The FreightCaviar Podcast: From $25K Salary to Multimillion Freight Empire

Join us as Kevin Nolan, Founder & CEO of Nolan Transportation Group (NTG), discusses his journey in the logistics industry, from entry-level to opening his own MC, and AI's future impact.

The FreightCaviar Podcast: From $25K Salary to Multimillion Freight Empire

In this week's episode, we sat down with Kevin Nolan, Founder of Nolan Transportation Group, a hybrid-digital logistics service provider. Kevin talks about how he got his start in the freight business, the challenges of starting his own MC, and the difference between venture capital and private equity.

Kevin's Introduction to the Industry

We started off our conversation talking about Kevin’s introduction into the industry and the moment he fell in love with it. After visiting his local college career center, he was persuaded by his counselor to shadow at a company. “So I went and I shadowed on Columbia, and I was like, ‘This is incredible’, right? The emotion; why are freight brokers so emotional, right? In the three-way deal, between broker, shipper, and carrier, the broker is the most emotional. You could feel it on the floor.”

Career at C.H. Robinson

He also told us of his start at C.H. Robinson and the logistics scene in the early 2000s. “I was an entry-level salesperson at C.H. Robinson making $25,000, right? I mean, this was a long time ago, 25 years ago. I got a Christmas bonus and an annual bonus based on how the office did. And it was awesome, right? I had enough money to pay my rent, eat out pretty decently. I was in the Northeast zone, Columbia, South Carolina. I really started paying attention to where the loads came from, the customers, who they were and how I could add more and make a difference and win.”

What attracted him most to the industry, he says, was the challenge. “There's this giant puzzle and we got to find five trucks to the Northeast.  You got to convince some of them like, ‘Hey, this load might not really be going to Indianapolis. It might be going to Bangor, but we're going to talk you into it.’  And then there's the negotiation aspect of: ‘I don't want to go to the Northeast.’ Well, maybe I can make you go to the Northeast. It was very fun.” 

Challenges of Opening Your Own MC 

When opening his own MC, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Kevin says he came across a few bumps in the road to get to where he is now, and he talked about some of the challenges he had to face along the way. “Money, truckers not wanting to take my loads, factoring companies not wanting to work with me. You had banks not wanting to lend money, you had credit issues. You had all kinds of things going on. A lot of truckers who came into the market and then were leaving. So there were a lot of shippers who didn't want to work with you. We didn't really start growing until about four, five, six years later, to really be able to do our first class. It was 10 or 15 people. I remember we were very nervous on whether or not we were gonna be able to hire because it was a lot. It was like adding almost 30-40% of staff overnight. And then we were able to train and teach people our ways of brokering freight.”

The Future of the Expedited Market

When asked about the future of the expedited market, Kevin says “It'll look beautiful. At our insurance brokerage, we're losing around six percent of our book a month. We're outselling that. So we're treading water, basically. But how long can the market lose? I don't know. So the last two weeks you've seen shippers actually have to eat, so that rate is going to be raised. We're in a good spot on that for 2024, back half.”

AI’s Influence on the Future of Freight

He also answered the million-dollar question: What is the future of freight and AI’s influence on it? “We're using AI to kind of give us recommendations on carriers and rates to the people on the floor. AI can help with the verification of rates, matching that back-office aspect. So bring it.”

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