The following pages profile some extraordinary trucking industry leaders, the winners of Heavy Duty Trucking's first-ever Truck Fleet Innovators awards. These fleet executives were chosen for their continuing dedication to growing their companies through innovative operations and early adoption of technologies to make their fleets more safe, efficient and profitable.

Our first innovator, Glenn Brown, started his career at CFI as a driver, to rise to chairman and CEO. Under his lead, CFI became one of the first U.S. trucking companies to make major inroads hauling freight in and out of Mexico. Today, cross-border trucking is 40 percent of the company's business.

Russ Gerdin, chairman and CEO of Heartland Express, doesn't consider himself an innovator, but he obviously looks at things a little differently than the rest of the pack. His philosophy: Be debt-free, run only new equipment, and "don't hire a whole bunch of bad drivers to haul a whole bunch of bad freight."

Duane Acklie, chairman of Crete Carrier Corp., believes in good drivers. Because of his dedication to hiring the right truckers and keeping them happy, Crete enjoys a driver turnover rate of just 30 percent in a truckload industry where the norm is more like 120 percent.

Known as early adopters of new technologies, Max Fuller and Pat Quinn, co-chairman at U.S. Xpress, have long been on the leading edge of technology, avoiding for the most part, the bleeding edge. Consequently, they enjoy the first look at a lot of up-and-coming technologies that aren't known to the industry.

In the years following deregulation, when traditional less-than-truckload companies were being pounded by truckload pioneers, Harry Muhlschlegel re-invented the LTL model with his company, Jevic. Jevic was sold to Yellow in 1999 and Muhlschlegel was at it again with New Century Transportation, a niche LTL carrier that is innovative in operations and in equipment, running wide-base tires instead of duals, automatic chassis lubrication system and driver-friendly automatic transmissions. And each rig is equipped with an auxiliary power unit.

Jerry Moyes began his career with one old beat up Diamond T. Last year, he retired as chairman and CEO of the nation's largest publicly traded truckload company, Swift Transportation, with more than 18,000 power units and 3,000 owner-operators.

Trucking visionary Don Schneider, chairman of Schneider National, was an early advocate for the use of technology who paved the way for the use of satellite tracking and communications.

These trucking pioneers will be honored at Heavy Duty Trucking's Annual Economic Summit held in conjunction with the Mid-America Trucking Show. Hats off to them all.