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2021 CCJ Top 250: Pandemic puts a lid on revenue gains for largest for-hire carriers

Updated Sep 3, 2021

The seismic disruption to freight markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second quarter of 2020 created a hole that the fleets making up the 2021 CCJ Top 250 would spend most of the year climbing out of. By the end of the year, however, fleets were able to recoup most of their revenue losses, thanks in part to federal stimulus packages and the reopening state economies.

Excluding package behemoths FedEx and UPS, revenues fell 2.1% in 2020 among the 2021 CCJ Top 250 fleets that self-reported or publicly provided revenue information in consecutive years. While the impact of the initial COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent stay-at-home orders was felt across the entire trucking industry, the worst of the economic crisis wasn’t shared equally across all market segments.

SEE the 2021 CCJ Top 250 here

Six of the nine operating segments of the 2021 CCJ Top 250 turned in revenue losses, led by fleets in the motor vehicles group. The combination of manufacturing supply chain disruptions, plant shutdowns and a 14.7% drop in light vehicle sales in 2020 netted the six car and truck haulers in this group a combined 19.1% revenue loss year-over-year. The new light vehicle sales market has rebounded well in the first half of 2021 with a 29.3% increase, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Although depleted inventories offer hope for the remainder of the year, a prolonged microchip shortage threatens to eat away at freight volume for the segment.

COVID-19 also caused wild volatility in the U.S. housing industry. Although new and existing home sales cratered in March and April 2020, the new and existing housing sales market ended the year riding a three-month wave of near-record highs. Despite those late-year gains, the five carriers in the 2021 CCJ Top 250’s household goods segment sustained a 9.2% revenue loss in 2020.

Other segment revenue losers in 2020 include the flatbed/specialized/heavy haul segment (-5.4%), tank/bulk commodities (-5.0%) and general freight (-4.2%). Fleets in the refrigerated segment managed to net just a 1.9% revenue decline.