Image source: XPO Logistics.

Getting goods moved from place to place is a huge undertaking, and well-known companies like United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) have massive fleets of trucks, planes, and other modes of transportation to deliver things to where they need to go. XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO) uses a different approach, acting as a coordinator of other companies' transportation assets and connecting those who need shipping services with the best options available to do the actual shipments.

Coming into Wednesday's third-quarter financial report, XPO Logistics investors were prepared to see more red ink from the company, but the potential from the recent acquisition of trucking company Con-way had created excitement about its future. XPO's results didn't match up perfectly with precise expectations for the quarter, but the company nevertheless put itself in position to see huge growth over the next year. Let's look more closely at how XPO Logistics fared during the quarter and what's ahead for the company going forward.

XPO Logistics gets the job done
XPO Logistics' third-quarter results reflected the huge impact of acquisitions. Revenue soared 256% to $2.36 billion, which came in slightly ahead of what investors had expected to see. The company's adjusted net loss doubled from year-ago figures to $15.2 million, but an increase in outstanding shares limited the adjusted per-share loss to $0.15, $0.04 per share worse than the consensus forecast but just $0.02 higher than last year's loss figure.

Looking more closely at XPO Logistics' numbers, massive growth took place throughout the company. Revenue from the transportation segment more than doubled to $1.4 billion, with four major acquisitions playing a key role in boosting sales. On an organic basis, sales fell 2.7%, but lower fuel prices cost about 6 percentage points of potential growth due to falling surcharge collections. Operating income soared to $30.9 million, with 77% growth in organic adjusted EBITDA coming largely from XPO's truck brokerage and last-mile businesses.

Meanwhile, the logistics segment saw gross revenue climb almost 20-fold to $993.3 million. Operating income jumped 700% to $36 million, with XPO noting that new contracts, improving operations, and making choices that eliminated unprofitable business helped make the segment more profitable.

CEO Brad Jacobs was excited about the company's future potential. "We're in our strongest position yet to create value through the optimization of our operations," Jacobs said, noting that even though XPO just finished buying Con-way in late October, the company has already found $30 million in cost savings.

What's down the road for XPO?
Based on its recent success, XPO Logistics has accelerated its growth guidance over the next several years. For 2016, the company expects to bring in adjusted EBITDA of $1.25 billion or more based solely on XPO's current lineup of operational assets. By 2018, XPO is looking to grow that figure to $1.7 billion. That's a big step-up from previous guidance, in which XPO was expecting only $1.5 billion in adjusted EBITDA in 2019.

Still, many worry about the potential impact of global macroeconomic weakness on XPO's results. In September, the stock was extremely volatile on fears that a Chinese slowdown would make the company's decision to buy Con-way seem ill-timed in hindsight. Given that the massive acquisition marks a different way of doing business than XPO has embraced in the past, it's not surprising to see some investors get spooked. Short interest in the stock has skyrocketed.

Fundamentally, there are some signs of potential trouble in the industry. United Parcel Service saw revenue fall in its third-quarter report, with weak foreign currencies and falling fuel surcharges contributing to the decline. UPS wasn't traditionally comparable to XPO Logistics, given their different business models. But if XPO continues moving more aggressively toward building up its asset base, then it and UPS could well start moving more in tandem with each other.

XPO investors were pleased with the company's results, sending the stock up 4% in after-market trading following the announcement. Nevertheless, it will take time to see whether the company's vision for the future plays out the way that it hopes, and in the interim, investors can expect further volatility as conditions change in the months and years to come.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends United Parcel Service and XPO Logistics. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.