Big Freight, Kelsey Trail fleets combining forces

Updated Sep 26, 2018

Big Freight Systems, a Daseke company, last week announced a merger with Kelsey Trail Trucking. Combined, the two operations haul with nearly 750 tractors and trailers. Kelsey Trail will become a division of Big Freight and keep operations intact, with locations in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Innisfil, Ontario, both in Canada. Big Freight is headquartered in Steinbach, Manitoba.

“While we will operate somewhat autonomously, we will share many resources,” said Gary Coleman, president of Big Freight. Big Freight has traditionally been devoted to hauling with single flatbed trailers in both the United States and Canada, while “Kelsey Trail is the largest dedicated B-train operator in Canada, with coast-to-coast truckload and LTL service.”

Kelsey Trail also has a regional B-train operation in Ontario and Quebec.

A current-generation Big Freight Systems truck hauls a 1942 and a 1946 Mercury from Big Freight Systems’ early days when the company operated as South East Transfer. This year, Big Freight is celebrating its 70th anniversary since being cofounded by Gary Coleman’s father, Red, and grandfather in 1948. The two Mercury trucks are now on display at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba.A current-generation Big Freight Systems truck hauls a 1942 and a 1946 Mercury from Big Freight Systems’ early days when the company operated as South East Transfer. This year, Big Freight is celebrating its 70th anniversary since being cofounded by Gary Coleman’s father, Red, and grandfather in 1948. The two Mercury trucks are now on display at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba.

While Kelsey Trail and Big Freight have “never competed for freight,” Coleman said, “now we’ll be able to work together in some creative ways. That’s exciting for both companies, and it will be a benefit for our customers.”

Much like Big Freight, Kelsey Trail started as a small, family-operated trucking company, said Jim Clunie, president of Kelsey Trail. “We’re in our 38th year, while Big Freight is celebrating its 70th year,” he said. “Our values, passion for the industry and our penchant for customer service is very much alike. I’ve had others knock on our doors, but have never been inclined to sell or merge.” Until now.

Kelsey Trail Trucking operates 80 tractors, a mix of late-model Kenworths and Peterbilts. They have a handful of 53-foot trailers, but the mainstay is the company’s 90 sets of 5-axle B-trains (32-foot lead trailers and 28-foot pups). The company’s long-haul fleet of nearly 50 tractors goes all over Canada (backhauling much of the cedar that comes out of British Columbia). It has also developed a regional fleet making deliveries from the Toronto area up to the northern area of the province, and into Quebec.

“[From an operational standpoint,] merging with Big Freight will give us the opportunity to better support our team with access to the first-class facility in Steinbach and property in Winnipeg,” said Clunie.

“And, for Big Freight, we will have access to Kelsey Trail’s new 42,000 square-foot facility north of Toronto,” said Coleman. “The more efficient we can operate day-in and day-out, the more competitive we will be long term.”

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