Robert Michael Sullivan was born on April 26, 1921, on the third floor of the three-decker house at 580 North Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts, directly across the street from the garage which his father, Timothy J. Sullivan, had owned and operated for six years as an agency for the sale and maintenance of Dodge, Hudson and Essex automobiles.
Even from the age of three, Bob’s favorite place to play was at the garage, sitting in cars and trucks pretending to drive. When he wasn’t at the garage, he played in the back yard “changing tires” with a discarded Weaver tire changer or “driving” a few of the used cars his father had left there. At night his bedtime stories were “chalk talks” with his father diagramming on a small slate the inner workings of the real cars young Bob pretended to drive.
As a high school senior, Bob wrote his vocational essay, in which he described in detail the kind of business he envisioned for himself. It seems almost uncanny that at the age of 18 he could portray so vividly the operation of a non-existent transportation business that became, much later, the reality of R.M. Sullivan Transportation, Inc.
After returning from Europe and World War II in October of 1945, Bob enrolled in Boston University where he earned his degree with an accounting major.
In 1950 Bob and Ward Hartranft formed a partnership, first as a GMC truck dealership and later as H & S Truck Leasing, Inc. In July of 1953, Bob become the sole owner of H & S Truck Leasing, Inc. The company began to prosper as contracts for mail messenger service were negotiated and formed the bulk of the business.
In 1957, Bob began looking for land on which to build a terminal and a year later built his first garage on our present Cottage Street site. It was a 40′ by 50′ brick structure with a 12′ by 14′ office on the side and had one drive-through bay.
The Mail contracts expanded and were profitable for a time. But by 1961, Bob felt this was too fragile a business to remain in permanently and placed an ad in Transport Topics to buy trucking authority. Ed Clark, of Clark’s Express in Spencer, MA answered his ad and sold him operating authority, which covered Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Thus, R.M. Sullivan Transportation, Inc., a common carrier, guaranteeing “overnight delivery from the crossroads of New England”, became a reality.
In August 1962, R.M. Sullivan Transportation hauled its first freight. Progress was a “slow and often bloody battle”, according to Bob. But it did come. The company incorporated in 1963. The physical plant was gradually expanded, and on April 26, 1975, our new terminal was opened. And in the interim, after graduating from St. Bonaventure College in 1972, Bob’s son Robert came in full time to master his father’s trade and make his considerable contribution to the business. Robert now serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of R.M. Sullivan Transportation, Inc. and President of Sullivan Consolidation, Inc. On June 1, 1983, Bob’s youngest daughter, Terry joined the company as Treasurer after earning her degree in accounting from Bentley College.
Over the past 25 years, further additions have become necessary as the business continues to grow. With the addition of Sullivan Consolidation, Inc in 1975, Sulco Warehousing and Logistics in 1975 and Sulco Brokerage, Inc in 1985, Bob’s vision and dedication to his customers and employees remains as steadfast today as when he first wrote that high school essay. He looked with pride on the company’s more than 140 power units, 350 trailers, 2 million square feet of warehouse space and especially the more than 400 employees that have helped build his vision into a reality. Bob’s children, Robert and Terry continue to provide the vision and leadership as co-owners of the companies their father founded over 55 years ago.