Mack Dove, by his own admission, as a young boy loved to say, “vvvrrooommmmm!”
That same noise might well be used to describe the sound of the family business, AAA Cooper Transportation, of Dothan, Alabama.
Today AAA Cooper Transportation is one of the largest transportation companies in the nation, with 74 terminals that serve more than 15,000 cities and communities in 15 states. AAA Cooper owns and operates a fleet of more than 1,900 tractors and 4,300 trailers and employs nearly 5,000 people. Over the past 40 years, the firm’s revenues have increased at an 18 percent compounded growth rate.
Mack Dove was born in 1936 in Dothan, the second son of John Hal “Red” Dove and Sybil Bentley Dove. Red Dove grew up in Mississippi hauling timber with mule teams and oxen before moving to Model T Ford trucks in the 1920s. Red Dove moved to California for a short while, then returned to the South and settled in Dothan, where he began hauling whatever needed to be hauled.
Mack Dove attended Dothan’s public schools and began his working life bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly on weekends. His father’s business gradually expanded as Dove Truck Lines until 194 2 when it was sold, and Red Dove bought another truck line and named it J.H. Dove Transportation Company. Two years later the firm merged with D and D Transportation Company in Atlanta, extending its reach down to the Florida Panhandle. That company was sold in 1951 and in 1954 he bought a small trucking company and changed its name to AAA Motor Lines.
Meanwhile, Mack and his older brother Earl were earning degrees in transportation from the University of Tennessee and both became active in the family business. Mack was active in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and after a stint of active duty in the U.S. Army, served seven and a half years in the reserve, where he attained the rank of captain. The ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s were a period of tight regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Dove family decided the best way to expand the company would be through buying operating routes or companies that were not operating their routes to the greatest potential. A turning point in company history came when AAA Motor Lines bought Cooper Transfer of Brewton, Alabama, in 1969, to be operated as a wholly-owned and independent subsidiary of AAA. Mack became president of Cooper and moved the firm to Dothan. Earl took over as president of AAA. The two sons, in 1973, merged the two companies and bought all of the stock in the resulting company from their father. The company then became AAA Cooper.
In the early ’70s, it began to become obvious that the trucking industry was in for
a big change in the form of industry deregulation. Congress deregulated the telephone and airline industries before turning its attention to trucking in the late ’70s. Deregulation meant that services and rates that had formerly been tightly regulated were thrust open. Truckers, telephone companies, and airlines were set free to devise services and set prices as they saw fit. Massive industry consolidation was the result in each industry as companies expanded services to include areas formerly reserved and protected for other carriers. AAA Cooper expanded its service area beyond Alabama, Georgia, and Florida to Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Virginia. Growth was explosive as new routes were added.
In 1989 Earl retired from the business. The company continued its ambitious expansion plan, purchasing nine terminals from Bowman Transportation Company, and moving outside the Southeast to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, then to Texas, and eventually began “truck-to-ship-to-truck” service to and from Puerto Rico. The expansion has not come at the expense of the company’s customers in its home territory. As deregulation became reality, a number of AAA Cooper’s competitors immediately began looking to the bigger markets in the North and West.
“So when they went to Chicago, we went to Charlotte,” Dove said in an interview with Southern Motor Cargo. “When they went to Los Angeles, we went to Dallas. Our strategy was to continue to be an LTL carrier, and when their attention got diverted to other, more exciting areas, we concentrated on where they were and were fortunate enough to get their business.” Dove has always had an interest in education, especially when it involved AAA Cooper employees. Employees are offered reimbursement of tuition for all academic and job-related technical courses, providing they maintain an acceptable grade average.
Under Dove’s leadership, AAA Cooper has established itself as a leader in safety in an industry that is fraught with danger, from hauling hazardous materials to making sure a vehicle is properly chocked. In addition to his degree in transportation from the University of Tennessee, Mack Dove also received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1982. He completed the advanced studies program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business and has been named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. The award was created in memory of the founder of Rotary as a way of showing appreciation for those who contributed to the foundation’s humanitarian and educational programs.
Dove has served his community and state as faithfully as he has the trucking industry. He is a past chairman of the Alabama Trucking Association, was a member of the policy and finance committee of the American Trucking Association, is currently on the executive committee and the board of directors of the American Trucking Association, and is chairman of the Litigation Center, American Trucking Association.