The most noteworthy aspect of the 2020 Fleet Owner listing of the largest for-hire carriers in North America is not the list itself. Instead, it is the fleets from last year’s list that went bankrupt before the new decade started.
Check out the Top 401-500 for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada in 2020.
After several years of strong freight demand and a flurry of investments in new equipment, 2019 proved to be a far greater struggle for the trucking industry as a whole. Overall, an estimated 800 fleets went out of business through the first nine months of 2019, according to information from Broughton Capital. That is more than double the number of failures recorded during 2018.
The largest-ever trucking sector bankruptcy took place in early December, when Celadon Group abruptly shut down, leaving thousands of drivers jobless. The Indianapolis-based truckload carrier was ranked No. 27 on the 2019 list.
Back in February, less-than-truckload carrier New England Motor Freight Inc. announced it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and shuttered operations. The company’s filing included 10 subsidiaries. Parent firm Shevell Group ranked No. 80 on the 2019 list.
Other companies from the 2019 listing no longer operating include Falcon Transport (No. 152) and HVH Transportation (No. 237). Additionally, the tank division of Stevens Transport (No. 59) ceased operations, citing the volatility of the oil and gas industry.
This is a trend likely to continue through 2020. A mid-January report from Cowen said freight market challenges are likely to continue through the first half of the year. There is also evidence the rate of bankruptcies is not slowing, with one fleet executive telling Cowen there is “roughly one carrier going under per week” in his territory.
Rising insurance costs—especially the “astronomical” increases for umbrella coverage—are also putting growing pressure on fleets.
The 2020 Fleet Owner For-Hire 500 rankings are based on total power units operated by a fleet as of Dec. 31, 2019. A breakdown by tractors and trucks is provided, and while they are not a factor in the rankings, trailer numbers are also offered. Combined, the top 500 fleets operate a total of 256,188 trucks, 580,520 tractors, and 1,511,233 trailers.
The information for the For-Hire 500 is collected by Fleet Owner’s FleetSeek from a database using a number of public and proprietary sources that are constantly being updated, including information from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, surveys, and phone interviews.
The fleets are also divided into a variety of operating categories, including package, general freight, household goods, tank truck, heavy hauling, building materials, motor vehicle, petroleum products, bulk, refrigerated solids, and agricultural commodities.