Firm says not only are shippers likely losing visibility to 42% of their loads, they are likely paying 8% margin for that lost visibility. (Photo by Sean Kilcarr/Fleet Owner)

Study: Biggest trucking firms outsource over 42% of their freight

May 3, 2016
Old Dominion Freight Lines and Heartland Express keep the most in-house though.

A recent LaneAxis Virtual Freight Management study of some of the biggest trucking companies in U.S. revealed 13 of the largest publicly-traded motor carriers outsource an average of 42.29% of their freight shipments; a figure based on the percentage of their total revenue spent on "purchased transportation" recorded in their annual reports, which is essentially subcontracted freight shipment services, according to Rick Burnett, the founder and CEO of LaneAxis.

"Our findings are clear – many shippers likely aren't getting the visibility they think they are," he explained in a statement. "Large shippers and carriers may be able to manage their own fleets effectively, but with so much freight being outsourced to small carriers with six trucks or less – which is 97% of the trucking industry – that's a problem. There's very little visibility into that network."

Burnett noted that those 13 large carriers – which includes J.B. Hunt Transportation Services, YRC Freight, and Swift Transportation – spent $17.8 billion on "Purchased Transportation" in 2015, according to their annual earnings reports.

When measured against the total combined revenue of $42.2 billion, that averages out to 42.29% of total revenue being spent on freight outsourcing.

Is Your Freight Being Outsourced?


Annual revenue

Purchased transportation

Percent outsourced

JB Hunt




YRC Freight








Hub Group




TransForce Inc.




Landstar System




Old Dominion




ArcBest Corp.




XPO Logistics




Werner Enterprises




Heartland Express




Marten Transport




USA Truck




TOTAL (weighted average)




Source: LaneAxis Virtual Freight Management

The data analysis by LaneAxis did note, however, that LTL carrier Old Dominion Freight Lines and TL carrier Heartland Express outsource some of the lowest amounts of freight from their networks – less than 1% and 4.67%, respectively.

The firm’s research also revealed that average margin percentage for those carriers – the percentage difference between operating income and operating revenue – is around 8%.

“So not only are shippers likely losing visibility to 42% of their loads, they are likely paying 8% margin for that lost visibility,” Burnett noted.

“Many Shippers turn to large carriers, brokers, and third party logistics services (3PLs) to save on costs and hassles, but often the opposite is happening,” he explained. “We know small carriers are the backbone of trucking – and that's a good thing – but many of those [small] carriers lack the tracking units and back-office technology to deliver real-time visibility to shippers. That often leads to lost loads, inefficiency, and confusion.”

About the Author

Fleet Owner Staff

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Kevin Jones, Editorial Director, Commercial Vehicle Group

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