mister p express owners talking to a fire officer as they celebrate their 30th anniversary

JEFFERSONVILLE — Not long after Mister “P” Express, Inc. opened in 1987 in Southern Indiana, founder Allan Parnell’s wife, Bunny, suggested closing the trucking company’s doors.

Allan, the Mister P behind Mister “P”’s, refused, despite the struggles the couple was facing as new business owners.

“I said, ‘well, we’ve got a second mortgage on the house. We’ll lose everything we’ve got,’” Alan said.

He just needed something to keep the three-truck business alive. His solution: becoming an auctioneer.

The second job worked. Alan used money from estate sales to supplement the trucking company, as well as a miraculously-granted $100,000 Small Business Administration loan. Eventually, Mister “P”’s started to grow.

Now, the company is in its 30th year, owns 200 trucks and employs about 300 people — and it’s still evolving. Alan celebrated Mister “P’s” anniversary and success on Wednesday with his wife and daughter, Cindy Collier, now president and CEO of the company, by his side.

Over the decades, Mister “P’s” has come to mean different things to different people in Southern Indiana.

Ron Ellis, a Jeffersonville city councilman, worked with Allan on helping local children attend summer camp.

“I was asking Allan a question a while ago,” Ellis said. “I wonder how many people that he has affected their lives over the period of time that he’s been Mister “P”’s Express. And I think that he’s built a city in his own.”

Inspired by his Christian faith, Allan has supported several causes over the years, perhaps most notably Silver Heights Camp in New Albany and Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

Mayor Mike Moore talked about how family-oriented Mister “P’s” is.

The company has several “double-digit” employees, and Allan said he treats his workers in accordance with the golden rule: how he would want to be treated.

“I give them out bonuses,” Allan said. “I don’t put that money in the bank that I could, but I share it with my employees. I do it quarterly. Because I feel compelled. They helped me be successful, so I want to help them.”

Jerry Acy, the executive director of River Ridge Commerce Center, thinks of Mister “P’s” as a founding tenant of his business and industrial park.

Allan moved the business to River Ridge in 1994, before it even became the commerce center, and has since expanded it from a two- or three-acre site with just one building to a 15-acre campus with a maintenance facility, an enclosed wash bay, fuel station and a high-value, high-risk pad for precious cargo.

Mister “P”’s is still growing within River Ridge, and is working on building a 16-acre driving school just “down the road,” from its main campus.

Despite the trucking company’s success, Mister “P’s” still faces challenges, and one of those is a lack of truck drivers — a nationwide problem for the industry.

To combat that, Allan started a driving school for his company a few years ago, where drivers can earn their certification and start working for Mister “P”’s in a matter of months.

The company can teach 24 students at a time, but with the new building, Mister “P’s” will be able to school 50. The facility is supposed to be finished by spring.

Mister “P””s also faces regulatory hurdles, including a law that will soon require an electronic log device in trucks to track hours driven. But Collier said the company is trying to “rise to” their challenges.

Mister “P”’s is still doing better than many other trucking companies in the United States. Their turnover rate is just 58 percent compared to the nationwide rate of 90 percent. Their drivers can operate in 48 different states and Canada, and Mister “P”’s has several Fortune 500 clients

Collier is now the trucking company’s leader. She took over as CEO four years ago, although she was the president of the company even before then. It was a “natural” transition to leadership for Collier, as Allan began serving on more boards, including on Lindsey Wilson College’s, where he’s the chair.

Collier has done excellently, Allan said, and she’s already prepping for the next generation of leadership after her.

Collier’s daughter, Rebecca Estes and her son-in-law, Bryan Carr, have taken on significant roles at Mister “P’s,” and Collier also has her eyes on the company’s IT director and several “young pups” in the dispatch office.

And Allan is still very involved.

“I don’t do the day-to-day, but I watch the bottom line every day,” he said. “In the winter months, we go to Florida, and I pull up every day and see what’s going on there. I’m like a bear on that. You’ll have to put me in my grave before I quit doing that.”