By Tina Irgang Leaderman
For Choptank Transport, 2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration: it marked the company’s 20th anniversary.
“We were going to have all kinds of cool marketing and events,” said Geoff Turner, Choptank’s President and CEO. “Then the pandemic hit and sort of threw a wrench into things. It was a tale of two years, in the sense that we started it with a lot of demand, and then we saw things plummet. As the year progressed, capacity got tighter and tighter as the economy started to come back. We’re really robust right now.”
Choptank is a full-service third-party logistics company that offers truckload, intermodal, cross-docking, heavy-haul and many other specialized freight services. Like other logistics providers, Choptank saw its business change along with consumers’ habits during the pandemic.
“We’re primarily in the food and beverage space. It’s about 60% of our business,” Turner said. While business related to the restaurant space declined in 2020, “we saw all of our grocery clients go through the roof. We continued to see strong demand from grocery clients throughout the year as people ate more at home.”
Choptank serves the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other international destinations through its network of six locations, including its headquarters in Preston, Md., and a satellite office in Baltimore. In October, Choptank is set to open its seventh location, in Easton — just a few miles from headquarters.
“We’ve filled our building in Preston and we don’t have any room to expand there,” Turner said. “So we found a suitable location over in Easton that is of similar size. We’ll be able to create another couple hundred jobs there, just because of the demands of the logistics industry. There’s an incredible amount of talent on the Eastern Shore that sometimes goes untapped, and we were welcomed very well by the community to continue our growth here.”
Proximity to the Port of Baltimore also has served Choptank well over the years, Turner said. “The Port of Baltimore has been growing, as everyone knows, with the dredging and the ability to get bigger ships in. Baltimore is just unique in terms of the layout, with the terminals and space and size that’s available. Also, we’ve got such a great, diverse workforce in Maryland that’s able to meet the demand of all the ships that are coming in. The geographic location of being so close to major cities is also really important. You can be in New York in less than a day, and there’s so much population in the Northeast.”
Choptank got its start in 2000 with six employees, focusing on refrigerated trucking. By 2005, the company had grown to 23 full-time employees, and between 2005 and 2015, revenue rose from $19 million to $185 million. In 2018, Choptank surpassed $300 million in revenue and 350 full-time employees.
Over the years, the company added many new services, including an intermodal and a cold LTL (less-than-truckload) division. The company’s Baltimore regional office opened in 2018. “We specifically launched that to grow our presence in the Port,” Turner said. “That office has been super successful and continues to grow.”
As technology becomes an ever more important part of shipping, Choptank has put work into enhancing its proprietary software platform, called Orbit. “With more people working remote, one of the demands from our customers was to have a more robust tool to know where their freight is and what they need to do. So we’ve made a significant investment in our Orbit product. We’ve got a dashboard in there that will show customers where their freight is, and it gives them analytics tools for their supply chain.”
Another important part of Choptank’s philosophy is giving back to the community, through the Choptank Transport Community Foundation. The foundation’s work took on added significance this year.
“If you look at 2020, there were so many things that got disrupted,” Turner said. “I’m talking about our local fire departments that couldn’t have their typical fundraisers, for example. We took a lot of pride this year in the fact that we had a golf tournament that supported first responders.”
Turner attributes Choptank’s success over the past 20 years to a talented team of “great logistics professionals” as well as “a lot of high-quality customers that have been with us since day one and continue to be supportive of us as we grow and add more services. We’ve also got such a great group of motor carriers that have followed us for many years and are ready to meet the demand of our customers.”
As Turner sees it, Choptank’s future looks bright: “There’s certainly high demand for what we’re doing, and we don’t see that changing.”
Choptank Transport At a Glance
President and CEO: Geoff Turner
Year Founded: 2000
Locations: 6 (with a seventh opening in October)