Our Founder, John Ruan

For a country that depends so heavily on trucks to keep its business moving, it is fitting that John Ruan moved his first load of gravel on July 4, 1932. 

That first truck was purchased with money gained from the sale of his family's car. Within months, he'd turned that one truck into three, and just two years later, at the age of 19, he was running a fleet of a dozen trucks throughout the Midwest. Today, Ben McLean, part of the third generation of the Ruan family, serves as CEO. We have grown to more than 300 nationwide operations; we operate 4,000 power units and 10,000 trailers; and we employ 5,000 team members. Ruan has also expanded into banking, real estate development, export-import operations, and more.

An Early Innovator

Founder John Ruan

Our founder has played a significant role in not only our company, but the transportation industry as a whole. In fact, in 1997, the American Trucking Associations' Ruan Transportation Center building was dedicated in Washington, D.C., honoring Mr. Ruan's more than 60 years of service to the transportation industry.

Early on, Mr. Ruan prioritized safety, making Ruan the first transportation company in America to have a formal safety program. Not only did Mr. Ruan view safety as a moral imperative for the well-being of his employees, he viewed it as a competitive advantage over his competition. Under his leadership, the Ruan team developed the first truck capable of driving 1 million miles without major repairs. They introduced programs to reduce emissions. And, they developed and championed programs that rewarded safe driving. 

A Community and Philanthropic Focus

John Ruan also cared about his community and the world around him. Rather than build a new corporate headquarters in the more spacious suburbs, he believed Des Moines could and should be a vibrant, thriving, professional city. So he built the 36-story Ruan Center office complex in the middle of downtown Des Moines, the tallest building in Iowa at the time. He brought the Marriott Hotel into the city and later erected Two Ruan Center. The result was the beginning of a downtown resurgence that continues to this day—and is championed by his grandson, John IV.

Ruan HeadquartersOutside of the transportation industry, the Ruans are well-known for their philanthropic efforts. Mr. Ruan's life was affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) when his wife and his daughter were stricken with the disease. In the late 1980s, Mr. Ruan personally donated $2 million for the establishment of the Ruan Neurological Center at Des Moines' Mercy Medical Center, which cares for patients with MS as well as other neurological disorders, such as stroke and Parkinson's disease. 

Mr. Ruan was also dedicated to feeding the world. He held the belief that if people around the world could simply get enough food to eat, they would have the opportunity to improve their lives. Another accomplished Iowan, Dr. Norman Borlaug, had been working toward this goal his entire career, eventually creating the World Food Prize. Together, the two Iowans elevated this award to one of the most distinguished and important awards in agriculture.

In Remembrance

John Ruan passed away on February 14, 2010, at the age of 96. He instilled our company with a respect for hard work, for integrity and for our customers. He treated his team members like an extension of his own family. His example—whether it was his positive attitude or the thousand little acts of kindness he performed—will continue to enrich our lives in the years to come.


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