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August 20, 2018 6:00 AM, EDT

2018 Top 100 Private Carrier Rankings: A Disappearing Act and More Mergers

This year’s edition of Transport Topics’ Top 100 Private Carriers list features a disappearing act — more than one, actually — as well as some big mergers in the offing and some new names.

Daniel Bearth

Bearth

First, let’s look at what happened to Coca-Cola Co. The Atlanta-­based company ranked No. 4 on the TT100 a year ago with 5,487 tractors, but is not listed this year as a result of a new distribution strategy in which responsibility for local and regional distribution of soft drinks was turned over to independent bottlers, some of which acquired enough tractors to be listed on the TT100 for the first time, including Coca-­Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England (No. 62), Liberty Coca-­Cola Beverages (No. 72) and Coca-Cola Beverages Florida (No. 75).

Reyes Holdings, a Chicago-based company that handles distribution of food, beer and beverages, also struck a deal to handle distribution of Coca-Cola beverages in the Midwest and Great Lakes region. Reyes ranks No. 4 overall with a fleet of 5,443 tractors.

2018 TOP 100 PRIVATE CARRIERS: See the new rankings

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Another company absent from the 2018 edition of the TT100 is Kellogg Co. Its fleet ran under the name Godfrey Transport and ranked No. 51 with 710 tractors a year ago, but was eliminated when the Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal company turned over distribution to its wholesale distribution partners.

Corporate mergers also continue have an impact on private fleet operations.

Most recently, United Natural Foods Inc. announced that it would buy Supervalu Inc., a move that will combine two of the largest food distribution fleets. UNFI ranks No. 36 on the TT100 with 943 tractors and Supervalu ranks No. 56 with 694 tractors. If the deal goes through, UNFI officials said they plan to divest Supervalu’s retail assets, which also could have implications for the fleet going forward.

Also, grocery retailer Albertsons Cos. has offered to buy what’s left of Rite Aid, a pharmacy chain that sold off most of its stores and real estate last year to Walgreens. Albertsons ranks No. 19 on the TT100 and Rite Aid ranks No. 30 on the list of largest private carriers in the wholesale and retail sector.

Another deal still in the works more than a year after it was announced would combine operations of United States-based Praxair Inc. and Germany’s Linde AG. Both companies are major suppliers of industrial gases and a merger has received approval from regulatory authorities contingent upon the sale of certain assets in the United States and Europe. Praxair ranks No. 34 and Linde North America No. 87 on the TT100. American Air Liquide Holdings, which completed its own acquisition of Airgas Inc. in 2016, leads the sector and ranks No. 18 on the TT100.

A merger of two Canadian fertilizer companies, Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp., led to the formation of Nutrien, which ranks No. 7 this year.

Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group joined forces to distribute coffee and soft drinks with a fleet that ranks No. 12.

Smaller deals include the purchase of Cedar Creek by BlueLinx Holdings (No. 42) and the purchase of S.P. Richards Co. by Essendant Inc. in the paper and office products sector, Clean Harbors’ purchase of Veolia Environmental Services in the waste management sector and TNT Crane & Rigging’s purchase of Allison Crane & Rigging in the equipment rental sector.

New companies this year include two Texas-based oilfield service fleets, FTS International (No. 26) in Houston and ProPetro Holding Corp. (No. 71) in Midland.

Williams Brothers Construction, a highway contractor, also makes its first appearance on the list at No. 79 with a fleet of 575 tractors, along with Medline Inc., a manufacturer of medical devices, at No. 91 with a fleet of 462 tractors.