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Trident Transport: a young brokerage killing it in Freight Alley

Of course the fastest-growing company in Chattanooga is a freight brokerage. Trident Transportwas listed by Inc. 5000 as the number one growth company in Chattanooga and the 400th fastest-growing company in the United States last week. We pointed out last week that 106 transport and logistics companies made the list, and frankly, we’re not surprised that the most dynamic companies in Chattanooga are in our industry.

Chattanooga, in the heart of Freight Alley, is home to some of the largest transportation companies in the country, including Kenco, Covenant Transport, and US Xpress. Access America Transport, a freight brokerage founded in 2002, was acquired by Coyote Logistics in 2014 for a reported $260M. These companies have created a rich legacy and culture of freight in Chattanooga, making it a hotbed for startups in transport and logistics.

FreightWaves walked across the street (literally) to Trident Transport to have a conversation with President Heath Haley, VP Carter Garrett, and VP of Operations Mark Harrell. Trident was founded in November 2013, and went operational on March 3, 2014. The first day of operations, when the brokerage was based in an apartment, Trident moved a load and netted $50.

Harrell said that although brokerages are often perceived to be easy to start with low barriers to entry, establishing trust with carriers is difficult with a brand new MC authority. Harrell and Haley told stories about truckers asking how long they’d been in business, and when they responded “4 days,” they heard a click on the other end of the line.

“We didn’t have any money behind us,” Haley said, “so we had to do the right things from the beginning. We didn’t take crazy risks and everything we’ve done has been financially sound.” Haley and Harrell, brothers-in-law, didn’t have backgrounds in freight, but Garrett was an Access America alum from its early days. Haley said when Trident first started, they occasionally resorted to paying carriers even before pickup to establish trust, and emphasized the role of luck.

“All success to some degree is dependent on luck. In our early days, we didn’t get burned on any loads, and we didn’t have any big insurance claims and so we were able to survive,” Haley said.

This year, Trident is on track to do $32M in revenue, after doubling every year of its existence. The culture of the company will be familiar to logistics vets: the brokerage thrives on youthful energy with beer Fridays, a ping pong table, an arcade with Galaga and Golden Tee, and a money machine that whips up a tornado of cash at bonus time. 

“We play in a stressful place,” said Haley, adding that “a stressed-out employee helps no one.”