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August 26, 2019 8:00 AM, EDT

2019 Top 100 Private Carriers

Competition Rises for Private Fleets in Food, Oil Sectors
US Foods truck US Foods expanded its tractor count by more than 30% from last year. (US Foods)

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While stability reigns across much of this year’s Transport Topics Top 100 Private Carriers list, the new rankings do reflect some significant shake-ups in the highly competitive food distribution and oil field sectors.

One of the most prominent developments was the ascent of US Foods, which jumped to No. 3 on the list of the largest private fleets in North America, up from No. 6 a year ago, after expanding its tractor count by more than 30% to 6,968.

The food distributor edged past No. 4 Walmart Inc. and is now closing in on rival Sysco Corp., which remains No. 2 with its fleet of 8,544 tractors.

Seth Clevenger

Clevenger

Completed and pending mergers also are reshaping the business landscape for private carriers.

United Natural Foods Inc. climbed to No. 23 on the Top 100, from No. 36 a year ago, after completing its high-profile acquisition of Supervalu in October 2018. UNFI now boasts a fleet of 1,355 tractors.

Another major deal is on the horizon in the energy sector.

The planned merger of C&J Energy Services and Keane Group, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, would create a new oil field services giant. C&J currently ranks No. 13 with a private fleet of 2,364 tractors, while Keane checks in at No. 27 with 1,201. Both firms are based in Houston. The combined company plans to adopt a new corporate name and ticker symbol.

“The merger of equals unites two great companies, resulting in a broader portfolio of well completion services across an even greater footprint in the U.S.,” Keane CEO Robert Drummond said in the announcement.

The combined firm also will be positioned to further invest in technology and innovation, he added.

United Rentals, meanwhile, continued its rapid ascent on the Top 100 list, landing this year at No. 12, up from No. 15 last year and No. 24 two years ago.

The supplier of rental equipment for construction and industrial sites acquired both BlueLine Rental and BakerCorp International Holdings in the second half of 2018.

United Rentals now operates a private fleet of 2,774 tractors, 3,121 trailers and 5,213 straight trucks.

Other big movers on this year’s list include Helena Agri-­Enterprises, which jumped to No. 14 from No. 35; Cudd ­Energy Services, which leaped to No. 18 from No. 70; and CRH Americas, which checks in at No. 41 after ranking No. 92 a year ago.

Helena Agri-Enterprises, a fertilizer and pesticide distributor based in Collierville, Tenn., operates a private fleet of 2,054 tractors.

Texas-based oil field services firm Cudd Energy Services has 1,664 tractors in its fleet.

And CRH Americas, which previously operated under the name Oldcastle, transports building materials with its fleet of 889 tractors.

Seven companies are new to the Top 100 list this year.

Keane Group debuts at No. 27, while Nine Energy Service, another Houston-based provider of oil well services, joins the list at No. 65.

Messer Americas, a provider of industrial gas services, entered the Top 100 at No. 61 after acquiring most of the North American gases business of Linde in March.

Other newcomers to the list include No. 83 Ecology Auto Parts, which provides scrap metal and auto parts recycling in the western United States; No. 87 SpartanNash, a food ­retailer and distributor; and No. 96 Columbia Distributing, which delivers beverages in the Pacific Northwest.

Domino’s Pizza also joins the list at No. 88 with a fleet of 517 tractors. The well-known pizza chain operates about 20 dough manufacturing and food logistics centers in the ­United States.