Carbon Express Inc. owner Steve Rush was born on a small potato farm in northern Maine. As a youngster, Steve enjoyed tagging along with his dad helping with the many chores associated with farm life. As a harbinger of things to come, Steve took an avid interest in driving the family truck and with the help of his father's instruction Steve was trucking all over the family farm by the ripe age of eight years old. Around this period of his life Steve's dad also taught him how to collect maple water and convert it to maple syrup. Sporting an entrepreneurial spirit even then, Steve took his maple syrup and offered it for sale to his neighbors. Unfortunately, Steve's first business venture ended when the family farm burned down and the Rush family moved to Connecticut.
From Connecticut, the Rush clan moved to the green pastures of New Jersey. Steve continued in his industrious ways and started his first paper route at age fourteen. Steve believed in providing his customers with perfect service and within a short period of time he increased his customer base from thirty four customers to over one hundred and thirty. Steve recalls those days fondly. "At a young age I realized that I needed to provide my customers with my best effort every day and provide the best possible service.
I also discovered that I had a keen interest in customer service, collections and salesmanship. I really took a lot of pride in my service and I had the ability to communicate that to my present customers and sell that to prospective customers. As I look back this realization was probably when I recognized that I had the ability to run a successful business.” During this period of time Steve also worked at a local hospital operating the old style telephone switchboard. Steve recalls he benefitted from this experience because it gave him the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people- doctors, nurses, patients as well as other hospital employees.
Restless to venture out on his own Steve left high school in his junior year and joined the United States Air Force. In the Air Force, Steve became an Air to Ground operator and fell in love with the position. He believes that experience helped him understand the basic philosophy of Dispatching in the trucking industry. Steve proudly states “I wouldn’t trade my days in the military for anything. Not only did I love serving my country but the discipline and the direction I acquired in the military was worth its weight in gold.”
After his stint in the Air Force, Steve found his way into the trucking industry. Steve started his career loading trucks in a union shop and eventually he became a full time company driver. In 1971 Steve purchased a 1970 cab over Brockway and began life as an owner operator. “Owning and driving a truck offered me a great way to make a living. The pay was good and I always loved traveling. Plus it satisfied my desire to run my own business. I owned my own truck and I was my own boss. For me the decision was easy.” In 1983 Steve purchased his operating authority and started his company — Carbon Express.
Steve says “We’ve come a long way since starting in 1983 with ten tractors and ten trailers. It’s crazy for me to think back that Carbon Express first office was in the laundry room of our house. None of this would have been possible without my wife Dawn. Talk about the ultimate multi-tasker — Dawn was our first billing clerk, safety director and accounts receivable clerk — not to mention my partner and a great mother to our three children Stephen, Scott and Kristen. I have no idea how she juggled all those balls at the same time.”
In 2009, Steve made a decision to eliminate sleeper cabs from the Carbon Express fleet. Steve says “This was a decision that was a long time in the making. Having been an over the road driver for more than fifteen years I’ve slept in more truck cabs than I care to remember. I felt that it was in the best interests of my drivers to get them out of their trucks to get their sleep. There is no comparison between sleeping in a truck and sleeping in a quiet motel room with your own shower. The end result is a driver who is better rested and therefore safer on the highways.”
Since 2013, the company has been primarily purchasing Volvo and Mack tractors with i-Shift and M-drive automatic transmissions, disc brakes, collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems. The earlier trucks have tag axle configurations, while the new trucks have automatic lift axles. On a recent trip to Alaska, we had trucks with lift axles that averaged just short of then miles per gallon on the empty trip home.
In June of 2018, Carbon Express had trucks on opposite sides of North America. We had seven trucks in Fairbanks, Alaska and one in Clarenville, NL at the same time. A distance of 5915 miles apart plus a seven-hour ferry ride – all in day cabs.
An added benefit of using day cabs is that Carbon Express is can haul as much as 11 to 21% more product than the competition. This results in more value for the customer as well as contributing to a cleaner and safer environment. More weight equals less loads, less fuel and fewer emissions released into the atmosphere.
In the end Steve says he’s still as excited as he was about the business as he was all those years ago. “We’ve made a tremendous re-investment into our business over the past year and a half. You name it — technology, equipment, facility improvements and most importantly we’ve invested in people. We’ve added some very talented people and we’re poised to do some great things in this industry.” As his syrup customers in Maine and his newspaper customers in New Jersey will attest — don’t bet against Steve Rush.