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August 27, 2021 4:30 PM, EDT

Market Shifts, Mergers Alter Private Fleet Sector Rankings

A Tyson Foods truck on an interstate A Tyson Foods truck rolls down an interstate highway. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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The largest private carriers in North America participate in many segments of the economy, from agriculture to manufacturing and retail. These fleets transport a wide range of products and commodities, including food, beverages, crude oil, construction materials, consumer packaged goods and much more.

While these industry sectors have unique demands and business challenges, all of them have been dealing with various forms of disruption during the past year.

Private fleet operators have been contending with the lingering effects of the coronavirus pan­demic, surging e-commerce growth, supply chain struggles and the pervasive driver shortage, which has only worsened in today’s tight labor market.

At the same time, mergers and acquisitions have been changing the competitive landscape for many private fleet operators.

Food Service

Sysco Corp. held on to its top ranking in the food service sector with its fleet of 8,745 tractors, well ahead of No. 2 US Foods, which expanded its fleet to 5,426 power units.

Performance Food Group, meanwhile, is planning another major acquisition. The company has agreed to purchase Core-Mark Holding Co., a major convenience store wholesaler. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2022.

PFG is the parent of several fleets listed on the food service sector: No. 3 Performance Foodservice, No. 12 PFG Customized, No. 15 Vistar Transportation and No. 18 Eby-Brown Co.

Grocery

In the grocery segment, United Natural Foods Inc. expanded its fleet to 1,548 tractors, just shy of sector-leading McLane Grocery Distribution.

Apart from that, the sector list saw little change from a year ago, with Ahold Delhaize Group, Albertsons Cos. and The Kroger Co. continuing to round out the top five largest private fleets in the grocery industry.

Beverage

With a fleet of 9,308 tractors, PepsiCo North America is by far the largest private carrier in the beverage sector.

In a distant second is Birmingham, Ala.-based Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United, which operates more tractors than any of the 10 other Coca-Cola bottlers appearing on the beverage sector list.

Agriculture and Food Processing

Tyson Foods narrowly retained its top ranking in the agriculture and food processing segment with its fleet of 2,594 ­power units, just ahead of Helena Agri-Enterprises.

Next on the list are CHS Inc. and Prairie Farms Dairy, which climbed to No. 4 on the sector list from No. 7 last year.

Dean Foods, which ranked No. 3 in the sector a year ago, is no longer listed after filing for bankruptcy and selling off assets to companies such as Dairy Farmers of America, which ranks No. 18 on the sector list.

Petroleum and Chemical

Halliburton Energy Services continues to lead the petroleum and chemical sector with 5,677 tractors in operation.

Three other energy sector companies operate fleets of more than 2,000 tractors: NexTier Oilfield Solutions, Basic Energy Services and Schlumberger Ltd.

KLX Energy Services Holdings Inc., which merged with Quintana Energy Services Inc., jumped to No. 16 on the sector list, up from No. 34 last year.

Wholesale and Retail

Walmart Inc. continues to lead the retail and wholesale sector by a wide margin with its fleet of 7,400 tractors, but it has some new ­competition.

E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. makes its debut at No. 2 on the sector list this year. Amazon Logistics owns 1,395 tractors in addition to its 37,390 trailers.

Construction

With its fleet of 383 tractors, Michels Corp. leapfrogged Williams Bros. Construction for the top position in the construction sector.

Michels, a diversified energy and infrastructure contractor based in Brownsville, Wis., provides a range of services such as construction of pipelines, electric utilities, roads and bridges.

Equipment Rental

United Rentals and Sunbelt Rentals maintained their No. 1 and No. 2 positions, respectively, in the equipment rental sector, but another company is quickly moving up the ranks.

WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings Inc., a provider of modular office space and portable storage containers, jumped to No. 4 in the sector with a fleet of 707 tractors. The company formed through the merger of WillScot Corp. and Mobile Mini Inc. in 2020.

Building Materials

In the building materials sector, Quikrete Cos. continues to hold the top position with 1,348 tractors.

Cemex USA is not far behind with its fleet of 1,229 trucks.

CRH Americas, BlueLinx Holdings and ABC Supply Co. round out the top five private fleets in the building materials business.

Manufacturing

Ashley Distribution Services, the transportation arm of Ashley Furniture Industries, leads the manufacturing sector with a fleet of 1,215 tractors.

Shaw Transport, a division of flooring supplier Shaw Industries Group, is next on the list with 750 power units.

More Industry Sectors

In other industries, Clean Harbors Environmental Services operates the largest private fleet in the waste management sector, American Air Liquide Holdings leads the industrial gases segment and Veritiv Corp. holds the top position in paper and office products.

Other sector leaders include Medline Inc. in health care, Aramark Uniform Services in uniform rental and NBC Universal in media and entertainment.

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