The FreightWaves Haul of Fame showcases companies that have had an impact on the transportation industry, past or present.
Rick McGraw founded Vitran Corporation in Toronto in 1983. Expanding across Canada, Vitran started Vitran Express, a U.S. subsidiary. Vitran Express was located in Indianapolis (although Vitran Corporation’s U.S. headquarters was in Philadelphia). Vitran Express was a less-than-truckload (LTL) provider whose service area was primarily the Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
U.S. operations prosper… and then fall
Vitran Express did reasonably well for several years, but the 2000s proved challenging. Although the company acquired several other companies in 2006 and 2007, including Chris Truck Line, Sierra West Express, and PJAX Freight System, it found itself in rough financial waters over the next several years. In 2013, Vitran Express closed four of its terminals located in the western U.S.
Despite cost-cutting measures, Vitran Express reported a net loss of $17 million in the second quarter of 2013. Vitran Corporation’s management decided to divest the U.S. LTL portion of its business, citing five years of losses totaling some $164.5 million. Vitran Corporation also sold its supply chain company that year for $97 million. Unfortunately, there seemed no good way to make the company profitable again. Vitran Express was sold to Matthew Mouron, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects the United States to Canada via Detroit, for $2 million.
The sale of Canadian operations provides new life
In 2014, the Canadian operations of Vitran were purchased by TransForce, another Canadian trucking company. TransForce is now known as TFI International, which has expanded rapidly over the past few years. Vitran Express still operates as a truckload and LTL subsidiary of TFI International and provides multi-modal, expedited, national and regional transportation services.
Vitran Express provides transcontinental intermodal service between central and western Canada. The company has one of Canada’s largest fleets of domestic containers and chassis in both dry and insulated heat containers.
TFI International (NYSE and TSX: TFII) is a transportation and logistics leader in North America, and has a diverse customer base in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The company has made 88 acquisitions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico since 2008. TFI announced a major acquisition on January 25, 2021. It signed a definitive agreement to acquire UPS Freight, the LTL and dedicated truckload divisions of United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE: UPS), for $800 million on a cash-free, debt-free basis before working capital and other adjustments. Approximately 90% of the acquired business will operate independently within TFI International’s LTL business segment under its new name, “TForce Freight,” while acquired dedicated TL assets will join TFI’s truckload TL business segment. To read FreightWaves’ coverage of the acquisition, follow this link.
TFI’s integrated network includes over 80 operating companies and more than 16,700 employees, as well as independent contractors. Its customers are found in a broad range of verticals, including retail to energy, food and beverage and more.
If you would like to suggest a company that might be featured in the FreightWaves Haul of Fame, please send information and photos (you must own the rights to the photos!) to Scott Mall at email@example.com.