ABOUT THE COMPANY
* Name: Riverside Transport
* Chattanooga location: 6400 Cornelison Road
* Business: Logistics
* Employees: 48
* 2014 revenues: $70 million
* Growth plans: 100 employee by the end of the year in Chattanooga
Source: Riverside Transport
About three years ago, Riverside Transport officials looked at the talent pool Chattanooga has in the trucking business, coupled with the nation's unrelenting need to move more freight, and saw opportunity.
Today, the company has leveraged that cluster of skills along with a dearth of truck drivers nationally into a logistics business here that's expected to hit revenues of about $88 million this year, officials say.
"Customers need what we're offering," says David Ferguson, who heads the Chattanooga logistics operation.
Ferguson says Riverside Transport basically helps companies move freight. It works to find trucking firms to haul goods, or in some cases will move the items itself, in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, he said.
"If a customer has several loads and doesn't have the trucks, they call us," Ferguson says, adding that Riverside arranges both long and short hauls.
He says that since June 2012, the company in Chattanooga has grown from four employees to 48. Within a year or so, he hopes to have about 100 employees working in expanded space at its offices near Eastgate Town Center and even grow that number.
"We have 45-plus customers," Ferguson says. "We do over 200 loads a day."
Riverside Transport is owned by Bill Grojean of Kansas City and Terry Wallace of Nashville. They also own carriers Transco Lines and Mid-American Specialized Transport.
In all, Riverside Transport has access to more than 800 trucks and 2,400 trailers.
Ferguson cites the slow down in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, saying that Riverside is helping companies move freight from there. Ferguson says Riverside has about 100 trucks on the West Coast ready to haul shipments across the country either off the ports or locally.
"We're there to be the backup," he says.
A failure to resolve labor problems at the ports caused widespread pain for shippers, retailers, meat and poultry companies, and manufacturers across the country. For months, a growing lineup of ships sat at anchor outside the ports.
Ferguson said that Chattanooga has a strong cluster of transportation-related businesses and grown its talent pool.
Among those companies are U.S. Xpress Enterprises and Covenant Transportation Group, two of the biggest trucking companies in the nation. Ferguson, 48, is a former U.S. Xpress vice president.
Also, Chicago-based Coyote Logistics' has a major Chattanooga office after it bought home-grown Access America Transport last year.
In addition, Chattanooga's Kenco Group is one of the largest third-party logistics providers nationally, offering those services and supply chain solutions such as warehouse and transportation management and sequencing.
"We've got a training ground," Ferguson says of Chattanooga.
At the same time, Chattanooga's location is a plus, being centrally located in the Southeast, he says.
Helping drive the logistics business is what Ferguson terms "an all-time low" when it comes to truck drivers.
"We just don't see people going into the driving force," he says. Some people say a truck drivers' lifestyle doesn't fit that of young people, Ferguson says.
Connie Vaughan, McKee Foods Corp.'s government relations manager and head of the transportation panel for the Chattanooga region's long-range growth initiative dubbed Thrive 2055, also mentions the driver shortage.
She adds that a lot of small trucking companies went out of business during the last recession, and federal regulations have clamped down on driver hours of service.
"There's more freight to be moved than trucks," Vaughan says, noting that 70 percent of all freight is moved by trucks nationally.
Riverside Transport is working with Chattanooga State Community College to help start logistics training at the school, Ferguson says.
All the on- and off-road factors are combining to help grow Riverside's logistics business in Chattanooga, Ferguson says.
He says there's "a need for additional transportation. Somebody has got to supply that need."
Ferguson says that, on average, Riverside's logistics employees earn a salary in the mid-$40,000 a year range. There's also an opportunity to earn more in commission, he says.
"The owners have got a vision to become the largest logistics provider in the Southeast," Ferguson says.
This article appears in the March edition of Edge magazine.