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TORONTO, Ont. – Those who closely watch the Canadian transportation mergers and acquisitions scene have been bemoaning a lack of activity thus far in 2013. That silence was shattered in mid-November, beginning with the blockbuster acquisition of Yanke Group assets by Celadon Canada.

The acquisition, first reported on Nov. 16, includes about 300 tractors, making Celadon one of Canada’s largest trucking outfits with a truck count of about 800 units. Yanke’s headquarters in Saskatoon – and the office staff that worked there – were not included in the deal.

In a message to drivers, Yanke founder Russel Marcoux, noted “The time has come for me to move on, and in keeping with the culture and values we created together at Yanke, it is important to me that the torch gets passed on to an organization that shares many of the same values and beliefs we all supported and practiced at Yanke.”

He went on to say “I am confident that Celadon Canada is a company that will continue to respect and value you as individuals rather than unit numbers and that you can expect open and honest communication and genuine concern for your well being, as you have become accustomed to at Yanke.”

Drew Shepherd, operations manager for Celadon Canada, said in a note to Yanke drivers: “Celadon Canada is honoured to take you on as a driver, and we are privileged to have Russel’s best wishes in working with you. As one of the TCA’s safest drivers, we are excited to maintain your employment and continue helping you and other Professional Transport Operators service existing customers across Canada and the United States.”

Since outlining its Canadian expansion plans to Truck News in an exclusive interview last year, Celadon has grown from about 200 trucks here to four times that. In addition to Yanke, it has bought up Hyndman Transport and Hoss Cartage.

“Yanke has been a well-respected Canadian truckload and multi-modal carrier that has provided a high level of dry van freight services for its customers since 1968,” said Paul Will, Celadon president and CEO. “We believe this acquisition offers solid potential to expand our domestic Canada footprint, both over the road and utilizing the rail, to advance our overall service offering growth plans. We’re excited to work with Yanke management and look forward to continuing to provide the quality service that the Yanke core account base has come to expect. Based on previous acquisitions, we believe Celadon can enhance that service through upgraded equipment, advanced technology, additional assets, and an industry leading safety record.”

One day earlier, RTL-Westcan was bought by US tanker giant Kenan Advantage Group, in what appears to be more of a bolt-on acquisition that allows the US company entry into the Western Canadian market. The deal included 480 tractors and 2,000 trailers that operate out of 16 terminals in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

“The acquisition of RTL-Westcan further positions KAG as the elite North American bulk transportation services and logistics provider,” announced Dennis Nash, CEO of Kenan. “The expansion into Canada extends our footprint to better serve a broader customer base while capitalizing on a highly attractive marketplace. Western Canada is a growth region with increasing demand for transportation and logistics services as a result of expanding energy markets, increased mining activity and strong macro drivers.”

In a press release, it sounded like Kenan may not be finished with its expansion.

“We intend to focus on growing with the combined customer bases while also pursuing strategic acquisitions that enhance our capabilities. Keeping true to our strategy of acquiring ‘best in class’ companies, we are proud to have Grant Mitchell and the RTL-Westcan Group’s talented employees represent KAG as the flagship company for our newly established Canadian platform,” Nash said.

Also in Western Canada, Manitoulin Transport announced on Nov. 25 it was taking over Smooth Freight and its Manitoba-based LTL, truckload and storage trailer operations. The company serves more than 300 communities in southern and western Manitoba from terminals in Winnipeg and Brandon.

“A key component of Manitoulin’s growth strategy continues to be building out our reach and service offerings in Western Canada,” said Don Goodwill, president, Manitoulin Transport. “We look for highly successful companies, with a customer-oriented culture that strongly reflects our own. Smooth Freight fit the bill on all accounts and we are delighted to welcome them into the Manitoulin family.”

The company adds 200 trailers and 25 trucks to Manitoulin’s fleet.

“Like Manitoulin, Smooth Freight has been a family owned and operated business for many years,” said Borden Hadley, founder and former owner, Smooth Freight. “We’re excited about this development and delighted to become part of a continuously expanding and highly reputable enterprise that shares our values and puts the customer first. Importantly, we believe our customers will benefit greatly from having more choice now in Manitoba when it comes to their transportation requirements, through easy access to the full suite of transportation services Manitoulin can provide.”

Manitoulin announced that Hadley would remain on in a consulting capacity, while Bobbi and Tobi Hadley would maintain their sales and management roles.

Not to be outdone, Contrans Group was also busy, announcing on Nov. 25 the acquisition of Guelph, Ont.-based Best Transfer. Best provides flatbed, tank and dry bulk transportation services and will add about $8 million in revenue to Contrans’ operations.

The deal includes Best’s 30 highway tractors and 50 trailers.

“The purchase of Best Transfer fits well into the existing competencies of our Ontario divisions,” said Contrans’ chairman and CEO Stan Dunford. “We have existing relationships with many of the Best customers and believe that our purchase of Best Transfer will enhance those relationships with the ability to provide additional service capacity. The purchase also expands our terminal footprint with an additional terminal and yard space along the busy 401 corridor.”

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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