Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!

Top 50 trucking companies: Emerging from the shadows

Leading trucking company CEOs say it’s time to pay down debt and put profit to work to recapitalize their businesses - all at a time of tightening capacity. For shippers, the days of rock bottom rates could be long gone.

“Customers understand it…Yield improvement is very important right now. It’s been three or four tough years, and we need to rebound in terms of profitability in order to reinvest in our businesses.” - Bill Logue, President and CEO of FedEx Freight

By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor
April 01, 2011

What do the Top 50 trucking companies have in common? That’s easy. Leading CEOs and trucking analysts agree that their shared traits include shrewd and experienced management teams, an obsession with service and operational details, an ability to react quickly to market conditions, and a motivated work force.

Emerging from the roughest three-year economic cycle since the industry was deregulated, CEOs from Logistics Management’s list of the Top 50 trucking companies say that they’re now focused on improving yield and profits.

That’s at the same time they’re increasingly tailoring their services for each specific customer to satisfy changing shipper demands.

(Including fuel surcharges)

What’s making the LM Top 50 tick? According to David Ross, trucking analyst for Stifel Nicolaus, the most important aspect of any Top 50 trucking company is the strength, ability, and breadth of experience of its management team.

“Management is number one,” says Ross. “They all run the same trucks along similar networks, but it’s how you run them that makes the difference. The best make the right decisions on how much to charge, what kind of capacity to bring on, and how much equipment to buy. It all starts with management.”

How the Top 50 roll
FedEx Freight this year surpassed YRC Worldwide as the nation’s largest less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. It is at the forefront of industry changes. Bill Logue, president and CEO of FedEx Freight, says he draws his cues from Fred Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx Corp. Logue says no detail at any of FedEx’s operating units is too small for Smith to ignore.

“It’s a culture created at the top,” says Logue. “Fred has always emphasized that we are in business for the customer. But it’s our employees who make that customer expect great things. We try and make every employee responsible for that customer treatment.”

According to Douglas Stotlar, president and chief executive officer of Con-way, the No. 2 LTL carrier on our list, says that he sees several common characteristics in his operation and those of his chief competitors, including comprehensive service offerings, the ability to execute at high levels against stated service standards, and customers who appreciate a level of consistency.

Astute carrier executives are quick to point out that the lowest rate may not mean the best value. Increasingly, carriers are “bundling” their services to meet ever increasingly exacting shipper needs. As Stotlar told LM: “The price/value proposition we offer works to our customers’ advantage.”

Chuck Hammel, president of Pitt Ohio, No. 18 on LM’s LTL list, agrees with Stotlar and says that he sees several similar trends. He’s seeing more need for time-definite services, and also a move toward LTL shippers trying to increase volumes to qualify for a truckload shipment. Toward that end, Con-way recently bought Contract Freighters Inc., a major TL carrier, and now ranks as the 17th-largest TL carrier in the nation.

Hammel says he’s also seeing more shippers seeking out financial information about their carriers. He says financially strong carriers will have an edge as shippers, under the new CSA 2010 standards, are able to find out more information about individual carriers.

“Carriers who are strengthening their balance sheets by paying down debt, recruiting the best drivers, and adjusting their pay and benefits to stay ahead of what could be a looming driver shortage will have an advantage,” Hammel says.

Read the Full Magazine Article
Delivered by:

Download the PDF

Forever-Linked Program

About the Author

John D. Schulz
Contributing Editor

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. He is known to own the fattest Rolodex in the business, and is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis. This wise Washington owl has performed and produced at some of the highest levels of journalism in his 40-year career, mostly as a Washington newsman.

Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

The NRF is calling for 2015 holiday sales to see a 3.7 percent annual gain to $630.5 billion, which comfortably outpaces the ten-year average of 2.5 percent.

On the heels of announcing it plans to acquire freight transportation and logistics services provider Con-way Inc. for $3 billion, XPO Logistics may be considering selling off Con-way Truckload, the company’s truckload arm.

The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) has called on world leaders meeting at the United Nations this week to work together to find solutions to the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe

More than 20 U.S. port authority officials and their key staff, representing seaports from all four U.S. coasts, will gather on October 8 to meet with Congressional leadership to discuss the upcoming surface transportation bill and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation budget.

Companies used to compete on price and service. The future of supply chain, according to Steve Melnyk, is culture. In fact, innovators like Apple, Google, and Unilever are already leading because of their cultures. Your company can too.


Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA