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Driver shortage leads to Wiersma sale

Posted: March 21, 2018 by John G. Smith

KITCHENER, Ont. – Challenger Motor Freight is acquiring the assets of Ed Wiersma Trucking in a deal expected to close at the end of March, expanding Challenger’s Special Commodities Division.

The 16-truck, family-run fleet specialized in flatbed truckload freight moving between southern Ontario and the U.S. But while it had up-to-date equipment and freight to haul, it was no longer able to attract the drivers it needed.

“We struggled with the driver shortage for two years now,” founder Ed Wiersma told Today’s Trucking, noting that as older drivers retired, many of their younger replacements didn’t adapt to the lifestyle of trucking. Last year, 30% of the trucks sat idle, he said. “It’s no longer financially feasible.”

But the operation is a fit for Challenger.

“This allows Challenger to more quickly expand our already large flatbed service coverage. We have relationships with a significant number of premium shippers across North America and an acquisition like this gives us more opportunity to enhance our leadership position,” said Lynda Crickmore, vice-president of the Challenger Special Commodities Division, in a related press release.

Ed Wiersma Trucking, like Challenger itself, has been in business for more than 40 years. Wiersma took the wheel of his first truck in 1971, and worked as an owner-operator for various companies. A turning point came in 1978 when he was leased to a lumber company that backed him for an ICC Authority and Ontario PCV Authority, creating Wiersma Trucking.

His son, Nic, joined the fleet in 2007, and was being groomed to take over the business.

The younger Wiersma, a dispatcher, and 11 drivers are now going to Challenger. Ed and his wife Grace are retiring.

“It was a hard one,” Ed said of the ultimate decision to sell. “I made it especially for Nic. He would have to borrow some big coin [to buy the business], and the driver situation isn’t getting any better.”

“I know some of my peers are sitting on the fence,” he added, referring to other carriers in the region that are thinking about selling. “Only the big guys are going to survive this.”


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