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The past year has been anything but business as usual for the largest private motor carriers in North America. The economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, persistent supply-chain disruptions and severe material shortages have created both challenges and opportunities for fleet operators across a range of industries, from food service and grocery to retail, construction and the energy sector.
Through it all, private carriers, much like for-hire trucking companies, have struggled to recruit drivers in today’s difficult labor market, which is putting a premium on truck capacity.
In many ways, the 2021 edition of the Transport Topics Top 100 Private Carriers list reflects these volatile business conditions.
Although the top eight private carriers are unchanged from a year ago, there are some significant shifts and several notable newcomers elsewhere on the Top 100 list, which ranks companies based on the number of tractors in their private fleets.
The most prominent addition to this year’s rankings is the world’s largest online retailer.
Amazon.com Inc., which has been expanding its transportation and logistics capabilities for years, rode a wave of e-commerce growth during the pandemic. The company has created a vast final-mile delivery network through independent contractors operating Amazon-branded cargo vans, but the e-commerce giant has built a large trucking operation as well.
Amazon Logistics now owns 1,395 tractors in addition to its massive fleet of 37,390 trailers, according to the company’s latest carrier registration data filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That tractor fleet is large enough for Amazon to make its Top 100 debut at No. 22.
Meanwhile, mergers and acquisitions continue to alter the private fleet landscape.
WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings Inc., which formed through the July 2020 merger of WillScot Corp. and Mobile Mini Inc., joins the list at No. 55. The company manufactures and leases modular office space and portable storage containers and operates a combined fleet of 707 tractors.
Food Service | Grocery
Industrial Gases | Agriculture/Food Processing
Wholesale/Retail | Manufacturing Equipment Rental | Building Materials
Media & Entertainment
No. 70 KLX Energy Services Holdings Inc., another newcomer to the Top 100, merged with Quintana Energy Services Inc. in July 2020. KLX provides oil field services from more than 50 facilities throughout the major onshore oil and gas producing regions of the United States.
Another major acquisition is on the horizon in the competitive food service sector.
No. 7 Performance Food Group has agreed to purchase convenience-store wholesaler Core-Mark Holding Co., which ranks No. 32 on the Top 100 list. That transaction, which is expected to close in the first half of 2022, could potentially lift PFG into the top 5.
No. 2 Sysco Corp., meanwhile, has agreed to acquire specialty distributor Greco and Sons.
In June, No. 18 Dot Foods, a major food industry redistributor, acquired ShopHero, a provider of e-commerce technology to grocery retailers.
Consolidation is also shaking up the construction and building materials industries.
No. 80 Builders FirstSource merged with BMC Stock Holdings in January to create an $11.7 billion provider of building materials and services. The combined company operates a network of about 550 distribution and manufacturing locations.
Several private carriers made significant moves up the rankings this year.
Helena Agri-Enterprises, a major distributor of seed, fertilizer and pesticides, cracked the top 10 after ranking No. 25 a year ago.
Dairy cooperative Prairie Farms Dairy climbed 27 positions to reach No. 31, while beer distributor Anheuser-Busch Cos. moved up to No. 50, from No. 61 last year.
Membership-based retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. jumped to No. 66, up from No. 87 in 2020.
A notable departure from this year’s list is Dean Foods Co. The milk producer, which ranked No. 41 a year ago, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and sold a substantial portion of its assets to Dairy Farmers of America last year.
Other companies joining the Top 100 this year include agricultural supplier Wilbur-Ellis at No. 93, engineering firm and steel supplier Thyssenkrupp North America at No. 95, hardware distributor Orgill Inc. at No. 98, industrial gas provider Matheson Tri-Gas at No. 99 and home improvement store chain Lowe’s Companies Inc. at No. 100.
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