HJ/EDApril 3, 2006

Vitran Express expands with acquisitions

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

Vitran Express has recently made acquisitions to extend its service beyond its base in the Midwest.

“We are a relatively small player in the industry, but we plan to gradually change that through selective acquisitions and growth,” Vitran Express Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tom Nagel said.

Vitran employs more than 50 people in Winsted.

The parent company is one of the largest Less Than Truckload (LTL) carriers in Canada.

In the US, the company employs 1,900.

In May 2005, the company acquired Wichita, Kansas-based Chris Truck Line, a $15 million a year carrier with 300 to 400 employees.

“We are in the process of slowly integrating Chris into Vitran, and merging some overlapping centers,” Nagel said.

In January, Vitran acquired Sierra West Express, a small carrier based in Reno, Nev.

Vitran operates 57 facilities in the US, in addition to 13 or 14 from Chris and seven or eight acquired from Sierra West.

The company’s growth may benefit Winsted.

“We see nothing but growth for this area,” Nagel said, adding that some customer service positions may be added in Winsted as other facilities are consolidated.

These acquisitions allowed the company to expand by giving it an immediate presence in the southwest market.

This expansion compliments the company’s network in the midwest, where it already provides extensive LTL freight service.

In spite of its growth, the company still provides a small-town level of customer service.

Customers who call Vitran Express get a live person rather than an automated phone tree.

“Our customer service center in Winsted is a key marketing point for our company,” Nagel said.

“If a customer calls our office in Cincinnati, and the phone rings more than twice, it will roll over to another service center, and the call may be taken in Winsted. They will get a live person who is trained to answer almost any question a customer might have, and the customer might not even know they are talking to someone in Winsted,” Nagel explained.

The advantage of Vitran’s phone system is that if there is a local challenge in one of its service areas, calls can be routed to other areas, and customers can always reach a representative who can answer their questions.

If, for example, one office is affected by a power outage, calls can be re-routed to other offices so that service is uninterrupted.

Nagel said that the company is able to monitor both quality and consistency of its customer service.

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