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Although trucking companies are benefiting from a favorable business environment and strong economic growth this year, the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic took a significant toll on the industry in 2020.
Some fleets continued to grow their operations despite the challenges introduced by the coronavirus, but many of the largest for-hire carriers in North America reported revenue declines last year amid a volatile freight market.
American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index declined 3.3% in 2020, reversing a 3.3% increase the previous year.
However, the effects of the pandemic and the pace of recovery vary from one industry sector to the next.
Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings
Much like the trucking industry as a whole, truckload carriers generally posted mixed results last year.
Knight-Swift Transportation easily retained its top ranking in the truckload sector, followed by J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Landstar System.
Schneider and Werner Enterprises round out the top five, with TFI International and U.S. Xpress Enterprises not far behind. Other carriers with more than $1 billion in truckload and dedicated revenue include Ryder Dedicated Transportation Solutions, Crete Carrier Corp. and Penske Logistics.
There are no changes in rankings from a year ago among the top eight companies on the truckload sector list, but the effects of industry consolidation are apparent.
Penske Logistics, which ranks No. 10 in the truckload/dedicated segment, has grown through its acquisition of dedicated contract carrier Black Horse Carriers, which was No. 29 on the sector list a year ago.
Much like their counterparts in the truckload sector, fleets operating in the less-than-truckload segment faced their share of challenges during last year’s volatile freight market.
Moving into 2021, a major acquisition has altered the competitive landscape in the LTL business.
TFI International jumps to sixth on this year’s LTL sector list, up from No. 14 last year, after purchasing UPS Freight for $800 million in April.
The former UPS division, which primarily provided LTL services, now operates under the name TForce Freight as part of TFI’s LTL segment.
FedEx Freight, meanwhile, continues to lead the LTL sector with revenue of more than $7 billion, followed by Yellow Corp., XPO Logistics and Old Dominion Freight Line.
The industry’s four largest LTL carriers all experienced revenue declines in 2020, but No. 5 Estes Express Lines bucked the trend with 9.2% growth.
J.B. Hunt Intermodal
Intermodal and drayage fleets also posted uneven results last year, but familiar names remain atop the sector list.
J.B. Hunt Intermodal continues to hold the top position by a wide margin with nearly $4.7 billion in revenue, followed by Hub Group with just under $2.1 billion.
IMC Cos., with revenue of $428 million, climbed to No. 6 on this year’s intermodal sector list, up from No. 8 a year ago.
The largest carriers in the bulk segment of the trucking industry endured a challenging business environment last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading to year-over-year revenue declines at many of these companies.
At the same time, consolidation continues to reshape the bulk transportation segment.
In June, the industry’s largest tank truck carrier, Kenan Advantage Group, acquired Ag Trucking Inc., a Goshen, Ind.-based bulk transporter of food products.
Meanwhile, railroad operator CSX Corp. has agreed to acquire liquid bulk fleet Quality Carriers Inc., whose parent company, Quality Distribution, ranks No. 2 on the tank/bulk sector list. That deal, announced in May, is expected to close in the third quarter.
Heniff Transportation Systems also has been expanding aggressively through acquisition. Earlier this year, Heniff purchased Jasa Transit and Premier Bulk Systems, building on its previous acquisitions of Superior Bulk Logistics in 2019, Miller Transporters in 2018, EZ Alternative Transport in 2016 and Horizon Tank Lines in 2015.
McCoy Group, the parent of Foodliner and Quest Liner, also expanded its bulk trucking portfolio through its December acquisition of W.W. Transport Inc. of Burlington, Iowa.
Bruce Harmon/Trans Pixs.
The refrigerated segment, in contrast, has been relatively stable.
The top nine companies on this year’s list of the largest refrigerated fleets remain unchanged from a year ago.
Prime Inc. continues to hold the top position in the sector with revenue exceeding $1.9 billion, followed by KLLM Transport Services and C.R. England.
TriggerPhoto via Getty Images
Unlike the mixed results in many other sectors of the transportation industry, package couriers generally posted strong revenue growth in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic supercharged e-commerce volumes.
Higher demand for home delivery was powered by consumers who increasingly purchased products online rather than visiting physical stores amid business closures and social distancing guidelines.
Sector-leading package delivery giants UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. both posted double-digit revenue growth last year. Other large couriers, such as Purolator, OnTrac and LaserShip, also recorded impressive revenue gains.
Meanwhile, consolidation has altered the business landscape in the mail hauling sector.
Several U.S. Postal Service contractors, including Eagle Express Lines, Salmon Cos. and Hoovestol Inc., have merged into a single company now operating as 10 Roads Express, which debuts at No. 2 in the mail sector, behind FedEx.
Carter Lake, Iowa-based 10 Roads Express operates a fleet of 3,500 company-owned tractors and 5,000 trailers from 36 terminals across the United States.
Checking in at No. 3 on the mail haulers list is Postal Fleet Services of St. Augustine, Fla.
While package couriers prospered, flatbed carriers faced a much more challenging market in 2020.
Many of the largest fleets in the flatbed and heavy specialized trucking segment recorded lower revenue last year compared with 2019.
Landstar narrowly regained the top position in the flatbed sector, edging past Daseke Inc., which had just taken the top spot from Landstar a year earlier.
In the air/expedited segment, sector-leading Forward Air grew its revenue by 9%, to nearly $880 million.
Auto haulers United Road Services and Jack Cooper Holdings continue to rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the motor vehicle/driveaway segment.
In the household goods and commercial delivery sector, Sirva Worldwide Relocation & Moving and UniGroup remain the two largest players, with Suddath, Atlas World Group and Two Men and a Truck Movers rounding out the top five.
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