Top 50 Global Freight Carriers Face Major Disruption

Port of LA
Trucks at the Port of Los Angeles. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

The world’s largest freight transportation providers overcame unprecedented disruption in 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak upended normal freight patterns and muddled supply chains. The fallout from the pandemic also created even more uncertainty in an international business environment that already had been unsettled by trade disputes and higher tariffs.

Despite these challenges, the companies ranked on the Transport Topics 2020 Top 50 Global Freight Carriers list have adjusted their operations to keep pace with ever-changing market conditions.

Looking ahead, the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the Phase 1 deal between the U.S. and China have added some degree of clarity on the trade policy front, but the outlook for 2021 remains clouded as governments, businesses and people around the world continue the fight against COVID-19.

The Top 50 list ranks companies according to asset-based freight revenue in 2019, so it does not yet reflect the business impact of the global pandemic, but it does provide an overview of the largest freight carriers in the world across all transportation modes, including truck, rail, ocean and air freight.

Transport Topics produces the annual Top 50 Global Freight Carriers list in cooperation with SJ Consulting Group.

On this year’s Top 50 list, U.S.-based parcel giants FedEx Corp. and UPS Inc. remain well ahead of the pack as the two largest commercial transportation companies in the world, with FedEx maintaining a narrow lead in freight revenue.

The Maersk Group, at No. 4, is the largest ocean shipping company on the list, but several rivals are closing the gap.

France-based CMA CGM Group continued its ascent by climbing to No. 5, up from No. 7 a year ago and No. 9 in 2018.

China-based COSCO Shipping Group also moved up the list, rising to No. 10, from No. 12 last year.

A bit further down the list, eight of the biggest names in the North American trucking industry also rank among the Top 50 largest freight transportation companies in the world, across all modes.

Less-than-truckload carrier XPO Logistics appears at No. 24, just ahead of intermodal and trucking firm J.B. Hunt Transport Services at No. 25.

LTL provider YRC Worldwide checks in at No. 29, followed by truckload carrier Knight-Swift Transportation at No. 32, LTL carrier Old Dominion Freight Line at No. 33 and truckload provider Schneider at No. 36.

Canada-based TFI International also appears on the list at No. 37.

Estes Express, the largest privately held LTL carrier in the United States, ranks No. 45.

Meanwhile, two new freight transportation providers crack the Top 50 — a pair of state-owned rail service providers in post-Soviet nations.

Ukrainian Railways enters the rankings at No. 46, and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, the Central Asian country’s national railroad, rounds out the list at No. 50.

Ocean carriers and rail service providers accounted for more than half of the companies ranked on this year’s Top 50 list, with 14 for each mode of transportation. Ten of the companies listed are primarily parcel carriers, eight are trucking companies, and four are airfreight carriers.

The United States is home to 14 of the Top 50 companies, more than any other country. Six have headquarters in Japan, while four are based in China, four in Germany and three in Canada.

All revenue figures are listed in U.S. dollars. Currency conversions are based on the average exchange rate during the year.

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