The trucking industry is rich in long family traditions for both pioneering and innovating its continued growth and importance to our everyday lives. The Clark family from New Jersey is one of those iconic families and this year, they’re celebrating 100 years in the business, with a father and son still very much active and ready to continue for years.
In 1921, the Wright family worked fields in western New Jersey near the Delaware River but, after a few bad weather seasons, decided to move to Newark, New Jersey looking for a different line of work. In July, JC Wright, who was in his late teens, was the first to hang up his farming tools and instead, dig into the trucking industry. He was hired by the White Motor Company to work at the factory branch on Murry Street as a service writer. It wasn’t long before JC showed he was pretty good at selling and was promoted to a used and new truck salesman. When sales slowed a bit during the depression, he would take his family from Newark to White’s headquarters and factory in Cleveland to pick up White buses. This bus delivery trip soon became the Wright family’s summer vacation. JC continued his rise with White, becoming the branch manager in Newark, and in the early 1950’s he was promoted to Vice President of New Vehicles Parts Pricing.
Shifting to the Next Gear
Not long after his promotion, an opportunity came up for JC to fulfill his dream to own his own dealership. So, he took over Paterson White Truck and Bus in Paterson, NJ, where he built a strong business and was the first of many relationships with the OEM world. In 1960, when Interstate 80 was designed to come right through his property, JC moved his business to Saddle Brook, NJ, and renamed it North Jersey White Autocar, and his vision of further expansion became reality. They franchised with Diamond Reo, Divco, Freightliner and bought another White Autocar franchise to become the largest new truck dealer in North America.
The Next Generation of the Family Business
In the mid-1960s, JC’s son-in-law Richard (Dick) Clark, began working at North Jersey White Autocar and became a partner in the dealership, building his knowledge of the business and OEM relationships along the way. In 1981, Dick took his next big step and started an International Truck dealership in Rockaway, New Jersey partnering with Dover Diesel Service until the mid 80’s when Dover Diesel Service moved to a new location.
Dick’s son Rick became the third generation in the trucking business by doing odd jobs at the White Autocar dealership as a teenager, painting the facility, and washing and prepping new and used trucks for delivery to retail customers. Finally, with his driver’s license in hand, he began delivering parts and trucks to customers during the summer. Rick didn’t have any aspirations of continuing the family legacy in the business. But it was good money and he continued making deliveries while he attended college. Graduating from college early and working on his Masters’ degree, Rick began looking for a career in the automotive business, not big commercial trucks. But that direction didn’t exactly work out, as Rick visited 16 automobile dealerships without a single job offer, even when he said he’d work for free. So, he went to a Cummins distributorship where he’d delivered and picked up parts and decided to ask for a job. They liked Rick, so they hired him as an engine salesman and started his rigorous training of six months in their service department and another six months in their parts department. His year of hands-on training got Rick more and more interested in trucks, especially diesel engines. That knowledge really allowed him to excel when he started selling trucks and later, as a Cummins distributor dealer representative.
The Family Tree Grows and a Warranty Brand is Born
Rick’s story now goes full circle, as one of his first customers as a dealer rep was Dover Diesel Service. At a DDS picnic one Saturday afternoon, an idea came up about offering powertrain warranties on used trucks. Together, the DDS dealer principals and Rick worked on the idea, and not too long later in 1983, Rick followed in his dad’s footsteps and went to work for DDS selling service, parts, and warranties under the name Dover Diesel Engine Protection Service. The used truck business really grew, as did the warranty business. So, DDS opened a used truck center where Rick’s dream to be a dealer partner come true. The used truck center was very successful and led to expanding into the leasing business, where Rick became the President of
Paragon Truck Leasing, a PacLease franchise leasing new Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks in the North Jersey market.
The warranty business also continued to grow, and Rick got more and more involved in that side of the business, expanding from local sales to regional and eventually nationwide coverage. Rick developed strong relationships with the OEM’s and expanded their used truck locations selling the warranty throughout the US and Canada. Along the way, Dover Diesel Engine Protection Service became National Truck Protection (NTP), now the longest active commercial truck aftermarket warranty brand in North America.
For 36 years, Rick has maneuvered through a number of ownerships and industry changes and today he continues as a key part of NTP’s management team, responsible for OEM and key national partner relations. Rick has served the industry well, especially his dedication to the Used Truck Association (UTA). He served on the UTA’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2015, held many committee chairman positions, and served as UTA President for several terms. After a few years of hiatus, Rick is ready to return to giving back to the industry after being nominated to rejoin the UTA Board of Directors in the upcoming term. “It’s amazing that my family has been part of the trucking industry for 100 years this year,” Rick said. “And even better is that my son Michael is now 4th generation. So, this gig could go on for 150 years! Wouldn’t that be something?” Michael Clark went right into used truck sales after college at Arrow Truck Sales in Newark and later in Philadelphia. Today, Michael works for Daimler Trucks Remarketing as a buyer for their Select stores. Michael is also a member of the Used Truck Association.