Chicago-based freight brokerage Transportation One announced Tuesday morning that Jeff Sommer has joined the company as chief operating officer and Paul Van Bergen joined as chief procurement officer.
Sommer and Van Bergen join a logistics company founded in 2010 by CEO Jamie Teets that has now reached an approximately $150 million gross revenue run rate by specializing in “difficult” freight: temperature controlled, white-glove expedited, drop trailer and special projects.
“We don’t move the easy freight,” Teets explained in a conversation with FreightWaves. “We take the tough freight and make it look easy.”
The addition of Sommer and Van Bergen will round out an executive team that was last upgraded in October 2019, when Pat Gillihan came on board as chief revenue officer. Gillihan was a co-founder of Covered Logistics, a brokerage acquired by XPO in 2013. Subsequent to that, Gillihan was a top-performing sales executive at XPO, eventually rising to oversee the P&L for five branches in the Midwest.
In 2020 and 2021, Transportation One’s growth accelerated. In the first quarter of 2021, gross revenue growth hit 192% year-over-year, while volume grew 70%. The brokerage hit those high marks despite running a very lean operation, not taking outside equity investment and leaving no debt on the balance sheet.
“Scaling smart and efficiently matters,” said Gillihan, who defines his role as “client success, derived from operational excellence and performance.”
He said that the revenue growth came from additional logos, logo expansion of both contractual and transactional freight, and building out both an internal and external sales team. Transportation One now has external sales teams in Salt Lake City, Chicago and Detroit; in order to get them to run in sync, Gillihan drove what he called “a true standardization of processes” in the sales force.
Teets said his goal for the company is “to be north of $500 million [in gross revenue] in the next three to five years.”
“During this last 12 months of growth, the engine has started to hum and we’re catching our stride,” Teets said.
Now, with Sommer and Van Bergen running operations and the carrier network, Teets thinks his team is among the best in the industry and ready to capitalize on a favorable business environment.
In Van Bergen’s role as chief procurement officer, he’s charged with growing Transportation One’s carrier network, understanding it more deeply and selling its services more efficiently. Van Bergen sees his carrier-driven or “bottom-up” approach as a key differentiator in an industry in which aggressive brokerages often outsell their ability to provision high-quality capacity. He also wants to get more private fleets into Transportation One’s routing guide.
“Instead of operations catching up with sales,” Teets said, “we get in with the carriers first and help them offer their services.”
After eleven years at C.H. Robinson, Van Bergen spent three years in operations at XPO and joined Fastmore Logistics in 2016, rising to chief operations officer in 2018. Van Bergen said that better analysis of carrier data would allow his team to uncover the carriers’ specific services and help them sell.
“My job is about understanding our data and understanding our carriers’ needs,” Van Bergen said.
He thinks about data not just as being quantitative but also derived from live conversations between drivers and Transportation One’s operations teams, some of whom are former truck drivers.
“We want to understand the driver specifically — there are all different layers and types of talent in this market,” Van Bergen said.
After XPO’s acquisition of Covered Transportation, Sommer worked as vice president of finance in Lake Forest. That expertise in financial operations informs his role at Transportation One. Sommer said he wanted to drive efficiencies and improve cash flow at the brokerage in order to use it as an accelerant for strategic growth.
“I’ll make sure we’re getting the best return on our investments moving forward,” Sommer said. From VP of finance, Sommer was promoted to branch president at XPO, a position he served in for five years. In his last few months at the company, Sommer transitioned to business development, supporting seven different branches in engagement and RFP management.
“I’m really excited to be here at this organization,” Sommer said, noting that he knew both Gillihan and Van Bergen from prior roles.
His team now in place, Teets plans to commute to Chicago from Miami, where he moved for the “better weather and huge tech presence.” It wasn’t just a lifestyle choice for him, though — Teets said that he’s also on the lookout for the opportunity to expand Transportation One in another geographic area.