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Smith Transport sold for $170M

Heartland Express purchases trucking company, property

Smith Transport was sold Wednesday to truckload carrier Heartland Express for $170 million. The Roaring Spring property was also acquired in a separate transaction for $14 million cash and includes both the trucking terminal and 375,000 square feet of warehouse space. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Smith Transport was sold for $170 million Wednesday to Iowa-based truckload carrier company Heartland Express.

The Roaring Spring property Smith Transport has operated out of since its founding in 1982 was also acquired in a separate transaction for $14 million cash and includes both the trucking terminal and 375,000 square feet of warehouse space.

“Not only did they buy Smith Transport, but also the corporate office and that was their way of showing their commitment to the area,” Smith Transport President and CEO Todd Smith said.

“Nothing is going to change, we’re going to continue to run as an independent company,” he said.

There will be no layoffs and business will continue as usual, he added.

In a news release about the acquisition, Heartland Express Chairman, President and CEO Michael Gerdin said that Smith Transport and its related entities will continue to operate from Roaring Spring under the leadership of Todd Smith and with the ongoing support from founder Barry Smith.

“Our plan is to keep Smith the same company that is attractive to customers, drivers and other personnel, while using our scale to offer better purchasing, more depth and advantageous cost savings,” Gerdin said.

He added that Heartland Express was interested in acquiring Smith Transport for three main reasons — “The safe and experienced professional drivers, the high level of service offered to a blue-chip customer base and the management depth that demonstrates the ability to continue operating independently and profitably.”

Smith Transport’s customer base includes Fortune 500 companies such as expedited transport integrators, retailers, beverage manufacturers and home supply companies, several of whom have been Smith customers for more than 20 years. It operates a fleet of approximately 850 company tractors that have an average age of less than three years, and approximately 2,000 dry van trailers.

An asset-based truckload carrier, Smith Transport primarily provides dry van transport and other specialized services throughout the region, according to the release.

Smith said that the company’s goal for the deal was to find the best value and the best home for its employees.

“With the ability to pay cash and invest in our headquarters, and the desire for Smith to remain an independent brand operated by the same people, the choice was clear,” he said.

Barry Smith agreed, noting that Heartland offered the company “long-term stability and the opportunity to grow as part of an industry leader” while retaining its own culture and identity.

“Building Smith Transport has been my life’s work,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to being part of the team to ensure a smooth transition.”

Local organizations and business owners were surprised by the news, not knowing that Smith Transport was even in the process of being sold.

Roaring Spring Blank Book Company President and CEO Daniel Hoover said his company uses Smith Transport whenever they need a truck load carrier.

“They’ve always been a very good supplier,” he said. “I personally respect Barry a lot and I’m sure it was a good decision.”

Hoover added that he thinks Heartland “will do just fine.”

However, Blair County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Hurd said that there would always be some concerns “especially when one of our very prominent family businesses changes hands.”

“This company has a solid reputation for what they do,” Hurd said. “It creates a little wariness, but unfortunately it’s a reality and it’s happened with a number of businesses located here.”

From a business standpoint, Hurd said his automatic reaction is to wonder how the sale will impact Smith Transport’s employees and their families.

“So we’ll be watching very closely to see what we can do to make that transition as smooth as possible,” Hurd said.

According to Transport Dive, a publication that provides insight into the news and trends shaping the trucking industry, the Smith Transport deal is the second major acquisition in the past three years for Heartland Express. The company purchased dry van truckload carrier Millis Transfer, based in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, for $150 million in August 2019.

By acquiring Smith Transport, with terminals in Georgia and Indiana in addition to its Pennsylvania location, Heartland will be further expanding its portfolio.

An irregular route truckload carrier based out of North Liberty, Iowa, Heartland Express has shipping lanes throughout the country and focuses on medium- to short-haul freight. Since 1986, it has grown from having approximately $20 million in revenue to being one of North America’s largest truckload carriers, Heartland said in a statement.

Heartland Express has been publicly traded since 1986. The company reported first-quarter 2022 income of $16.8 million. It also reported operating revenue of $151.3 million and operating income of $22.4 million, a 22.5% increase from 2021. In addition, it reported having a debt-free balance sheet, according to Land Line Media.

Heartland has been recognized 18 times by Forbes Magazine as one of the Top 200 Best Small Companies in America, 17 times as one of the Best Truckload Carriers in America by Logistics Management Magazine, and as one of America’s Most Trusted Companies by Newsweek Magazine in 2022.

“I could not have found a better home than Heartland for the Smith family,” Barry Smith said in a statement.

Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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