Parke & Emily Cox | Delivering A Legacy of Trucking
What started out as one army surplus truck has become an entire fleet of commercial semis.
Parke Cox bought his first delivery truck shortly after returning home from World War II. He said trucking was something he wanted to do, but didn’t really know what he was getting into. He and his wife, Emily, drove back to Ohio to pick up that first truck and found assembly was required.
“I wanted to know where my truck was and they said ‘good luck,’” Parke recalls. “It’s down in the air base in seven crates.”
Without any other options, Parke and Emily put the truck together and drove it home to St. George. Parke said it took them almost a week because the truck didn’t have headlights, and a maximum speed of 42 miles per hour.
“It made for pretty long days, I tell ya,” Emily jokes about the trip. “We could only drive daylight hours, so we woke up at the crack of dawn and drove until we couldn’t see any more.” A picture of that first truck sits on Emily’s desk, and hangs in the hallway at the Cox Trucking offices. It’s a reminder of their humble beginnings.
Parke and Emily say their trucking career has always been a partnership. He drove the trucks, while she did the books and often took care of the drivers.
Parke started out with small jobs, but it didn’t take long for his company to grow from there. Soon he was revolutionizing the trucking industry by using one of the first refrigerated trailers. Parke said he’s always prided himself on having the cleanest trucks. It’s something Cox Trucking strives to keep up to this day.
“That’s how we attain some of our customers,” Parke’s son Don said. He runs Cox Trucking today. “They just figure if you take good care of your equipment, I figure you’ll take good care of my product.”
Emily said they never expected the company to grow as big as it has, because for them, it was just a way to pay the bills. Now, a large computer screen in the distribution center shows several dozen trucks across the United States each represented with a dot. Dispatchers can check in with them routinely and even see when they’ve stopped for the day.
“It’s sort of blossomed,” said Emily. “We’ve started something and couldn’t get it stopped, I guess.”
Now in their nineties, Parke and Emily said they stay young because they haven’t stopped moving. Parke still has a Commercial Drivers License and up until a few years ago, still made deliveries to Cedar City.
Parke has dozens of stories from his time out on the road that represent the struggles of owning a business, but he said the best ones are of perseverance and growth. During one memorable drive carrying rock from St. George to California, Parke learned a lesson about being prepared. On the way down Utah Hill he began to lose control, and realized he hadn’t adjusted the brakes. Emily by his side, he braced her for a potential emergency exit.
“All at once I was losing my brakes.” Parke recalls. “I told her ‘If I can’t get it stopped, you’d better be ready to jump.’”
Emily didn’t have to jump, but Parke said it illustrated the need to have everything in place before the journey starts. It’s been a metaphor for their lives, ones devoted to their family, their business, and their community.
“I love it down here,” Emily said of living in Southern Utah. “What impressed me was how nice everybody was. They’re just more like family or something.”
Southern Utah has become a commercial distribution hub, with many manufacturers located in St. George because of its location. Parke said he’s proud to be a pioneer in the area, and said there’s no place he’d rather call home.
“We were here, and we’ve never had a desire to go anywhere else,” Parke said.