Watch Now

Temperature-controlled carrier Hirschbach acquires John Christner Trucking

Deal forms 1 of the biggest refrigerated carriers in the US

Hirschbach builds national footprint through M&A (Photo: Hirschbach)

Refrigerated carrier Hirschbach announced Wednesday the acquisition of John Christner Trucking (JCT). The deal will form one of the biggest temperature-controlled fleets in the nation at more than 3,000 trucks (800 at JCT), 5,000 trailers and total revenue exceeding $1 billion.

By comparison, publicly traded refrigerated carrier Marten Transport (NASDAQ: MRTN) generated just shy of $1 billion in revenue during 2021 with a fleet of 3,200 units.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in April.

There doesn’t appear to be much overlap in the networks. Iowa-based Hirschbach operates mostly east of the Rocky Mountains while Oklahoma-based JCT has a heavy presence on the West Coast and covers the South from coast to coast.

“These two organizations should be united and fit together like two puzzle pieces,” said Brad Pinchuk, CEO and owner of Hirschbach. “Culturally, these two organizations are in perfect alignment. We’re both driver-centric organizations that focus on taking care of our people so they can take care of our customers.”

JCT’s $350 million operation, which includes a brokerage platform with $150 million in annual revenue, will be run separately, with current CEO Danny Christner serving as president. Christner and Hirschbach President Dan Wallace will work together to identify revenue and operating synergies.

“The Hirschbach and JCT teams are having a lot of fun getting to know each other and already sharing best practices which will greatly benefit both organizations,” Pinchuk added.

Customers, drivers and suppliers are expected to see no change in operations, and their contracts will remain in place. Christner will remain an owner in JCT.

“My area of focus will be continuing to run JCT and make it even better than what it has been and also finding ways to collaborate with the Hirschbach team and make both organizations better,” Christner told FreightWaves.

JCT was founded in 1986 by John Christner, father to sons Danny and Darryl. The three launched the logistics unit roughly 15 years ago. The eldest Christner got his start in trucking in the 1960s, hauling produce on the West Coast. John and Darryl will be retiring following the closing.

In June, Hirschbach added 200 drivers and 300 temperature-controlled power units with the acquisition of Lessors Inc. Prior to that transaction, Hirschbach hadn’t been involved in M&A.

“We were about a $100 million company nine years ago and have grown organically to about $600 million or so,” Pinchuk told FreightWaves in an interview. “I was initially kind of anti-acquisition, just concerned about drivers [and customers] staying. But the Lessors acquisition, which is certainly much smaller, worked really, really well.”

He said more than 80% of the drivers onboarded in the Lessors deal have stayed and customer retention has been strong.

“I started to change my tune a bit on the acquisition front and JCT is really a very unique situation,” Pinchuk added. Building out a national footprint of refrigerated capacity and the logistics service offering that JCT has built was “really compelling for us.”

The two fleets service some of the same customers but in different lanes. The deal brings these shippers more capacity, which will now be under the same roof even though JCT will be run independently. There are also several cross-sell opportunities.

Hirschbach now has a logistics platform to sell and JCT has access to Hirschbach’s dedicated offering. Hirschbach also has 500 employees in 28 locations managing large trailer pools, which JCT can tap into.

“It’s truly an honor to have been selected by the Christner family to be entrusted with their baby,” Pinchuk said. “JCT has a proud history.” 

“We’re excited and honored that Brad had the belief in us,” Christner said. “At the same time, I wanted to retain our identity and our brand value in the market place. The deal that Brad and I put together allows us to do both of those things.”

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Hirschbach (No. 53) and John Christner Trucking (No. 108).

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.

Watch: Carrier Update – Global Supply Chain Week

Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.