A Montreal-based courier company that got its start 30 years ago by shipping parcels to Vermont has grown into an international trucking firm with routes covering Canada and 48 states.
Now Liaison CAN/US Logistics Inc. has opened its U.S. headquarters in Miami — next to Miami International Airport. The plan is to position the company for building new routes and generating new business carrying perishable foods from Latin America, products from Florida’s agricultural sector, pharmaceuticals and other products.
In addition, when new, larger cargo vessels begin moving through an expanded Panama Canal to PortMiami, the company expects an increase in seaborne international freight.
Seeing these opportunities for expansion, the Canadian company has placed a big bet on Miami. Last year, Liaison opened its U.S. subsidiary — Liaison CAN/US Logistics (USA) Corp. — and is investing millions of dollars in new refrigerated trucks equipped with satellite-tracking equipment, new drivers, as well as sales, marketing and administrative employees here.
“We’ve been doing business in Florida for 10 years and already have 45 trucks a week moving between Canada and Florida,” said George Shoif, the Miami-based vice president for business development at Liaison CAN/US Logistics (USA) Corp., the U.S. subsidiary.
“We’re not here for two or three years — we’re looking at the future,” Shoif said.
Today, the parent company operates a fleet of about 150 tractors and 200 trailers, transporting baked goods, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, pharmaceuticals and other items.
On an annual basis, Liaison transports about 75 million pounds of freight on the route between Florida and Canada alone.
As part of its plan, Liaison is building a locally based fleet of trucks that is expected to reach 25 by year’s end. A new tractor-trailer unit costs about $150,000.
It also is increasing the local workforce from six people to 25 or 30. Most of the new hires will be drivers, who are in short supply nationwide.
“We want licensed drivers who are based in South Florida and know the area,” said Luis Pérez-Codina, the Miami-based vice president of marketing and commercialization.
A big investment like Liaison’s at a time of economic uncertainty is risky, said an expert in trucking and freight movement, but it could pay off down the road.
“The freight market as a whole has been a bit sluggish this year,” said Neil Abt, editorial director of Transport Topics, a publication specializing in trucking and freight transportation.
For Florida and PortMiami, any big movement would probably be related to the Panama Canal expansion.
“Making an expansion right now — even as the economy is a little uncertain — is telling me that the reasoning behind a new investment will be to take advantage of opportunities that will open up going forward,” Abt said.
“If you are a mid-sized company, already have some pretty good business relationships and are comfortable operating in this uncertain environment, it might be a good time to give it a go. There’s always going to be freight to move, and a bold initiative now can put you ahead of the curve.”
Liaison’s current operations in Florida include a 50-50 split between domestic and international business. For instance, company trucks pick up shipments of cut flowers and other perishables at MIA, tropical plants, fruits, vegetables and peat moss at farms or regional storage centers, and deliver them to northern and western states, as well as to Canada.
Trucks coming to Florida from Canada carry baked goods, meat and other products. Liaison delivers to wholesale businesses, warehouses, retail chains and other logistics companies across the U.S. and Canada.
Liaison clients interviewed by the Miami Herald said the company is reliable and on time, whether they’re moving plants to Montreal or picking up canned foods in California.
Homestead-based Costa Farms, a major grower and supplier of indoor and outdoor tropical plants, uses Liaison and other trucking companies to deliver its merchandise. “We ship all over the U.S. and to Canada, and we’ve been working with Liaison for nine years,” said Kiki Buigas, key account manager at Costa Farms.
The plants need to be carried in temperature-controlled trucks, picked up on time and delivered according to schedule or they die.
Some trucking firms Costa tried didn’t work out. “Liaison is very reliable — we’ve built a relationship with them, and we’ve had no problems.”
Matt Montford, director of transport at States Logistics, a large logistics firm in California, said his company has been working with Liaison for over five years, moving mostly packaged food products.
They pick up and deliver on time, critical elements in freight transport.
“They make us look good,” Montford said.
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Liaison CAN/US Logistics (USA) Corp.
Business: Miami-based Liaison CAN/US Logistics Corp. is the U.S. headquarters of a Canadian trucking and logistics firm that transports freight throughout the U.S. and Canada. The headquarters was established here to take advantage of new opportunities for temperature-controlled trucking services between Florida, the rest of the United States and Canada. The parent company, Montreal-based Liaison CAN/US Logistics Inc. has been scheduling shipments to and from Florida for ten years.
Founded: The Miami subsidiary opened in 2015; the parent was founded in 1986 in Montreal.
Regional headquarters: 2360 NW 66th Ave., Building 701, Miami.
Regional management: George Shoif, vice president for business development, and Luis A. Pérez-Codina, vice president for marketing and commercialization, both based in Miami.
Employees: Six in Miami; 190 in U.S. and Canadian operations.
Customers: Farmers and growers (tropical plants, orange juice, other products), pharmaceutical firms, importers and exporters.
Ownership: Privately owned by three Canadian partners.
Competition: Schneider National, J.B. Hunt and other trucking companies based in Florida and other states.
Source: Liaison Can/U.S. Logistics