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LTL regional carrier Pyle expands into Virginia

A. Duie Pyle is expanding its footprint to better compete in a changing regional LTL marketplace. Photo credit: Ari Ashe.

Regional less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier A. Duie Pyle is expanding into Virginia, becoming the latest LTL carrier to add capacity to meet continuing strong demand for smaller truck shipments.

The Pennsylvania-based carrier is opening terminals in Richmond, Roanoke, and Manassas, giving Pyle full-state coverage and extending its reach from the northeast further into the Mid-Atlantic as regional and multi-regional LTL networks evolve.

The strategic move lets Pyle provide direct service to and from the Port of Virginia, connecting key metropolitan areas from Richmond to Baltimore. Norfolk and Virginia Beach are “target-rich areas” for the LTL carrier, and likely a location for a future service center, said John Luciani, Pyle’s chief operating officer.

“The port of Virginia is a big target for us,” Luciani said in an interview Wednesday. “Our dedicated operation runs a dray operation out of the Port of Philadelphia, and we’ll look to expand that with less-than-containerload cargo out of the Port of Virginia in Norfolk.»

LTL carriers, including Pyle, are playing a larger role in the movement of imported goods between cross-dock facilities near ports to inland distribution centers. Pyle already handles some ocean and air freight moving through New York and New Jersey and airports in the Northeast.

Pyle has had an import-export initiative for the past two years and “it could be a pretty significant part of our business,” said Luciani. Currently, international freight accounts for about 5 percent of Pyle’s business, “and it could be 10 percent longer term,” he said.

Customers are pulling Pyle and other LTL carriers toward ports. “Our freight brokers and forwarders are looking for reliable transit times, and they want to schedule [shipments] with us,” Luciani said.

Strong growth, growing region

Pyle’s service rollout in Virginia is the latest expansion in an LTL sector that is experiencing unprecedented growth. Thanks to increased volumes of international freight, particularly e-commerce goods, the total US LTL market expanded 20.4 percent in 2021, accounting for a record $50.7 billion in revenue. In 2016, the US LTL sector took in $34.9 billion in combined revenue.

Pyle increased its revenue 27 percent in 2021 to $481 million, making the carrier the 17th-largest US LTL company, according to SJ Consulting Group data. The company now operates 30 service centers and 16 warehouses. In 2022, “we’re enjoying double-digit [percentage] growth even off last year’s numbers in terms of bill counts, and Virginia will play into that growth, as well as growth in our export-import markets,” Luciani said.

“Clearly what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine and our own domestic issues, with inflation and diesel now over $5 a gallon, plays into the outlook,” he added. “Hopefully the economy doesn’t stall. But we’re ideally positioned for a robust 2022. It won’t be like 2021, but I would be disappointed if [revenue] growth isn’t somewhere in the mid-teens.”

The expansion to the south reflects changing distribution patterns as customers demand more overnight service over larger territories. Last year, Pyle expanded its integrated logistics center (ILC) in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, near Hagerstown, Maryland, that gives it a staging area for service south along the I-81 corridor into Virginia and east to Washington, DC, and Baltimore.

Pyle has been an “I-95 specialist,” Luciani said, but as LTL business and imports grow in the East, more business is moving through and into the I-81 corridor in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

“Depending on what direction you’re traveling, the I-81 corridor is either the gateway to the Southeast or the Northeast,” Luciani said. Pyle’s latest expansion includes a terminal in Roanoke on I-81. The company serves the inland port in Front Royal, about 70 miles south of Hagerstown on I-81, and is home to distribution centers for Home Depot, Dollar General, and others.

As retail distribution networks expand from the I-95 corridor westward, “our national account customers increasingly look at Virginia and even West Virginia as part of the Northeast,” Luciani said.

Increasing competition

National and multi-regional LTL carriers are also increasing their stake in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic following the demise of New England Motor Freight (NEMF), once one of the largest Northeast LTL carriers, in 2019. Georgia-based Saia has spent the past several years building a northeastern terminal network, and Yellow is merging its regional carrier New Penn into its multiregional framework.

Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, the largest US truckload operator, is looking toward the Northeast as it plans to expand its recently acquired regional LTL operations to a national LTL network.

Expansion in western Maryland and Virginia will better position Pyle to compete with national and multiregional carriers in the Northeast. The company’s service now extends from Maine to Virginia and west to eastern Ohio and parts of West Virginia. Beyond that footprint, Pyle partners with other regional carriers, including Southeastern Freight Lines, Dayton Freight Lines, and Oak Harbor Freight Lines.

Within its core region, the addition of Virginia helps speed overnight and one-day deliveries. “Our plan from day one is to offer overnight service [from Virginia] in and out of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and probably southern Connecticut, and then second-day to metro and upstate New York and northern New England,” Luciani said.

Pyle is expanding in Allentown, Pennsylvania, breaking ground soon on a 320-square-foot warehousing facility near its 60-door service center. “From Richmond to Allentown is just over 300 miles,” Luciani said, making the location a good turning point for northbound and southbound trucks.