Trucking M&A persisted in 2022, even as freight markets cooled following record demand in the past few years.
A flurry of M&A activity over the past 12 months included Heartland Express spending more than $500 million to acquire Contract Freighters and related entities, multiple acquisitions by Werner and the privatization of USA Truck.
Buyers’ motivations varied, with some companies acquiring others to expand into new markets, while others emphasized the advantages of added labor and equipment. As freight demand fell, larger fleets in a position to spend after years of surging profits took advantage of opportunities to scoop up smaller ones to add capacity.
Spencer Tenney, president and CEO of the Tenney Group, a firm representing sellers in 18 active trucking deals, called 2022 “a tale of two halves” in terms of M&A.
The first half saw carriers capitalizing on a “once-in-a-lifetime environment” for acquisitions, Tenney said. In the second, some of their motivations in making deals shifted to record interest rates and inflation. Larger deals in particular became more challenging to execute in the final four to six months.
“All of those fundamental factors that were driving M&A, even going back to pre-2020, are even more pronounced because of all of these rises in expenses,” Tenney said. “There's a lot of hype about deal flow and M&A activity slowing down, and there is some truth to that. The way I would describe that is, for that lower-middle market, it is still extremely strong.”
We rounded up our coverage of some major acquisitions and trends in 2022, which provide a glimpse of this year’s busy M&A environment.