company grew, survived and thrived during some of the modern trucking industry's greatest challenges, including deregulation in the early 1980s.

Don's commitment to technological innovation was instrumental to the company's success.

"Schneider National might best be thought of as a high-tech company that happens to own a few thousand trucks," said the writer of a 2001 article in Darwin magazine.

Schneider National was the first in the industry to adopt satellite-based communications and positioning in its trucks. Don's vision extended beyond trucking as Schneider was a pioneer in providing intermodal and logistics services. In 1993 Schneider founded Schneider Logistics as a wholly owned subsidiary of Schneider National. His vision and talent extended beyond the transportation industry as he formed Schneider Communications, a regional telecommunications company, in 1982.

Schneider retired from the day-to-day responsibilities in 2002, selecting then chief operating officer Chris Lofgren to succeed him as president and CEO. Don continued on as chairman of the board for the privately held firm until 2007, when he reached the board's mandatory retirement age.

"Don Schneider was one of the finest individuals I have ever known," said Lofgren. "He was true to his convictions and committed to his values. I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to work for and be mentored by Don."

Don was one of HDT's inaugural Truck Fleet Innovators in 2006; you can read more in the HDT archives on Truckinginfo.com.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Pat, five children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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