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Record earnings and cash flow in 2021 allowed carriers to add drivers, new and improved trucks and other equipment to keep up with an ever-demanding supply chain. But many trucking industry players did not stop there, forming alliances and purchasing competitors to position themselves for even greater rewards in 2022 and beyond.

On Jan. 5 of this year, GEODIS, a global transport and logistics giant, and Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreTrust, a leading commercial group purchasing organization and division of HealthTrust, announced a strategic alliance that will expand CoreTrust Logistics’ truckload freight offering to include a comprehensive full truckload (FTL) managed transportation solution. By tapping into the GEODIS network of more than 1,000 asset-based carriers, as well as its world-class managed transportation capabilities, CoreTrust members can enjoy better rates and end-to-end FTL shipment management, the companies contend.

Well known supply chain challenges—like finding a place to store goods, let alone drive them—have inflated prices for shippers, something that will be eased by the alliance, swears CoreTrust Assistant VP David Pollard. “Truckload rates have increased 25 to 30 percent, yet our members are confirming cost avoidance and significant savings with this comprehensive solution,” he said. “Even in this inflationary market, this alliance is driving achievable and quantifiable value across full truckload transportation for CoreTrust members.”        

Which explains why other concerns are hooking up with one another. Phoenix, Arizona-based Knight-Swift Transportation, which is one of North America’s largest and most diversified freight movers, made big moves in the less-than-truckload (LTL) space by buying AAA Transportation for a reported $1.35 billion in July and RAC MME Holdings for another $150 million in December. 

Knight-Swift’s goal of establishing a nationwide LTL network is helped greatly by acquiring AAA Transportation, whose roots date back to 1951 when an Alabama log hauler purchased a struggling truck line. AAA went on to blanket the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest, while Chicago-based RAC MME—the parent company of Midwest Motor Express and Midnite Express—has the upper Midwest and Northwest covered.  

RAC stands for Red Arts Capital, which partnered with Prudential Capital Partners, Brightwood Capital Advisors and several family offices in 2019 to acquire MME from the Roswick and Greenstein families, who founded the company in North Dakota in 1918. “With MME, we found the ideal opportunity to invest in an excellent business with an extensive network, including most metropolitan areas across its network geographic footprint,” explained Nicholas Antoine, co-founder and a managing partner at Red Arts Capital. “We are proud of our contributions to the company’s over 100 years of growth and service to the region, and believe that Knight-Swift provides MME the ideal home for its next phase of growth.”

In September, ArcBest acquired Chicago-based truckload broker MoLo Solutions for $235 million plus the potential for future earnout payments. Getting four-year-old MoLo, which expected 2021 revenue of around $600 million, propelled Fort Smith, Arkansas-based ArcBest to a Top 15 U.S. truckload broker with access to more than 70,000 carriers.

“ArcBest’s timely investment further accelerates growth by increasing the scale of our asset-light business, and MoLo’s proven ability to cultivate significant shipment growth with large shippers will be highly complementary and synergistic,” said Judy R. McReynolds, ArcBest chairman, president and CEO. “This acquisition capitalizes on our terrific business momentum and positions us to enhance value for all of our stakeholders, including our customers, employees, communities and ArcBest shareholders.” 

MoLo CEO Andrew Silver, who landed at ArcBest as part of the deal, said the partnership also “further advances the opportunity we have to achieve our vision. MoLo has been able to reach $600 million in annual revenues with only 500 shippers; in doing this deal, we can now tap into ArcBest’s 30,000 existing shippers and offer them the same level of service we’ve been providing our existing customers. In addition to that, we can now offer our customers a breadth of services we couldn’t before, including owned assets, increased drop trailer capabilities, LTL, expedited, outsourced transportation management, and more.”

Summertime deals were in the offing for 65-year-old Werner Enterprises, which acquired an 80% stake in Pennsylvania-based TL carrier ECM Transport Group for $142 million and final-mile carrier Nehds Logistics of Monroe, Connecticut, for $64 million.

“The addition of ECM’s skilled drivers, nondriver associates and terminal network strengthens our portfolio by adding short-haul expertise in a segment in which consumer demand and supply chain needs are growing,” said Derek Leathers, Omaha, Nebraska-based Werner’s chairman, president and CEO. He was similar in his praise of Nehds: “The addition of the Nehds operations, management team, talented staff and strong customer relationships to the Werner family represents a significant step forward in our Final Mile delivery program.” 

RLS Logistics is a leading cold chain 3PL, but it also offers managed transportation services and an LTL brokerage unit. With locations in Utah, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and its home state New Jersey, RLS spent 2021 adding partners in California, Massachusetts, Texas and another in the Keystone State.

However, you had to hop the northern border for the biggest deal of the year by LTL network size: Canadian trucking and logistics provider TFI International acquiring UPS Freight for $800 million in January 2021. Heading to the negotiating table with 38 terminals, the Montreal-based company walked away with 197 more facilities across North America—as well as about $3 billion in revenue.

Once the deal officially closed, TFI CEO Alain Bédard told analysts that 75% of his operations would be in the U.S., plans were afoot to aggressively bring down costs—and that the acquisition was unlikely to be the only collaboration with Atlanta-based UPS. More to come in 2022?