The largest drayage firm at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was acquired last week as the shipping industry’s short-distance goods transportation sector continued to consolidate.

Long Beach-based California Cartage Co. was purchased by Cherry Hill, N.J.-based NFI Industries Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Both firms move cargo by truck from ports to nearby locations such as warehouses, a practice often referred to as drayage.

“This is the latest in an on-going trend of large logistics companies wanting to be bigger players in the Southern California port market,” said Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association in Long Beach, a coalition of West Coast companies. “It just so happened that the latest company acquired was the largest drayage company in the area.”

Transport Topics, a publication that tracks the freight industry, ranked NFI at No. 27 on its 2017 list of largest freight companies in the United States and Canada by revenue at $1.2 billion. Cal Cartage was No. 65 with revenue of $440 million.

The Cal Cartage acquisition adds about 45 new warehousing, drayage, customs examination, transloading and brokerage locations, bringing NFI’s North American presence to more than 250 locations, Chief Executive Sid Brown said via email. Its total employee count is now almost 10,000.

Cal Cartage says on its website that it had 1,200 full-time employees and 1,200 independent contractors, but it was unclear how many workers will transfer to NFI. Cal Cartage did not return calls requesting comment.

“Acquiring Cal Cartage is an opportunity to expand our suite of supply chain solutions while further integrating our international and domestic capabilities,” Brown said. “NFI’s network already spans North America, and the addition of CalCartage provides us with key positions at North America’s major ports.”

The combined company is expected to generate about $2 billion in annual revenue in 2018, he said.

From war to ports

It’s taken more than seven decades for Cal Cartage to reach this point.

The company was founded in 1944 by Neil Curry, making it not only the largest local drayage company, but one of the oldest. He started the business as a truck line moving aircraft parts for companies involved in the war effort, according to his son Robert Curry Sr., who recounted the story in a video when he was the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 entrepreneur of the year.

The business model changed in the late 1960s when the younger Curry, who became the company’s chief executive, secured a partnership with several Japan-based steamship lines. Cal Cartage today provides drayage as well as warehousing and distribution, customs examination, and brokerage services.

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