Combined revenue for the 50 largest U.S. motor carriers rose 9.4 percent to $85.4 billion in 2010, after shrinking 17.7 percent during the recession in 2009, according to The Journal of Commerce's list of the Top 50 Trucking Companies of 2010.
Truckload carriers outpaced other companies among the top 50, growing 11.1 percent on average last year. Parcel and same-day carriers increased revenue an average on 9.3 percent, while less-than-truckload carriers grew 6.4 percent.
It was the best performance by the companies on the list since 2004, when the for-hire carrier group increased its revenue 11.9 percent after the 2001-2003 recession. The carriers reversed four straight years of slower growth or declining revenue.
That $85.4 billion in revenue was still 10 percent lower than the group's 2008 peak revenue of $94.9 billion, a sign trucking's economic recovery is far from complete. The carriers recovered only 44 percent of a $16.8 billion revenue shortfall in 2009.
In terms of total revenue, last year was the best year for the Top 50 list since 2006, when its carriers posted a combined $85.3 billion in revenue. But the recession wiped out 15 percent of the group's 51 percent expansion between 2003 and 2008.
The 9.4 percent gain in revenue among the Top 50 closely tracks a 9.8 percent increase at the top 25 LTL carriers reported last month by SJ Consulting Group, which produced both of the lists published by The Journal of Commerce.
The recovery was widespread, with 42 of the Top 50 carriers increasing revenue anywhere from 1.2 percent to 28.9 percent, for an average of 12.1 percent. Mercer Transportation and Roadrunner Transportation were the fastest growing carriers.
The eight carriers that saw revenue drop last year saw their top line fall 4.3 percent on average. Revenue declined 11 percent at YRC Worldwide, the third-largest trucking operator, to $4.3 billion, according to SJ Consulting Group estimates.
The Top 50 list is produced by SJ Consulting Group, Pittsburgh, for The Journal of Commerce. A full report on the 2010 Top 50 will be published in the April 18 issue of The Journal of Commerce and will be available online to members of the JOC.