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April 3, 2021 8:00 AM, EDT

A Fresh Look at the 2021 Top 50 Logistics Companies

C.H. Robinson, which ranks No. 1 on the 2021 list, has expanded its fulfillment capabilities through acquisitions.C.H. Robinson has expanded its fulfillment capabilities through its 2020 acquisition of Prime Distribution Services. (C.H. Robinson Worldwide)

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The competitive landscape in the logistics industry is constantly shifting. Many large freight brokers and contract logistics providers have expanded in recent years through mergers and acquisitions. And new companies and investors have been entering this growing field with their own ideas on how to manage freight transportation more efficiently.

At the same time, logistics providers are adjusting to market changes such as the growing demand for e-commerce fulfillment and rising standards for service levels and freight visibility.

Transport Topics has produced an annual ranking of the largest companies in this dynamic segment of the transportation business for nearly two decades, but much like the industry itself, this list continues to evolve.

Seth Clevenger

Clevenger

For the 2021 edition of our Top 50 Logistics Companies list, we’ve decided to use a different metric — gross revenue — to rank the largest third-party logistics providers in North America.

That’s a departure from the methodology we used in years past, when we ranked companies on the basis of net revenue, which is gross revenue minus the cost of purchased transportation.

While gross and net revenue are both perfectly valid ways of examining the comparable size and capabilities of 3PLs, we’ve come to the conclusion that gross revenue is a better reflection of an organization’s overall reach, and therefore more closely aligned with our objective — to identify the largest companies in the logistics industry.

Although most of the names on this year’s Top 50 are familiar, this change in methodology reshuffles the list significantly.

Freight brokers and freight forwarders now rise in the rankings because they generate much higher gross revenue than net revenue as they arrange transportation and pay carriers to move freight on behalf of their shipper customers. In contrast, there is generally little or no difference between gross and net revenue for 3PLs that primarily provide warehousing and distribution services or dedicated contract carriage.

With this new ranking system, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, the largest freight broker in North America by a wide margin, is now No. 1 on the TT Top 50 Logistics Companies list as well.

 

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Meanwhile, major changes are on the horizon for No. 2 XPO Logistics, which announced in December 2020 that it intends to split into two separate, publicly traded companies.

The transaction, expected to close in the second half of 2021, will uncouple XPO’s contract logistics business from its trucking and brokerage operations. Both XPO and the spinoff company, GXO Logistics, will likely rank high on this list next year.

 

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A new name on this year’s Top 50 is No. 8 Transportation Insight Holding Co., which operates as two sister companies — enterprise logistics provider Transportation Insight and freight brokerage Nolan Transportation Group. TI Holding Co. is a portfolio company of private equity firm Gryphon Investors.

Another newcomer to the Top 50 is digital freight broker Uber Freight, which cracks the list for the first time at No. 41. Parent company Uber Technologies, which rose to prominence with its ride-hailing app for car passengers, has targeted freight transportation as one of its next major growth opportunities. Uber Freight launched its load-booking app in 2017 with a focus on automating manual processes and streamlining transactions, particularly for small carriers.

RELATED: Uber Freight Expands Procurement Options With Market Access

Other companies making their debut on the Top 50 list include No. 35 AIT Worldwide Logistics and No. 39 Capstone Logistics.

AIT, based in Itasca, Ill., provides ocean and airfreight forwarding and freight brokerage services and operates 42 warehouses.

Georgia-based Capstone Logistics offers freight brokerage, warehousing and fulfillment, last-mile delivery and transportation technology. The company expanded its brokerage capabilities through its acquisition of LoadDelivered Logistics in 2018.

Transport Topics produced this Top 50 list and accompanying sector rankings in cooperation with industry research and consulting firm Armstrong & Associates, which provided estimates for some revenue figures in cases where data was not available from company management or public sources.

RELATED: Trucking's Frontline Heroes 2020

On a final note, we wish to recognize the role that logistics companies of all sizes have played in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether managing vaccine distribution or simply arranging transportation to keep store shelves stocked, 3PLs have been doing their part in the fight against the coronavirus. This historic event has illustrated the essential nature of the work performed every day by logistics professionals.

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