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July 13, 2015 3:30 PM, EDT

Top 100 Carriers Get More Selective With Freight as Capacity Remains Tight

McCoy Group
The nation’s largest for-hire carriers are becoming more selective about the freight they haul, taking steps to minimize delays and focusing on better utilization of equipment and personnel as strong demand and a shortage of drivers continue to strain capacity.

But tight capacity isn’t necessarily hampering growth for carriers on the Transport Topics Top 100 list, as the number of companies on this year’s ranking with annual revenue of at least $1 billion increased to 35 from 30 the previous year.

Consolidation is a contributor to some of this growth, as FedEx Corp., TransForce Inc. and XPO Logistics have made significant acquisitions during the past year.

LIVEONWEB: July 15 Webcast talks rankings, capacity

Operational changes detailed in the 2015 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada include fleets making deliveries at off-peak times, handing off freight to smaller carriers and taking steps to improve driver pay and working conditions.

“All too often, capacity already exists within our current fleet that is not utilized,” said Greg McCoy, CEO of McCoy Group in Dubuque, Iowa.

McCoy is working with shippers to allow deliveries of bulk flour and other commodities at night or on different days of the week, which can help drivers avoid lengthy delays and keep trucks on the road longer.

Since most companies have more freight than they can handle, finding other carriers to handle the overflow is another option carriers are using to manage their operations.

“We can move freight to our brokerage group, where the needs of other carriers may align with those individual loads better,” said Eric Fuller, chief operating officer of truckload carrier U.S. Xpress Enterprises in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“This allows us to offer more ‘driver-friendly’ freight to our drivers, giving us a more attractive job to recruit for while meeting our brokerage needs.”

At KLLM Transport Services, a refrigerated carrier, officials have begun assessing detention fees when trucks are held up for more than two hours.

“Shippers understand that it is in their best interest to be a shipper of choice,” said James Richards Jr., CEO of KLLM in Jackson, Mississippi.

Gerry Niedert, CEO of Black Horse Carriers, said he is able to get more capacity by combining freight from multiple shippers in trailers on dedicated routes.

The Carol Stream, Illinois-based carrier delivers products for customers in grocery, bakery and dairy, retail and automotive parts businesses.

An executive with Melton Truck Lines said he is allocating capacity to shippers based on how difficult the load is to handle and the amount of time it takes for drivers to load and unload.

One shipper has purchased land for truck parking, and others have added Wi-Fi capabilities and upgraded facilities for drivers, said Robert Ragan Sr., chief financial officer of Melton, a flatbed carrier based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Carriers also are doing things to make themselves more attractive to drivers.

Averitt Express, a regional LTL carrier based in Cookeville, Tennessee, set up a driver advisory council to get ideas for improvement.

As a result, the company has committed to build driver support centers throughout its service area. The facilities are equipped with showers, high-definition TV, fitness equipment, laundry services and computers.

Some companies are having success in attracting drivers by extending financial help and operational support to individuals who want to become owner-operators.

Chris Giltz, senior vice president of operations for Evans Network of Cos., said his company gained 250 trucks in the past year after launching a program that helps drivers buy late-model used tractors.