Remembering James C. Hardman: 1931 – 2017
24 Aug 2017
By Donald G. Oren, Chairman of Dart Transit Company
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of James C. Hardman Esq. at the age of 86. Jim was a personal friend who played an important and key role in the trucking industry, helping to make it the economic force that it is today. He also helped Dart Transit Company develop into a strong and innovative carrier.
Mr. Hardman practiced transportation law for some 50 years and took a leadership role on two important issues: the legalization process for 53’ high cube vans, and defending the independent contractor status in trucking. In doing so, he benefited everyone at Dart – and indeed everyone in the truckload sector – with his talents, expertise, and dedication. Many looked to him for sage advice and groundbreaking legal theory that ultimately prevailed at the state and federal levels.
I first met Jim during the late 1950’s. He was a young transportation lawyer with his own law firm in Chicago. Dart was in urgent need of help to secure additional operating authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission. Dart’s authority was extremely limited, so we desperately needed to expand our base of business. In those days carriers were confined to approved lanes between specified cities, with specifically approved commodities. Applications for authority had to be very narrow and specific in scope to succeed and required strong support from the shipper. There were usually twenty or more carriers in opposition, so it was extraordinarily difficult to obtain additional authority. One of our early successes was hauling cans from Mankato, Minnesota, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Dart filed 300 applications over the next few years, many presented in “oral hearings”, which meant travel to Chicago or some other city. We spent many days on the road, even birthdays.
As time went on we became more and more successful. In large part, our success was based on innovation and the birth of the extra high cube van. Jim was again at the forefront of this effort by laying the legal groundwork with state legislatures across the country. He organized and spearheaded the 60NRCommittee (comprised of shippers and trucking companies) to lobby in states where 53’ legislation was being considered. Their success ultimately resulted in the 53’ trailer becoming the standard of the industry. With 53’ vans Dart could haul four extra pallets of cans and use nine trucks to haul what previously took ten.
This was an enormous step forward for the nation’s economy. Shippers, consumers, the environment and the motoring public all benefit to this day through lower transportation cost, lower fuel consumption, and fewer trucks on the road, helping to reduce highway congestion. By the time deregulation came in the early 1980’s, Dart had acquired all the operating authority that it needed.
Deregulation brought on new challenges and Jim was again at the forefront. Jim encouraged good corporate citizenship. He was elected President of the Transportation Lawyers Association in 1980. He gave up his law practice and moved to Minnesota to be our General Counsel.
It was a period of rapid growth for the entire truckload sector. Maximizing that growth was a challenge as freight rates fell dramatically. For Dart, growth meant acquiring more owner operators and protecting their independent contractor status since we relied 100% on owner operators.
Jim was at the forefront of defining and protecting the independent owner operator status by defending Dart contractors, publishing numerous white papers and books, and lobbying in states wherever proposed legislation challenged the independent contractor status. He recognized that when it came to the independent contractor status, the legal success of one carrier benefited all, and the legal problems of one carrier became a problem for all. As a result, he worked with competing carriers to help them avoid legal issues associated with the independent owner operator status.
Over the years Jim became a special personal friend and a key business advisor. My wife and I knew him socially even before he met and married the love of his life, Maureen. Both of them loved to entertain and they were loyal to his alma mater, Northwestern University. They never missed a Wildcat game and they hosted many elaborate tailgate parties.
He is survived by two children, Jimmy and Katie. We miss him as a person who achieved much and made a difference in the lives of many.