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August 29, 2020 8:00 AM, EDT

Unveiling the 2020 Top 100 Private Carriers List

Pepsi truckPepsiCo Inc. is No. 1 in the rankings. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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The global coronavirus pandemic has tested the mettle of the largest private carriers in North America.

This historic public health crisis has disrupted supply chains and upended freight projections, forcing fleets to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.

But through all of these financial and logistical challenges, the companies on this year’s Transport Topics Top 100 Private Carriers list have been finding ways to navigate this turbulent time while ensuring that shipments continue to reach their destinations.

Seth Clevenger

Clevenger

The implications of the pandemic have varied from one sector of the economy to the next.

Grocery retailers saw a surge in demand, especially during the early days of the outbreak when consumers rushed to stores to stock up on necessities.

In contrast, some food distributors saw business levels drop precipitously as restaurants closed their doors or converted to takeout service only.

The energy sector also has been hit hard, with the pandemic-induced slowdown combining with already depressed oil prices.

Meanwhile, many retailers experience a spike in e-commerce activity as consumers ordered more goods online from the safety of their homes rather than visiting brick-and-mortar locations. People who had been slow to embrace e-commerce became more willing to purchase a broader range of products online, including groceries and large and bulky items such as appliances. This expansion of e-commerce likely will remain even after the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided.

And across all industry sectors, private fleets implemented new business processes and safety protocols to reduce physical contact and help protect employees and customers from the virus.

Amid the disruption wrought by the pandemic, some private carriers expanded their fleets while others shed equipment.

The Top 100 list, which ranks private carriers on the basis of total tractors in operation, reflects several interesting changes this year.

At the top of the rankings, Walmart Inc. climbed back into the top 3, right behind No. 1 PepsiCo Inc. and No. 2 Sysco.

Checking in at No. 10 is a new name on the list, NexTier Oilfield Solutions. The Houston-based oil field services company formed in October 2019 through the merger of C&J Energy Services and Keane Group. In March, the combined company went on to sell its well services business unit to Basic Energy Services, which ranks No. 13 on the Top 100.

Several private carriers made noteworthy moves up the rankings.

Equipment rental firm Sunbelt Rentals, based in Fort Mill, S.C., rose to No. 16, from No. 24 a year ago, with its fleet of 1,589 tractors.

Univar Solutions, a chemical and ingredient distributor, also made a significant move up the list. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based company climbed to No. 21, from No. 36 last year, with a fleet of 1,372 heavy-duty trucks.

Dunkin reefer truck

Dunkin' Brands Group joins the list at No. 100. (Peggy Smith/Transport Topics)

And Medline Inc., a provider of medical supplies based in Northfield, Ill., jumped to No. 49, from No. 85 a year ago, with its fleet of 791 tractors.

Newcomers to the Top 100 this year include No. 84 Stallion Oilfield Services, a Houston-based provider of auxiliary rentals and services for oil and gas operations. The company’s fleet includes 502 tractors.

Warehouse store operator Costco Wholesale Corp. enters the rankings at No. 87. The Issaquah, Wash.-based company operates 484 tractors.

Also joining the Top 100 this year are arts-and-crafts store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., which ranks No. 98 with 415 tractors, and auto parts provider O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, which checks in at No. 99 with 413 heavy-duty trucks.

Another newcomer, No. 100 Dunkin’ Brands Group, rounds out the list with its fleet of 397 tractors, which help supply franchise locations serving coffee, baked goods and ice cream.

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