Truckload carriers of all sizes and types suffered in last year’s freight slump, but they did not suffer equally. An analysis of the Top 50 US and Canadian truckload carriers ranked by revenue shows the 25 largest fleets were stung more lightly than the next 25.

The combined revenue of the 25 largest companies on the list of the 50 largest truckload carriers declined 0.4 percent in 2016 to $26.9 billion. The combined revenue of carriers 26 through 50, however, dropped 2.2 percent to $8.4 billion, SJ Consulting Group data show.

Altogether, the 50 largest truckload carriers had $35.3 billion in combined revenue last year, 1.4 percent less than the 2015 total. Revenue tumbled at 30 of the Top 50. That is better than in 2015 when revenue sank at 38 of the 50 largest truckload carriers in the United States and Canada.

The carrier rankings, published in the 2017 JOC Guide to Trucking, demonstrate that in trucking size matters. Larger carriers able to exercise the power of scale and flex their capacity typically fared better in 2016, though they were not immune to the widespread freight malaise.

Last year, 15 carriers among the top 25 of the 50 largest truckload carriers experienced revenue decline, along with 15 carriers in the second tier of the rankings. However, revenue decline averaged 5 percent in the top tier, where it occurred, and 6.8 percent in the second tier.

All told, among the top 50 that suffered a revenue decline, revenue fell on average 5.9 percent. The 20 companies that increased revenue saw it rise on average 5.6 percent. Four of the carriers enjoyed double-digit growth rates ranging from 10.4 percent to 26.7 percent.

Three of those companies — Penske Logistics, Ryder System, and Black Hawk Carriers — benefited from surging demand for dedicated trucking services that replaced shipper-managed fleets.

The fourth company, Melton Truck Lines, is a flatbed carrier based in Oklahoma.

Companies specializing in dedicated or flatbed service did better than general freight carriers.

Revenue fell less than 5 percent at 15 of the Top 50, with 12 suffering a 5 to 10 percent decrease and only three reporting a double-digit drop in revenue, according to SJ Consulting Group. Those three were Heartland Express, USA Truck, and United Vision Logistics.

Less revenue does not necessarily mean fewer profits or losses. Lower revenue from sales and surcharges, however, does make it more difficult for carriers to reinvest in their businesses and keep up with the rising cost of equipment, drivers, and, starting in late 2016, diesel fuel.

Truckers are faring better in 2017, though many large companies said contract rates have yet to climb as quickly as spot market rates, which are at three-year highs. Shippers can expect the Top 50 carriers to push hard this fall in rate talks to make up for “lost time” and money.

TOP 25 US AND CANADIAN TL CARRIERS
2016 REVENUE, INCLUDING FUEL SURCHARGES, in millions of US dollars.
RankCARRIER NAME2015 REVENUE2016 Revenue2015-2016 Percent changePublic/
Private
Notes
1Swift Transportation$3,512$3,361-4.3%PublicAnnounced merger with Knight in April 2017.
2Schneider National$2,380$2,4221.8%PrivateFiled IPO in December 2016.
3J.B. Hunt Transport Services$1,837$1,9214.6%PublicRevenue growth driven by 5.6 percent growth in Dedicated business.
4Landstar System*$1,697$1,619-4.6%Public 
5Prime**$1,504$1,5201.1%Private 
6Werner Enterprises$1,623$1,504-7.3%Public 
7U.S. Xpress Enterprises$1,343$1,323-1.5%Private 
8CRST International$1,135$1,1733.3%PrivateAcquired Gardner Trucking in September 2016.
9Crete Carrier Corp.$1,014$984-3.0%Private 
10C.R. England $924$903-2.2%Private 
11Knight Transportation$952$900-5.4%PublicAnnounced merger with Swift in April 2017.
12Celadon Group**$870$8922.5%Public 
13Roadrunner Transportation$811$8626.2%Public 
14Ryder Systems$734$83714.0%PublicDedicated division only.
15Ruan Transportation Management Services $770$750-2.5%Private 
16Daseke$675$655-3.0%PrivateMerged with Hennessy Capital Acquistion Corp. and went public in February 2017.
17Penske Logistics$506$64226.7%PrivateDedicated division only; acquired Transfreight North America in May 2015
18Cardinal Logistics*$630$621-1.4%PrivateIncludes Greatwide Logistics.
19Heartland Express$736$613-16.8%PublicAcquired Interstate Distributor Co. in July 2017.
20Covenant Transportation Group$647$594-8.1%Public 
21Anderson Trucking Service$618$593-4.0%Private 
22Stevens Transport$616$589-4.4%Private 
23Marten Transport$517$5333.2%PublicRevenue growth driven by 33.1 percent growth in Dedicated business.
24XPO Logistics$562$530-5.7%PublicXPO Logistics sold its truckload unit to TFI International, formerly known as Transforce, in October 2016; TFI rebranded the unit as CFI.
25Western Express$520$5281.5%Private 
26NFI Industries$503$490-2.6%Private 
27KLLM$497$479-3.6%Private 
28Universal Truckload Services*$524$474-9.6%Public 
29Mercer Transportation*$495$449-9.2%Private 
30TMC/Annett Holdings$391$3940.9%Private 
31First Fleet$381$3943.4%Private 
32Averitt Express$418$393-5.9%Private 
33PAM Transportation$373$3884.2%Public 
34Dart Transit*$366$3855.2%Private 
35Mesilla Valley/MVT$356$3601.3%Private 
36Transport America$373$351-5.8%Public 
37Roehl Transport$374$349-6.7%Private 
38Interstate Distributor Co.$344$325-5.6%PrivateAcquired by Heartland Express in July 2017.
39FedEx Custom Critical*$348$323-7.1%PublicExpedited division of FedEx Corp.
40Black Horse Carriers$265$29712.0%Private 
41USA Truck$354$295-16.9%Public 
42Maverick Transportation$267$2835.8%PrivateAcquired Flanary and Sons Trucking in July 2015.
43TransAm Trucking$280$270-3.6%Private 
44Melton Truck Lines$236$26110.4%Private 
45Panther Premium Logistics*$255$251-1.6%PublicExpedited division of ArcBest.
46United Vision Logistics*$280$245-12.4%Private 
47P&S Transportation$242$2451.3%PrivateDivision of PS Logistics.
48John Christner Trucking$245$239-2.5%Private 
49Paschall Truck Lines$259$237-8.5%Private 
50Cowan Systems$228$2342.5%Private 
TOTAL TOP 50 TRUCKLOAD CARRIERS $35,787 $35,280 -1.4% 
*Light-asset carrier.
**Results adjusted to closer resemble calendar year.
Revenue primarily for truckload operations and may include less than 10 percent for non-truckload services.
Source: Company reports; SJ Consulting estimates
Prepared by SJ Consulting Group

Contact William B. Cassidy at bill.cassidy@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc.