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Manitoulin Transport continues steady growth

Manitoulin Transport has added to its fleet once again, acquiring Smooth Freight Ltd. of Brandon, Manitoba.
Manitoulin Transport has made another recent acquisition, the ninth in two years. The company, based in Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, offers a range of services including expedited less-than-truckload and truckload, trans-border, intermodal, private fleet, guaranteed service, temperature-controlled, dangerous goods and supply chain management.

Manitoulin Transport has added to its fleet once again, acquiring Smooth Freight Ltd. of Brandon, Manitoba.

Smooth Freight offers scheduled LTL (less-than-truckload) and TL (truckload) service and storage trailer rentals to more than 300 rural communities in southern and western Manitoba from its terminals in Winnipeg and Brandon. Established in 1987, Smooth Freight has more than 200 trailers and 25 trucks including dry vans, heat/refrigeration, flat deck and tail lift.

This most recent acquisition remains in line with the company’s acquisition strategy, which started in the 1990s, but has gained speed in the last few years.

Manitoulin has picked up nine companies since 2011, largely in Western Canada, which has been a particular area of focus.

“We’re expanding our reach or our footprint into areas where we weren’t in before,” said Manitoulin Transport president Don Goodwill. “We already have very thorough coverage in Ontario, so it makes expansion there in ground transportation not possible. So we look to expand in areas that we don’t already have coverage.”

Western Canada is also a valuable area to get into because of its strong resource-based economy, particularly in the oil and gas and mining industries, Goodwill said.

Typically when Manitoulin goes into area, there isn’t a lot of change to the way companies are already operating.

For the most part, Manitoulin will try to retain jobs, and there can even be some job creation over time once activity grows in that area, Goodwill said.

“We also bring to that same customer base a number of other services that we can provide because Manitoulin is much more than a less-than-truckload carrier,” he said.

“We’re also into international freight forwarding, customs brokerage warehousing and other activities that those customers in those markets may not have had access to through their local trucking company,” he added. “So as we do that, hopefully that would create some more activity and therefore some more employment.”

In some cases, adding to its fleet requires the construction of additional terminals to serve its client base. Goodwill said the company has been building a couple of terminals a year for the last several years, and another couple are slated to be built in 2014.

Despite its growth, the company has no plans to relocate its headquarters from the small Manitoulin Island community of Gore Bay, with a population of 800 people.

That’s where its founder, Doug Smith, established the company six decades ago as the grocery wholesaler Smith's Wholesale (Manitoulin) Limited.

But what will continue is Manitoulin’s pattern of acquisition—where it makes sense—expanding its geographic footprint to better serve business in Canada.

“We’re proud to be able to service as many communities as we can,” Goodwill said. “We service more points directly with our people and our equipment than any other single carrier in the country and that’s something we’re very proud of.”


Manitoulin Transport will no longer acquire less-than-load transportation company Vitran, after the agreement to purchase was terminated. Vitran will now be acquired by TransForce instead.

In a news release, Vitran said TransForce offered a “superior” purchase proposal and Manitoulin had waived its right to match the TransForce proposal.

“Vitran and Manitoulin Transport have agreed to terminate the Manitoulin agreement concurrent with the entering into of the TransForce agreement, and the termination fee of US$4 million payable to Manitoulin Transport is in the process of being paid by Vitran,” according to the release.

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