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
1 Swift Transportation $3,512 $3,361 -4.3% Public Announced merger with Knight in April 2017.
2 Schneider National $2,380 $2,422 1.8% Private Filed IPO in December 2016.
3 J.B. Hunt Transport Services $1,837 $1,921 4.6% Public Revenue growth driven by 5.6 percent growth in Dedicated business.
4 Landstar System* $1,697 $1,619 -4.6% Public  
5 Prime** $1,504 $1,520 1.1% Private  
6 Werner Enterprises $1,623 $1,504 -7.3% Public  
7 U.S. Xpress Enterprises $1,343 $1,323 -1.5% Private  
8 CRST International $1,135 $1,173 3.3% Private Acquired Gardner Trucking in September 2016.
9 Crete Carrier Corp. $1,014 $984 -3.0% Private  
10 C.R. England $924 $903 -2.2% Private  
11 Knight Transportation $952 $900 -5.4% Public Announced merger with Swift in April 2017.
12 Celadon Group** $870 $892 2.5% Public  
13 Roadrunner Transportation $811 $862 6.2% Public  
14 Ryder Systems $734 $837 14.0% Public Dedicated division only.
15 Ruan Transportation Management Services $770 $750 -2.5% Private  
16 Daseke $675 $655 -3.0% Private Merged with Hennessy Capital Acquistion Corp. and went public in February 2017.
17 Penske Logistics $506 $642 26.7% Private Dedicated division only; acquired Transfreight North America in May 2015
18 Cardinal Logistics* $630 $621 -1.4% Private Includes Greatwide Logistics.
19 Heartland Express $736 $613 -16.8% Public Acquired Interstate Distributor Co. in July 2017.
20 Covenant Transportation Group $647 $594 -8.1% Public  
21 Anderson Trucking Service $618 $593 -4.0% Private  
22 Stevens Transport $616 $589 -4.4% Private  
23 Marten Transport $517 $533 3.2% Public Revenue growth driven by 33.1 percent growth in Dedicated business.
24 XPO Logistics $562 $530 -5.7% Public XPO Logistics sold its truckload unit to TFI International, formerly known as Transforce, in October 2016; TFI rebranded the unit as CFI.
25 Western Express $520 $528 1.5% Private  
26 NFI Industries $503 $490 -2.6% Private  
27 KLLM $497 $479 -3.6% Private  
28 Universal Truckload Services* $524 $474 -9.6% Public  
29 Mercer Transportation* $495 $449 -9.2% Private  
30 TMC/Annett Holdings $391 $394 0.9% Private  
31 First Fleet $381 $394 3.4% Private  
32 Averitt Express $418 $393 -5.9% Private  
33 PAM Transportation $373 $388 4.2% Public  
34 Dart Transit* $366 $385 5.2% Private  
35 Mesilla Valley/MVT $356 $360 1.3% Private  
36 Transport America $373 $351 -5.8% Public  
37 Roehl Transport $374 $349 -6.7% Private  
38 Interstate Distributor Co. $344 $325 -5.6% Private Acquired by Heartland Express in July 2017.
39 FedEx Custom Critical* $348 $323 -7.1% Public Expedited division of FedEx Corp.
40 Black Horse Carriers $265 $297 12.0% Private  
41 USA Truck $354 $295 -16.9% Public  
42 Maverick Transportation $267 $283 5.8% Private Acquired Flanary and Sons Trucking in July 2015.
43 TransAm Trucking $280 $270 -3.6% Private  
44 Melton Truck Lines $236 $261 10.4% Private  
45 Panther Premium Logistics* $255 $251 -1.6% Public Expedited division of ArcBest.
46 United Vision Logistics* $280 $245 -12.4% Private  
47 P&S Transportation $242 $245 1.3% Private Division of PS Logistics.
48 John Christner Trucking $245 $239 -2.5% Private  
49 Paschall Truck Lines $259 $237 -8.5% Private  
50 Cowan Systems $228 $234 2.5% 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.