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Trident Transport grows headcount by 25% during COVID-19

Trident Transport CEO Heath Haley and COO Mark Harrell at Trident's new Signal Mills office. (Photo: Trident Transport)

Trident Transport, a full-truckload freight brokerage based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with offices in Tampa, Florida, and Minneapolis, has pushed through pandemic-related disruptions to the transportation industry and continued growing at a rapid clip.

Trident was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the country’s fastest-growing companies for the third year in a row, recording a three-year revenue growth rate of 768.8%. Founded in 2013 by freight industry veterans from Access America and Coyote Logistics, Trident has figured out how to bootstrap rapid, profitable growth by focusing on service and execution and is the fastest-growing company in Chattanooga for the second consecutive year.

“The year started off with high expectations in Chattanooga,” said Grayson Garrett, senior vice president of sales, “but we were dealt the same hand as everyone else with the coronavirus.  We went from not knowing if we were going to have a job the next week to having 60 people go home and continue to hustle and grind and keep customer service where we’ve had it the last few years. It’s been amazing to watch them take on the challenges.”

Trident had to rapidly pivot from an atmosphere of close, in-person collaboration where managers coached their teams and jumped in to work alongside them to a work-from-home environment where employees communicate through chat rooms and Microsoft Teams. Although many employees have returned to the office, Chattanooga isn’t completely staffed because so many brokers have found their rhythm at home and been able to maintain high levels of productivity.

“Revenue north of $100 million was our goal in 2020,” said Carter Garrett, chief commercial officer. “When COVID hit, we had a decision at that time. Do we remain complacent and stand still? Furlough? We pushed through and continued to hire, training new hires remotely. We had invested in conferencing technology before this happened, which put us ahead of the game, where some of our competitors may have lost a step.”

Trident is still on track to break $100 million in gross revenue this year after having grown headcount by 25% during the pandemic by hiring at all three of its locations. There are plans in the works to open two more new branches in unspecified locations, the management team said, depending on who can be promoted internally to lead the new offices, and Trident continues to hire in Chattanooga, Tampa, and Minneapolis.

“We continue to see exponential growth because we have the best employees working for our company. They dedicate so much hard work towards their own personal success and towards the success of this company, and the results speak for themselves,” said Mark Harrell, chief operating officer at Trident.

In Chattanooga, Trident has taken over the Signal Mills office in NorthShore formerly occupied by Covenant Solutions. Trident will fill the new space with sales and operations teams, while management and technology is based in its current location on the south side of the city. There are about 80 desks set up at Signal Mills now, but Garrett said that when it’s completely laid out, the space should be able to house about 150 people. 

“We’re extremely excited about the new space,” said Heath Haley, Trident’s CEO. “We’re looking forward to filling the space with even more top talent in Chattanooga, and continue growing our company in this amazing city.”

Rush Feldhacker, the vice president of sales who launched Trident’s Tampa office at the end of 2018, said that Tampa was up to 17 employees and has had three record-breaking months in a row. 

“We were concerned when COVID hit,” Feldhacker said. “We’re heavy in sectors that were hit hard, but we have a lot of talent and were able to sell through it. We’re looking at moving or expanding our space because we’re running out of desks down here. We didn’t fire or furlough anyone during the pandemic, which resonated with our customers and has played a large role in our growth.”

Feldhacker said that during the pandemic, the Tampa office added new building materials customers who were struggling to find reliable trucking capacity. New construction in south Florida has generated high demand for building supplies at a time when capacity is very tight. Trident was able to help some shippers out with their surge volume and then become a core provider, he said.

“Our run rate right now is still at the $100 million level — it’s attainable,” Garrett said. “We had all hands on deck in February and March, then entered into completely uncharted territory. With the effort we’ve put in, leaning on our call power and hiring new employees to fill the gaps, we’re still on track. Load counts are way up. July was by far the biggest month in the history of Trident and August is shaping up to be the same thing.”

John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.