Market Growth, Mergers Adjust Logistics Sector Rankings

An XPO Logistics rep
XPO Logistics, which spun off its contract logistics business last year, checks in at No. 9 on the freight brokerage sector list. (XPO Logistics)

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North America’s largest third-party logistics companies provide a range of transportation services to support the movement of freight, from domestic freight brokerage and international freight forwarding to warehousing, order fulfillment and dedicated contract carriage.

In each of these sectors of the logistics industry, many 3PLs expanded their businesses last year as they helped their customers navigate supply chain disruptions and constrained truck capacity.

Meanwhile, a series of high-profile mergers, acquisitions and spinoffs also has altered the competitive landscape for many 3PLs.

Freight Brokerage

In a strong freight market and tight capacity environment, the largest freight brokerage firms in North America were able to grow their businesses by significant margins in 2021 as they worked to solve shippers’ transportation challenges.

C.H. Robinson Worldwide eas­ily maintained is No. 1 ranking on the freight brokerage sector list with gross revenue of $14.5 billion, up from $11.3 billion a year earlier.

Total Quality Logistics, which comes in at No. 2 on the sector list, also achieved strong growth, with total revenue jumping to $7.8 billion, up from $4.1 billion.

Coyote Logistics, which is owned by UPS Inc., stands at No. 3 with $5.5 billion in revenue.

The combined operations of Worldwide Express and GlobalTranz, which merged in July 2021, rank No. 4 on the sector list with revenue of $4.6 billion.

Echo Global Logistics climbed to No. 5 on the freight brokerage list with revenue of $3.7 billion.

Next on the list are Mode ­Global and Landstar System, followed by Uber Freight, which rises to No. 8 following its November 2021 acquisition of Transplace Inc.

XPO Logistics checks in at No. 9 on the brokerage sector list. The company spun off its contract logistics business last year and more changes are coming. XPO re­cently announced plans to separate its freight brokerage and less-than-truckload operations into separate standalone companies.

Dry Storage Warehousing

Changes in consumer behavior are driving a transformation of warehousing and distribution services.

A growing number of contract logistics providers have been investing in warehouse automation and robotics to more efficiently meet the growing demand for e-commerce fulfillment and next- and same-day delivery — trends that have accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The largest companies in the dry storage warehousing sector are prime examples of this shift toward greater technology adoption and automation in the warehousing environment.

DHL Supply Chain retained its top ranking in the dry storage sector with 139.6 million square feet of warehousing space.

GXO Logistics, with 90 million square feet, makes its debut at No. 2 on the sector list this year after its spinoff from XPO Logistics in August 2021. 

Ryder Supply Chain Solutions is third in the dry storage sector with 80 million square feet of warehousing space.

The next-largest warehousing providers are NFI, Geodis, CJ Logistics, Kenco Logistics Services, Saddle Creek Logistics Services and FedEx Logistics.

Refrigerated Warehousing

The largest providers of cold storage warehousing, Lineage Logistics and Americold, continued to grow last year in North America and across the globe.

Lineage held onto the top ranking in the cold storage sector as it expanded to 2.5 billion cubic feet of refrigerated storage space across 400 warehouses.

Second-ranked Americold, meanwhile, has expanded its refrigerated storage space to 1.5 billion cubic feet across 250 warehouses.

Lineage has continued to extend its reach and capabilities through a steady stream of acquisitions. Those additions include its March acquisition of MTC Logistics, a cold-chain provider with locations at the ports of Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; and Mobile, Ala. 

Outside of North America, Lineage recently expanded its business in Vietnam, Australia and Europe.

At the same time, Lineage also is raising funds to support further growth and supply chain innovation. The company announced $1.7 billion in new equity earlier this year, bringing its total equity raised since January 2020 to $6 billion.

The next largest companies in the refrigerated warehousing sector are VersaCold Logistics Services, Penkse Logistics and Burris Logistics, followed by Conestoga Cold Storage, Midwest Refrigerated Services, RLS Logistics, Hanson Logistics, Confederation Freezers and FW Logistics.

Dedicated Contract Carriers

Some of the largest dedicated contract carriers in North America continued to expand their fleets in 2021 as the economic recovery fueled strong freight demand. 

Top-ranked J.B. Hunt Dedi­cated Contract Services maintained its wide lead in this sector as it increased its tractor count to 11,689.

Penske Logistics, which ranks second on the sector list, also continued to expand its dedi­cated contract carriage business. The company now operates a dedicated fleet of 8,505 power units. The latest growth builds on Penske’s acquisition of dedicated carrier Black Horse Carriers in late 2020.

Ryder Supply Chain Solutions, meanwhile, checks in at No. 3 on the sector list with 5,300 tractors. 

Not far behind are Werner Logistics with 5,235 power units, Knight-Swift Transportation with 4,800 and NFI with 4,600.

Rounding out the top 10 largest dedicated contract carriers are Schneider, Cardinal Logistics, U.S. Xpress and Hub Group.

Airfreight Forwarders

After facing significant challenges two years ago amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest airfreight forwarders rebounded in 2021 with strong volume growth during a time of severe global supply chain constraints.

Switzerland-based Kuehne + Nagel increased its airfreight volume to more than 2.2 million metric tons in 2021, up from 1.4 million a year earlier. That was enough to push Kuehne + Nagel past DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding into the top spot on the airfreight forwarding sector list.

Despite slipping to No. 2 on the list, DHL increased its airfreight volume to nearly 2.1 million metric tons, up from about 1.8 million a year earlier.

Other companies that forwarded more than 1 million metric tons of airfreight last year were DSV A/S, DB Schenker and Expeditors International of Washington.

Ocean Freight Forwarders

Despite contending with severe port congestion and other supply chain disruptions, large ocean freight forwarders generally posted modest volume gains in 2021 as global economies continued to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Kuehne + Nagel maintained its top ranking in the ocean freight forwarding sector with 4.61 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2021, up from 4.53 million a year earlier. 

Sinotrans Ltd. of China remained No. 2 on the list despite bucking the overall trend with a slight reduction in volume, to 3.75 million from 3.77 million TEUs.

DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding checks in at No. 3 with 3.14 million TEUs, followed by DSV A/S, which achieved significant growth last year with 2.9 million TEUs, up from 2.2 million the prior year. 

DB Schenker, with 2.21 million TEUs, rounds out the top five on the ocean freight forwarders list.

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