Expeditors acquires early digital forwarding entrant Fleet Logistics

Expeditors acquires early digital forwarding entrant Fleet Logistics

Expeditors' acquisition of Fleet Logistics represents the first time a major incumbent forwarder has acquired a so-called "digital forwarder." Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Expeditors International on Tuesday said it has acquired Portland-based Fleet Logistics, an early entrant into the space known as digital forwarding that the global forwarder said will align with its existing less-than-truckload (LTL) freight quoting platform, Koho.

The acquisition also represents the first of the digitally oriented forwarders that have emerged in the last decade, most backed by venture capital (VC) groups, to be acquired by a large incumbent forwarder. Fleet had raised $14 million from VC groups, according to Crunchbase, a database that tracks such investment. 

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed by Seattle-based Expeditors. Fleet primarily provided digital quoting, booking, and tracking capabilities to shippers not in the traditional orbit of large forwarders and wanted a more online-oriented experience.

“We will continue to invest in technology and people,” Expeditors CEO Jeffrey Musser said in a statement. “This acquisition extends the services within our Digital Solutions division and evidences our commitment to making investments in our business. We are also excited to extend our system capabilities and welcome new talent.”

A series of pivots

Fleet started off in 2014 as a forwarder rating platform, then became a rate marketplace between shippers and forwarders, before pivoting to become a forwarder akin to Flexport, FreightHub, and iContainers, among a number of other regional players that adopted a digital-first mentality that focused on online instant quoting and integrating tracking solutions.

Expeditors said it had been working with Fleet in the development of Koho, a project that showed Fleet’s ability to move its digital offering from “seed to scale.”

Expeditors’ competitors, such as Kuehne + Nagel, DB Schenker, and Agility, have largely plotted a more proprietary, non-acquisition-based course toward enabling themselves to quote digitally. Some, however, such as Ceva Logistics and Toll Global Forwarding, have turned to software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers that give forwarders instant online quoting tools.

A number of sources told JOC.com earlier this year they expected 2020 to be a year of heightened mergers and acquisitions activity in the forwarding software space, but those conversations largely came prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact Eric Johnson at eric.johnson@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.