Freight Recession Squeezes Top 100 For-Hire Carriers

Updated 2024 List Illustrates Financial Strain on Trucking Companies
J.B. Hunt truck
J.B. Hunt Transport Services remained the third-largest for-hire motor carrier in North America based on 2023 revenue. (J.B. Hunt Transport Services)

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While enduring a prolonged freight recession, the largest trucking companies in North America have been surviving on lower rates and tightly managing their operating expenses as they await a market rebound.

The financial strain caused by the freight downturn, which took hold in mid-2022 and has continued for two years into the first half of 2024, is plainly evident on this latest edition of Transport Topics’ Top 100 For-Hire Carriers list.

The preponderance of companies that appear on the updated list reported declining revenue and weaker profits in 2023 as a persistent oversupply of freight hauling capacity held down freight rates and gave shippers greater negotiating power.

That downward trend was apparent across all segments of the trucking industry, from full truckload to parcel.

Top-ranked UPS Inc., for one, saw its annual revenue drop below $91 billion in 2023 after surpassing the $100 billion mark for the first time a year prior.

Seth Clevenger


The challenging market conditions also were a contributing factor in the biggest change to this year’s Top 100 ranking — the absence of iconic less-than-truckload carrier Yellow Corp., which ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy last summer after 99 years in business.

The demise of Yellow, which ranked No. 13 on last year’s list, eliminated 30,000 jobs and reshaped the competitive landscape in the LTL sector.

The updated Top 100 list also includes several high-profile examples of industry consolidation.

Canada-based trucking conglomerate TFI International, which maintains its No. 4 ranking, continued to expand its reach through its acquisition of Daseke Inc., the largest flatbed and heavy specialized carrier in North America. That transaction, valued at about $1.1 billion, closed in April. Daseke, which stood at No. 31 on this list a year ago, continues to run its portfolio of flatbed and heavy-haul trucking companies as part of TFI’s truckload segment.

In another major move, truck leasing and logistics firm Ryder System Inc. expanded its dedicated contract carriage business with its February acquisition of Cardinal Logistics, which ranked No. 51 a year ago. After factoring in the projected revenue gain from Cardinal’s operations, Ryder’s trucking and logistics business climbs three spots to No. 6 on the Top 100.

This year’s list also reflects No. 7 Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings’ blockbuster purchase of U.S. Xpress Enterprises, which closed in July 2023, shortly after TT published last year’s Top 100.

Heartland Express, meanwhile, jumped to No. 36 on the list, up from No. 58 a year ago, due in large part to its 2022 acquisitions of Smith Transport and CFI.

A few motor carriers that have appeared on this Top 100 list in previous years have been removed due to a lack of current revenue data, but the updated list also features some notable additions.

Joining the list at No. 58 is Manitoulin Group, a Canadian LTL carrier headquartered on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island that also offers expedited, cross-border, dedicated, intermodal and logistics services.

Another newcomer is No. 66 FirstFleet, a dedicated contract carrier and truckload operator based in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Bay and Bay Transportation, a refrigerated carrier and logistics provider based in Eagan, Minn., joins the list at No. 82, while Commerce, Calif.-based dedicated carrier TCI Transportation debuts at No. 86.

Other companies joining the list this year include No. 94 Ward Transport & Logistics of Altoona, Pa.; No. 95 Acme Truck Line of Gretna, La.; No. 97 CrossCountry Freight Solutions of Bismarck, N.D.; No. 98 May Trucking Co. of Salem, Ore.; No. 99 Highlight Motor Group of Concord, Ontario; and No. 100 Spee-Dee Delivery Service of St. Cloud, Minn.

UPS driver unloading van

UPS Inc. sits atop the Top 100 For-Hire Carriers rankings once again on the 2024 list. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

The Transport Topics Top 100 and industry sector lists presented in this publication rank the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada based on 2023 revenue.

Much of the information is from companies’ responses to an annual survey conducted by Transport Topics, along with data from financial reports and other public sources. SJ Consulting Group provided revenue estimates for some companies that did not report updated information. The lists also include some data compiled by legal services firm Culhane Meadows.

Over time, the line separating for-hire motor carriers and third-party logistics providers has become increasingly blurred as many asset-based trucking companies have expanded their freight brokerage divisions and added supply chain services.

To keep this Top 100 ranking focused on motor carriers, companies now must operate a minimum of 500 commercial vehicles to qualify for the list.

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