Midwestern truckload carrier Continental Express is expanding in the Southeastern U.S. by purchasing Carolina Refrigerated, Gaffney, S.C.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition puts Continental trucks within a day of markets as far south as Miami, said Russell L. Gottemoeller, president of the Sidney, Ohio-based carrier.
"Gaffney is an ideal location between Atlanta and Charlotte," Gottemoeller said. "We've got some big hopes," he said. "We're looking for about 400 percent growth in the next 18 months there."
Continental hopes to get that high level of growth by dedicating resources to the smaller South Carolina operation.
"We're a 250 truck fleet, they're a 15 truck fleet," Gottemoeller said. "We know so many people, we feel we can pull that growth off," he said.
Continental primarily operates in a regional market centered on Ohio, hauling into Illinois in the West and Pennsylvania in the East and into the Southeast.
Carolina Refrigerated specializes in temperature-controlled and dedicated carriage.
The deal is the latest acquisition in the small- to medium-sized truckload carrier market, which is heating up as trucking recovers from the recession.
Brown Trucking of Lithonia, Ga., purchased two smaller operators - Schrader Trucking and West Brothers - in the past three months, while Integrated Freight of Sarasota, Fla., bought Midwestern carrier Bruenger Trucking in October.
Less-than-truckload carrier Vitran recently sold the assets of its small truckload operation, Frontier Transport, to Online Transport of Indianapolis.
Some larger carriers are attracting buyers, too, as indicated by the acquisition of same-day specialist Dynamex by the Greenbriar Equity Group this month.
On a macro-scale, European express giant TNT plans to sell its air express business.
"It's a good time to be acquiring companies," said Brian Kinsey, CEO of Brown Trucking, a company he acquired in 2008 from founder James W. Brown.
Continental's purchase of Carolina Refrigerated adds momentum to a trucking business that's already growing at an 18 percent rate in 2010.
"Bringing Carolina in, we've got well over 20 percent growth this year," said Gottemoeller, who founded Continental in 1983.
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