Ed Trout, president of Cornhusker Motor Lines, Omaha, Neb., and a charter member of Transportal Network, confirmed that the company will "close their doors Friday." He said Transportal executives told him the company was unsuccessful in its attempts to secure a second round of funding.
"It’s a big disappointment," Trout said. "I feel bad for Lana (Batts, Transportal executive VP and chief development officer). She really worked hard to make this thing happen." Batts had stepped down as president of the Truckload Carriers Assn. in March to accept the position with Transportal Network.
Trout said he also feels bad that carriers will lose out on the benefits Transportal Network promised.
"I was really fired up. I was pumped. I thought it was a great deal," Trout said. He had looked forward to load optimization benefits and also buying power offered through the Transportal deal. "Load optimization is where I felt it would help us most." Trout said that to make that work, however, "you have to have a lot of trust in your fellow carriers." He said he felt
Batts had made great strides in breaking through the "culture shock" necessary to get carriers together and share load information.
"Someone is going to have to do it sooner or later," Trout predicts.
He also had hoped to benefit from increased buying power and discounts promised by vendors to Transportal members. "She (Batts) had put together a wide variety of vendors that could certainly have helped us with some discounts. It’s an opportunity lost."
But other charter members were not as optimistic about Transportal's potential.
Jeff England, president of Pride Transport in Salt Lake City, said his company saw very little benefits as a charter member. "There really was nothing that ever came of it," he said. "They hooked up with an insurance company we hoped would help, but nothing came of it. We never received any benefit." England did concede that "they did mention my name in a couple news stories."
Transportal's plan was to create a virtual fleet composed of equipment from small to mid-sized truckload carriers.
Trout said he "had not the wildest idea" that the dot.com was in trouble. A member of his staff had just met with Transportal executives at the recent TCA Independent Contractor meeting, and as far as they knew everything was going forward as planned.
As recently as Sept. 15, Transportal claimed to have 33 North American fleet members representing nearly $2.5 billion in revenue, 20,000 tractors, and 40,000 trailers.
However, on Sept. 29, director of marketing Kevin Sullivan said the company was in a "holding pattern" and as of Sept. 1 had put a freeze on hiring. At that time, however, he said the company was still operational with a 20-person staff. He told Truckinginfo.com that Transportal was seeking a new round of financing and exploring other opportunities through merger or acquisition. Sullivan said the company had planned a "major announcement" for Oct. 5.
Sullivan could not be reached for comment. But Trout said he had first-hand information that Transportal was unable to secure a second round of funding.
"They did fine in the first round, then investors got a little spooked over dot coms," Trout explained. He said that many potential investors were leery of the deal because they feared it was going to be a freight auction.
"That’s not what it was about," Trout said.
Ironically, Batts spoke recently at a meeting of the Council of Logistics Management and predicted of her fellow transportation dotcoms, "Who emerges as winners is three to four years out, though there will be a big shake out in the next nine months."