Trucking and Logistics: transporting Wisconsin’s economy

Last updated on May 3rd, 2022 at 07:22 pm

When it comes to transportation, Wisconsin is one of only a handful of inland states that transports its goods and people by road, rail, air and water. According to the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, annually, Wisconsin’s 12 servicing railroads carry 190 million tons of cargo, 133 public-use airports transport 116 million pounds of cargo, and 20 commercial ports handle more than $7 billion worth of goods.

Companies of all sizes move Wisconsin’s goods
Trucking is the conduit that moves products to their final shipping destination and the trucking and logistics industry is a major economic driver for Wisconsin. More than 110,000 miles of interstate, state and local roads in Wisconsin allow for the transportation of more than 75 percent of the state’s commercial output.

Anchored by two relatively uncongested and toll free interstates, Wisconsin also has a deregulated intrastate truck industry system. The result is a distinct advantage in an intensely competitive national trucking climate. Of the top 250 truck carriers in the nation, 11 are based in Wisconsin – more than twice the national average. Additionally, there are more than 7,000 “for hire” truck carriers serving Wisconsin industry.

Companies of all sizes make up the trucking and logistics industry here. Specializing in air freight and next-day less-than-truckload shipment has allowed Milwaukee-based Tax AirFreight Inc. to consistently grow its business since its founding in 1977. The company currently employs over 450 staff within six operational facilities in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. If you are planning to start a trucking business, you may need to secure Oversize permits to ensure you comply with state and federal regulations. In addition to this, you should also consider having regular semi truck repair and maintenance for all your trucks to ensure safety of your truckers and cargos. Also, your truckers must have access to an Emergency Truck Road Service in case their trucks break down while on the road.

An industry on the rise
Flyer Logistics, a division of Tax Airfreight Inc. that provides business-to-business shipping, is among the new tenants at the former 440th Air Reserve Station near General Mitchell International Airport. The site has been transformed into the MKE Regional Business Park.

While most of the trucking companies in the state would be categorized as small to medium-sized, Wisconsin is also home to national industry giants like Schneider National and Roadrunner Transportation Services.

A recent acquisition binge and the transformation to a publicly-traded company have fueled growth at Roadrunner Transportation Services, one of a number of successful transportation and logistics services providers in Wisconsin.
“We have significantly diversified the company,” said Roadrunner CEO Mark DiBlasi. “Our customer base needs a carrier that provides multiple services.”

Cudahy-based Roadrunner made a whopping nine acquisitions in 2012 and its offer now includes expedited less-than-truckload, truckload and logistics, transportation management solutions, intermodal solutions, and domestic and international air transport.  These acquisitions, coupled with previous year’s success, have helped drive Roadrunner’s annual revenue to more than $1 billion.

Six years ago, after a merger with Dawes Transport Inc., Roadrunner provided only less-than-truckload service, in which carriers collect and consolidate freight from various shippers. When the company went public in May 2010, Roadrunner attained the financial wherewithal to be more aggressive in pursuing deals, said DiBlasi, who came to Roadrunner in 2006.

“We have a very aggressive growth strategy,” he explained. “We have been the fastest growing company in our industry for the past three years.”

Roadrunner’s annual revenue stood at about $300 million at that time.  Roadrunner could reach $1.4 billion in 2013.

Roadrunner’s growth has almost tripled the size of its companywide work force. Just three years ago, Roadrunner employed 1,110 employees and 1,200 drivers. Today, that figure has grown to 2,400 employees and 3,200 independent contractors who drive exclusively for the company.

In that time, Roadrunner has added at least 250 employees in Wisconsin, DiBlasi said. Nearly 50 new positions have been added at the corporate headquarters, bringing the headcount at the Cudahy home base to about 200 employees.

Although Roadrunner’s services extend throughout the country and other parts of the world, its less-than-truckload terminal in Brown Deer is the third-largest in its system.

“Wisconsin has served us very well,” DiBlasi said.

Roadrunner isn’t alone among Wisconsin-based transportation and logistics companies that have grown into major players. Green Bay’s Schneider National Inc., an industry stalwart, is a provider of truckload, logistics and intermodal services.

Founded in 1935, Schneider, which is well known for its orange tractors and trailers, has annual sales of about $3.4 billion and provides services throughout North America and China. It has nearly 17,500 employees worldwide, 11,500 company drivers, 1,900 owner-operator truck drivers and operates more than 170 facilities.

Its drivers log nearly 8.7 million miles per day, hauling more than 10,675 loads.

Schneider Logistics, a subsidiary of Schneider National, manages $1.8 billion in transportation, operates more than 10 million square feet of warehouse space and has contract relationships with more than 12,000 transportation providers.

According to company president and CEO Chris Lofgren, having its base in northeast Wisconsin has allowed Schneider National to tap into a productive and dedicated work force in the region.

“This company was built the old-fashioned way: through hard work,” Lofgren said. “Our associates aren’t afraid of hard work. In fact, they take pride in it. We’ve earned our place as the nation’s premier truckload, intermodal and logistics provider.”

Lofgren credited the efforts of state government in allowing companies such as Schneider National to grow and maintain its headquarters here.

“We have an immense appreciation for Wisconsin’s state government, which is genuinely and sincerely interested in what it can do to help us employ more people,” he said. “It is committed to working with private industry to create the infrastructure, environment and education required to be a place where people want to do business.

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