ELS sells flatbed division to PS Logistics

Updated Feb 13, 2024

Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024:

PS Logistics makes another acquisition

PS Logistics entered the new year in growth mode. Not even three weeks into 2024, the Birmingham, Alabama-based trucking conglomerate has announced two acquisitions: Buddy Moore Trucking a week ago and, Tuesday, through subsidiary Blair Logistics, the flatbed division of Kenly, North Carolina-based ELS. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

ELS will retain its heavy-haul and intermodal divisions and operate under the same name. The flatbed division will now operate as Blair. 

"The ELS flatbed division will be complementary to our existing over-length operations and allow us to provide enhanced geographic coverage and service offerings to our customers while simultaneously providing greater opportunities to drivers," said Scott Smith, chief executive officer and co-founder of PS Logistics.

The transaction cements PS Logistics among the largest 53-foot flatbed carriers in the country with more than 500 power units and 1,250 over-length trailers.

Headquartered in Kenly, North Carolina, ELS was founded in 2009 by Tim Butts and operates as a family-owned business. ELS’s flatbed division maintains a fleet of more than 90 tractors and more than 240 over-length flatbed trailers, primarily hauling steel, industrial materials, lumber and other building materials.

PS Logistics has acquired more than two dozen trucking operations and five non-asset logistics operations across the country since 2016, four of them in the last six months. 

[Related: PS Logistics acquires Buddy Moore Trucking]

Berkshire Hathaway acquires remaining Pilot ownership

Berkshire Hathaway on Tuesday acquired the remaining 20% of Pilot Corporation it didn't previously own, giving the multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, 100% ownership of Pilot Travel Centers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Berkshire Hathaway had spent upwards of $11 billion to acquire an 80% stake. 

Pilot is the second piece of a major on-highway fuel-stop overhaul that's taken place in less than a year. BP Products North America Inc., a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of BP p.l.c., completed its $1.3 billion acquisition of TravelCenters of America last May. 

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Berkshire Hathaway, where billionaire investor Warren Buffett serves as chairman and CEO, purchased a 38.6% stake in Pilot Flying J in 2017. The Maggelet family, owners of FJ Management, Inc., retained 11.3% ownership at the time with the Haslam family holding the balance. Berkshire in 2023 became the majority shareholder by acquiring an additional 41.4% stake. The Haslam family retained 20% ownership and remained involved with the truck stop chain until Tuesday. 

"While this has certainly been an emotional decision for us, it is one we felt was right for our family at this time," said Jim Haslam II, founder of Pilot Travel Centers. "We look forward to continuing to support our life-long home of Knoxville, Tennessee, and to furthering our deep commitment and philanthropy throughout the region that we all love."

[Related: Pilot celebrating more than 100 store remodels]

FMCSA renews HOS exemption for certain paper mill drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is provisionally renewing an exemption from the hours-of-service regulations for WestRock (formerly RockTenn) that allows its employees to operate with special time limits on a specific section of public road between its shipping and receiving locations.

The exemption is restricted to a specific route, measuring less than 300 feet in one direction, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allowing WestRock’s shipping department employees and occasional substitute CDL holders to occasionally work up to 16 consecutive hours and be allowed to return to work with less than the mandatory 10 consecutive hours off duty.

FMCSA previously determined that the operations of WestRock’s drivers under this exemption would likely maintain a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level of safety that would be achieved in the absence of the exemption. The exemption renewal is for 5 years, effective April 17, 2024, through April 16, 2029.

In its exemption application, WestRock said its shipping and receiving departments are on opposite sides of the paper mill, requiring driver-employees to travel on a public road to shuttle trailers as needed. These drivers utilize a public road an average of 40 times per day to travel between WestRock’s manufacturing facility and shipping and receiving docks.

FMCSA said it’s “unaware of any evidence of a degradation of safety attributable to the current exemption for WestRock’s drivers.”

[Related: FMCSA renews hours exemption for paper company drivers]

Iowa’s harvest proclamation waiving weight limits extended again

Grain, fertilizer and manure haulers traveling on non-interstate highways and roads in Iowa are getting even more time to operate outside normal weight restrictions.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Jan. 13 signed an extension to the harvest proclamation that has been in effect since Sept. 11 and has now been extended four times since in one-month increments.

The proclamation, now effective through Feb. 12, allows vehicles transporting corn, soybeans, hay, straw, silage, stover, fertilizer (dry, liquid and gas), and manure (dry and liquid) to be overweight (not exceeding 90,000 pounds gross weight) without a permit for the duration of the waiver.

It applies to loads transported on all highways within Iowa (excluding the interstate system) and those that don't exceed a maximum of 90,000 pounds gross weight. Other stipulations that must be met to take advantage of the exemption: 

  • The load cannot exceed the maximum axle weight limit determined under the non-primary highway maximum gross weight table in Iowa Code § 321.463 (6) (a) and (b) by more than 12.5%
  • The load cannot exceed the legal maximum axle weight limit of 20,000 pounds
  • Drivers must comply with posted weight limits on roads and bridges