NFI, the Brown family’s Camden-based trucking and warehouse company, with sales of more than $2 billion a year, has expanded its reach to the big South Atlantic ports with its acquisition of G&P Trucking Co. Inc. of Columbia, S.C.
Terms of the purchase, from members of the T.L. Cassels trucking dynasty, weren’t disclosed.
It is the latest in a series of acquisitions north, west, and south that have made NFI, founded by Israel Brown to ship produce from the Vineland, N.J., area in 1932, one of the nation’s largest third-party shipping companies. NFI says its clients include many of the 100 largest U.S. companies.
The trucking business, which grew rapidly as global trade expanded in the early- and mid-2010s, has recently faced consolidation pressure as U.S. and foreign import taxes have risen. U.S. goods exports have been falling every month since March compared with a year ago, and imports have been down each month since April. West Chester-based trucker A. Duie Pyle in September announced a partners with Oak Harbor Freight Lines, which serves West Coast ports, in a bid to speed cargoes and cut costs.
NFI’s deal to buy G&P adds 14 terminals serving auto, tire, and textile plants and retailers to NFI’s warehouse and terminals network. With the purchase, NFI facilities will total about 50 million square feet, which is a little more than all the office space in Center City.
The sale also adds G&P’s fleet of 370 tractors, 3,000 trailers, and 120 truck owner-operator partners to NFI’s trucking fleet. The fleet will now total more than 3,000 tractors and 12,500 trailers, driven by 2,700 NFI drivers and 400 owner-operators nationwide. In all, the company says it employs about 12,600.
NFI chief executive Sid Brown called G&P, founded just four years after NFI, “a perfect cultural fit,” noting that both firms had long histories as family-owned, expansion-minded truckers.
The newly acquired company hauls freight (dubbed “drayage”) through the ports of Savannah, Ga., Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, S.C., giving NFI what it calls “a significant drayage presence at nearly every major U.S. port.” Ownership by NFI “will allow for greater opportunities for our employees, partners, and customers,” G&P president Clifton Parker said in a statement.
NFI acquired Seattle-based cargo broker SCR, which arranges food shipments by truck, rail, and air, in February. In 2017, NFI acquired California Cartage, the largest trucking firm operating through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, hauling clothing imports from Asia and computer exports from the West Coast; plus Canada-based Dominion Warehousing & Distribution.
NFI, formerly based in Cherry Hill, where the company maintains trucking and storage facilities, is one of several South Jersey companies whose headquarters in recent years have left suburban locations to move to new office space on the Camden waterfront.
Its Camden neighbors include utility operator American Water Works and Conner Strong & Buckelew, the insurance brokerage headed by Cooper Health chief and South Jersey Democratic leader George E. Norcross III.
Although the Browns are Republicans and the Norcrosses are Democrats, the two business families based in South Jersey have maintained close relations.
For example, lawyer Philip Norcross, George Norcross’ brother, served on the board of the former Sun National Bank of Vineland, which Sid Brown chaired, before its sale to OceanFirst Bank last year. And the Browns have donated to another Norcross brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, and other New Jersey Democrats while also backing state and national Republican donor committees.