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TransAm Trucking

Protein Hauler Is Pro Eaton Automation

“With the Eaton automated transmissions, your shift patterns are always taking place at the proper times. Because the transmissions always know when to shift, you are consistently getting fuel economy increases.”

Russ McElliot, President


Russ McElliott, president of TransAm Trucking, Inc., is a big fan of protein.

All kinds…beef, pork, chicken, turkey…even processed protein. It doesn’t matter. That’s because the food group has played an essential role in the phenomenal growth of this 25-year-old, temperature-controlled carrier.

“All of our Midwest customers are protein shippers,” explains McElliott. “That has opened the door to additional opportunities in other geographical locations. You name it, and we will gladly pick it up to reposition our trucks back into the Midwest area to get the next protein load.”

Founded by current owners John and Trudy Jacobson, TransAm today serves all of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, and also regularly runs into Southern California. Corporate headquarters is located on an immaculate 50-acre facility in Olathe, KS, and the company also has a terminal in Rockwell, TX.

With roughly 1,400 tractors, 2,400 trailers and a support staff of 310 people, TransAm currently employs approximately 1,400 company and independent drivers.


As is the case with any trucking company, drivers are essential to success at TransAm. Recruiting, hiring and keeping the best possible drivers are ongoing challenges for the management staff.

While McElliott is perfectly okay with turkeys in his trailers, he doesn’t want any in the seats of his trucks.

To best achieve that, TransAm believes in giving drivers a complete menu of opportunities to succeed, including industryleading compensation packages, generous amounts of home time, as well as the safest and most profitable loads and routes possible.

McElliott is also a firm believer in giving his drivers only best-inclass, late model trucks to safely, comfortably and efficiently perform their jobs. The average age of trucks in his fleets is less than 2.5 years.


With Kenworth being the nameplate of choice, all trucks include a wealth of driver-friendly features, including auxiliary power units for environmentallyfriendly cooling in the summer and heating in the winter, well-appointed sleepers, pre-wired CB and satellite radio hook-ups, on-board navigation systems, electronic log devices, and in-cab fifth-wheel release systems.

Fully automated transmissions are also standard on all TransAm trucks. McElliott is a longtime proponent of automation, having initially experimented with the technology in 2000.

“At the time we noticed that new types of drivers were entering the marketplace,” says McElliott, “most of whom were not well prepared for a manual transmission.”

“Learning how to shift was a tremendous barrier for them, and too much of our time was being spent teaching them how to properly shift a manual transmission. So we made the decision to go with automated products.”

Sticking with that decision, McElliott recently ordered 1,000 new Kenworth T680 tractors – all of which have been spec’ed with new Eaton UltraShift PLUS Linehaul Active Shifting (LAS) 10-speed automated transmissions.

That represents one of the largest single-fleet orders on record for Eaton.

The Eaton Linehaul Series of UltraShift PLUS transmissions have been designed to provide operators with the ideal combination of fuel efficiency and performance. Available in both overdrive and direct-drive models, the transmissions feature new clutch technology and shift selection software that employs grade sensing, weight computation, and driver throttle commands to make intelligent shift decisions for efficient, safe and profitable vehicle performance.


“You do not have the fatigue at the end of the day that you get with a manual transmission, and the drivers are very, very happy with the product because it makes their jobs easier,” notes McElliott. “We invest heavily in making their lives on the road as comfortable as possible. The Eaton automated transmission is now the cornerstone of that effort.”

He adds, “I think any one of our drivers would fight, or do anything they could, to get the transmission back if we ever tried to take it away from them.”

He cites safety as another compelling reason to invest in automation.

“As we got more and more into it, we started recognizing how automated transmissions can make your vehicles much safer than those with a manual transmission,” says McElliott. “The driver can better focus on the road, keep both hands on the wheel, and has fewer decisions to make. Consequently, we are having fewer accidents.” Automation, he adds, has also benefitted TransAm at the fuel tank.

“With the Eaton automated transmissions, your shift patterns are always taking place at the proper times,” says McElliott. “Because the transmissions always know when to shift, you are consistently getting fuel economy increases.”

Since 2002 every heavy-duty vehicle in the TransAm fleet has been spec’ed with an Eaton automated transmission.

“During that period Eaton support has been excellent,” adds McElliott. “We couldn’t be more pleased. If it wasn’t for that support, we might have been forced to go in a different direction.”

Instead, he plans to stay on course for now. The paybacks of driver comfort, safer vehicles, good fuel consumption and top-notch service can be very convincing.

“We have no complaints,” adds McElliott.

If and when McElliott and TransAm do have a beef, it most likely won’t be about Eaton automation.