Driver Reaction Deeply Divided Over Latest Mega Carrier’s $150 MILLION Acquisition

North Liberty, IA – Mega carrier Heartland Express announced on Monday the acquisition of Wisconsin-based dry van carrier, Millis Transfer.

In a press release on Monday, Heartland stated it purchased Millis and its related companies for approximately $150 million in a mostly cash deal.

In the transaction, Heartland acquired 100% of the equity of Millis and related companies, which includes entities owning eleven terminal locations, five of which are driver school locations.

 

Millis has terminals in Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

“The regional coverage, equipment, conservative and disciplined management style, and culture [at Millis] are all very compatible with our approach,” said Michael Gerdin, who serves as Heartland’s Chairman, President and CEO.

“We are impressed with the high quality of the driving professionals and the organization’s safety profile,” he commented.

Gerdin went on to say the existing Millis family management team, who has over 113 years of combined trucking experience, will remain in their current roles at Millis.

Gerdin stated that Heartland plans to payoff the assumed debt with existing cash by December 31 of this year.

 

He was quick to note Heartland’s “financial strength and liquidity” would remain strong after the transaction.

Gerdin projected to end the 2019 fiscal year “with approximately $50-60 million in cash, zero debt, and approximately $90 million available under our revolving line of credit.”

The buyout also grants the Millis family with $750,000 in Heartland stock.


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About Millis Transfer

Millis Transfer was founded in 1936 and has been owned and operated by members of the Millis family for three generations.

The company operates primarily in the Midwest and Eastern United States, as well as Texas.

According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Millis employs 840 drivers and owns 851 power units.

 

Its out of service violations for equipment is slightly over 9%, which is less than half the industry average of 20%.

Gerdin praised his recently acquired fleet, stating, “Millis has an outstanding fleet of equipment and we look forward to utilizing their fleet and professional drivers to serve our combined group of customers.”

According to the press release, the driver turnover rate at Millis has remained under 50% in the last year.

Driver Reaction

As news of the acquisition broke this week, mixed emotions were expressed by Millis and Heartland drivers on social media.

“Imagine working for Millis and being told this at the end of business yesterday. Many of us are devastated,” Chris Kennedy wrote in a Facebook group dedicated to “mega mistakes” in the trucking industry.

Steven Taylor echoed the sentiments, writing in another another group, “I drive for [Millis] currently… needless to say, a lot of drivers are in disbelief.”

Taylor said he found out about the acquisition “through a crappy press release” during his home time.

 

Carl Huisjen responded to the news by saying he drove over a million miles for Gordon Trucking before it was acquired by Heartland in November 2013 for $300 million in cash.

“I can tell you this… Heartland SUCKS!” Huisjen posted to the Facebook group Fallen Flags — Old Trucking Companies of the Past.

Rick Caruana, who identified himself as a former Heartland driver, said “Never in my life did I have so much stress as when I worked for [Heartland].”

Caruana went on to say, “I have to hand it to [the owner of Heartland] he does know how to manage money and very smart about it.”

Scott Owens responded to Caruana, saying he has been driving for Heartland for three years, and defended his company by calling it “one of the less stressful driving jobs I have had in 25 years,” adding “the trucks and trailers are kept in pretty much tip top mechanical shape at all times.”

 

“Well done Heartland Express,” trucker Jason Anderson lauded. “I worked for Interstate Distributor for 12 years. Heartland bought them a few years ago and they gave me a raise.”

Anderson also mentioned it “hasn’t been bad” until the “new logs that count every truck movement was installed.”

“Wait until you guys get on that program, then you’ll have something to complain about,” Anderson concluded.

Heartland notably purchased Tacoma, WA-based Interstate Distributor Co. from Saltchuk Resources Inc. in July 2017 for $113 million.

See Heartland’s (HTLD) stock on NASDAQ

Photos courtesy of Heartland Express/Millis Transfer

 


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