Bill Ward Sr. got an early start with the family business.
"My first job was when I was 10. I would ride with the driver and assist in delivering packages. My dad paid me 50 cents a day," Ward said.
Seventy-one years later, Ward, 81, is stepping down from his position on the board of directors of Ward Transport and Logistics, for many years known as Ward Trucking Corp., a company founded by his father William W. Ward on May 13, 1931, a week after Bill was born in Chambersburg.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Bill T. Ward (left), president and CEO of Ward Transport and Logistics, and retiring Chairman G. William Ward look over business documents at their office at 700 E. Second Ave., Altoona, on Tuesday.
Ward said he has been gradually phasing himself out of the business. His son Bill T. Ward took over as president and CEO in 2007 and was named chairman of the board to succeed his father in 2011.
Ward, who officially joined the family business as assistant director of operations in 1956, said the time is right to fully retire from the family business.
"I've been at it a long time. Things change so quickly in your industry. You need to be younger to react with that and process new ideas and methods of doing things. I feel as I got older it was more difficult to process," Ward said. "I want to give the new generation of family and employees a chance to run this thing, and they can do it."
Ward, whose family moved to the area in 1933, graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 1949 and from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1953. He spent four years in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant in the amphibious forces before returning home to work for the family business.
"From the beginning, my only career plan was to come back to the company. I wanted to do it. I grew up with it and was interested in it. The way it was working it made sense to me; I was interested in carrying on the family business," Ward said.
He advanced to the position of assistant treasurer in 1957, and served as vice president from 1960-66 before being named president in 1967. He became chairman of the board in 1992.
During his tenure as president and chairman of the board of Ward Trucking Corp., the company grew from 498 employees in 1967 to 1,200 today. Revenue grew from $7 million to $139 million in 2011.
Ward said the position of president was challenging as the trucking industry was regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission until 1980.
"They [ICC] told us what we could charge, what routes we could take and our rates were the same as the competition. When we were deregulated, we could then charge anything and go anywhere," Ward said. "A deregulated environment always interested me. It was more of a challenge. When we were regulated, there were four carriers in Altoona doing what we were doing. Today, there are about 16 in the area."
Another major change in the industry has been the improvement in communications systems.
"When I started, drivers were on their own. Then came the CB radios, then the cellphones and all the things they have with them now," Ward said.
"We have a system that enables us to know where our drivers are all of the time. They can tell the customers how far away they are and we can tell them what trailer it is in - that is a big plus for planning purposes," Ward said. "Our men all have iPads; they get their assignments on those. They all have GPS systems."
Ward said he is proud his company has been able to remain nonunion over the years.
"Historically, our business was union. We have maintained it [nonunion] since the company started in 1931 and that makes me very proud. That tells me we are doing the right thing with our people," Ward said. "In the early years, I asked them who could represent their interests better than me. I never got a satisfactory answer."
Ward has been involved with numerous community organizations over the years.
The Boy Scouts of America has always been close to his heart.
"I have had a lifelong passion for the Boy Scouts. I became an Eagle Scout in 1947 and have been involved with the Boy Scouts in one form or another since then. It is a wonderful organization and gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see these young men evolve through the scout program," said Ward, who received the Silver Beaver Award from the Blair Bedford Council, Boy Scouts of America, in 1959.
Ward also has been a longtime member of the Altoona Rotary Club and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow by the club in 1984.
Ward, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce in 2003, is well-respected by his colleagues in the business community.
"I think what defines Bill Ward is that he is a gentleman; there are not many people who you can call a gentleman. He is passionate, honest and a terrific person who considers Altoona and the community to be a wonderful place and he has engaged that by his actions in the community," said Donald Devorris, chairman of the Blair Companies.
"He has always been a positive thinker with a very outgoing personality and that makes it easy to work with him," said John Wolf, chairman of Wolf Furniture Enterprises. "I found him to have good insights and a positive approach to a wide range of areas and challenges."
Ward said he hopes he is remembered in a positive way by his employees.
"I want to be remembered as a caring person, looking out always for the employees and their families, as a person not afraid to try new ideas, some of which worked and some which did not work," Ward said.
"I talk of this as a family company, we truly are. I say to our people, if you take care of the company, the company has pledged to take care of you," Ward said.
"My dad has always strived to create a "family atmosphere," Bill T. Ward said. "Our employees share in the good times and offer extra help in the lean times. We care about not only our employees but their families as well."
The future of the business remains bright.
"I see it as very positive. The management of the company is very good. They have surrounded themselves with very capable people and that pleases me," Bill Ward Sr. said.
Bill T. Ward said his father has taught him how to treat people.
"If you treat people fairly and with respect, you will get the same in return. He also taught me about humility and that it is a virtue that many leaders have forgotten," Bill T. Ward said.
Bill Ward Sr. said he has no special plans for retirement. He said he enjoys bicycling and target shooting and will have more time to spend with his family including his 12 grandchildren.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.