Transport International Pool began as Container Leasing, Inc. and was founded on September 12, 1957 by a group of entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. The company’s official filing stated that Container Leasing, Inc. would “engage in the business of buying, selling, renting and/or leasing for hire all type of trucks, automotive equipment, railroad equipment, marine equipment, aircraft equipment, and containers of any type and description, and any other items of like nature used in the transportation of general merchandise of any kind whatsoever.” The company was a pioneer in trailer leasing and trailer services.
By August 1959, Container Leasing, Inc. had eight shareholders, led by the original majority owner, Solomon Katz. He was also president of Strick Corporation, a trailer manufacturer. Bill Sennett, an executive at Strick, noticed that customers were increasingly asking for rental trailers. Sennett and Katz then founded Rentco, a separate business that used vans that had been traded to Strick for new vans to serve the rental demand.
Sennett became president of Container Leasing. In May 1966, Container Leasing’s legal name was changed to Transport Pool. The company was headquartered in California, and its first branch was in North Bergen, New Jersey. Other locations around the country soon followed.
The company expanded into Canada in 1967 and its name became Transport International Pool. It became known as “TIP” (the first letters of its name).
In 1969, the company expanded into Europe, opening a branch in the United Kingdom and a corporate office in the Netherlands. By the end of 1969 Transport Pool was operating 25 U.S. and five international branches. It opened a number of additional branches between 1969 and 1974, bringing the total to 96.
The company was the first national trailer rental company to begin a mileage charge, as well as a collision/damage waiver. In 1971, a holding company for Transport Pool was listed on the NASDAQ exchange.
Acquired during a recession
A recession hit the U.S. economy in 1974-75, and like many other publicly traded companies, TIP’s revenue and share price dipped. When the firm’s stock dropped to $2 per share in 1975, Minneapolis-based Gelco (General Equipment Leasing Corporation) Corporation offered $5 per share. Katz was still the majority shareholder, and he sold the company, which had about 500 employees at the time, to Gelco. which among its other businesses, leased cars and trucks to large corporate fleets.
Operationally, TIP changed little under Gelco’s ownership. By the end of the 1970s, TIP had more than 100 branches. However growth due to opening additional locations was becoming impractical.
A TIP trailer being taken to its next destination. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
The U.S. trucking industry was deregulated in 1980. To deal more effectively with outdated inventory being acquired from rental and lease deals, TIP launched its first remarketing trailer sales operation that year.
When the industry was deregulated, there were about 18,000 regulated trucking companies in the country. By 1989 that number had more than doubled to more than 42,000. Many of the new companies could not afford to buy trailers and TIP and its competitors filled that void.
TIP had grown to 130 branches by 1988. The extra demand for trailers caused by deregulation, combined with TIP’s growth, meant that new trailers were needed annually. TIP negotiated with trailer manufacturers for volume purchasing deals.
Purchase by GE Capital in 1987
Gelco acquired CTI Container Corporation. However, the acquisition resulted in financial losses that the profits from TIP could not offset. Gelco reported losses of $6.4 million and $4.9 million, respectively, in 1986 and 1987. To stem the red ink, Gelco sold TIP Europe in 1986 to a management and investor consortium. Then, in December 1987, GE Capital Service, a unit of General Electric, bought Gelco for about $414 millionand the assumption of $2.1 billion in debt. GE stated at the time that the acquisition was to further diversify its business lines, especially in transportation.
Gary Wendt, president of GE Capital Services (GECS), told The New York Times at the time of the acquisition that the purchase was “complementary to the company’s plans to grow its rail car, aircraft, auto and container leasing businesses.” Gelco’s other divisions were absorbed into existing parts of the GE Capital portfolio. However, TIP was brought in as a stand-alone division.
For its first few years as a GE Capital subsidiary, TIP’s growth was modest compared to its past growth. Under new management, TIP made two acquisitions – Intercan Leasing, a Canadian company, in November 1992 and Transamerica Corporation’s 19,000-trailer U.S. fleet in December 1992. These acquisitions made TIP the largest North American truck-trailer renting and leasing firm, with about 62,000 trailers. In 1998, TIP bought Trailer Leasing Co., further expanding its domestic trailer rental and lease business.
GE Capital also pushed TIP to grow and formalize its intermodal container business. In August 1997, it consolidated TIP Intermodal Services’ 6,000 intermodal containers and Genstar Container Corporation’s 18,000 containers; the newly formed unit was named TIP Intermodal Services. Subsequent intermodal acquisitions grew the intermodal fleet to more than 100,000 containers by 1999.
In April 1993, TIP bought back TIP Europe PLC, and opened its first branches in Monterrey and Mexico City in 1994.
In the U.S., however, TIP had to deal with a growing issue in the 1990s. Due in part to the assets it acquired when it bought competitors, as well as changing industry specifications, its fleet was becoming obsolete. The solution was to create another TIP unit – National Trailer Storage (NTS) in 1997. NTS was to sell or lease the older trailers in the storage and cartage market.
TIP was also facing increasing competition. Then as the economy cooled in the late 1990s, TIP’s revenue fell and its margins tightened. Many of its customers went bankrupt, fuel prices increased dramatically, which reduced profits, and the global economy was changing traditional trucking operations.
In addition, big box retailers had been a major part of TIP’s client base; however, many of them were acquiring their own truck fleets. Moreover, TIP’s equipment and technology were out of date. In particular, the company’s technology required major investments and a change in core business processes. TIP needed a major investment from GE Capital in order to become competitive again.
A TIP Trailer Services rig on a European road. (Photo: TIP Trailer Services)
Major changes during the 2000s
Maintenance Services were first offered in 2000, and included providing maintenance services on company-owned and customer-owned trailers.
Gary Wendt had led GECS throughout the time TIP had been part of GE. He left in 2000, and TIP was being managed by a new set of executives. Then in August 2002, Jeff Immelt, GE’s new chairman, reorganized the GECS portfolio into four business units, portions of which were later grouped with GE’s industrial businesses.
TIP was moved into GE Equipment Services (GEES), a new division that was part of GE Industrial. Other parts of GEES included Rail Services, GE’s Penske Truck Leasing limited partnership, the GE SeaCo marine container joint venture and Equipment Services Europe (ESE). The ESE business included the former TIP Europe trailer business, which had been separated from TIP in the U.S. but was still part of GE.
In addition, GEES leadership moved TIP’s intermodal business unit and its assets to GE’s Rail Services unit in Chicago in 2002. This was good for Rail Services, which benefited from the unit’s business relationships with rail customers and shippers.
TIP’s new focus was its core business model of renting, leasing, financing, maintaining and remarketing dry vans, flatbeds and refrigerated vans.
A trailer-tracking system was developed and tested/validated at GE’s Global Research Center. TIP launched the VeriWise asset monitoring product in April 2003.
TIP’s name was changed to Trailer Fleet Services in August 2004. This was partly a requirement of new GE branding guidelines, and partly to leverage GE’s brand strength.
The development and roll-out of VeriWise also resulted in the fourth business spin-off from the original TIP model – Asset Intelligence LLC, which was formed in 2005.
More changes in the 2010s
GE sold its Canadian fleet operations to Element Financial in 2013. Then in 2015, GE sold its fleet operations in the United States, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand to Element Financial and its European operations to Arval, a unit of BNP Paribas. Those operations purchased by Element Financial were rebranded as Element Fleet, while the European operations continue using the TIP branding.