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Top 10 Freight Companies in the USA and How They Operate

What Exactly is a Freight Company?

Freight companies move goods across the US and around the world. All those wonderful products delivered to your doorstep don’t appear by magic. They travel by different means using different types of companies.

The process is complex and involves a new set of terminology. Sounds confusing right? Don’t worry, this article defines the major terms, and makes it easy to understand.

In this article:

The Top 10 Freight Companies in the USA
Is a Broker the Same Thing as a Carrier?
Full Truckload vs Less-Than-Truckload
The Top 10 LTL Carriers in the USA
The Top 10 FTL Carriers in the USA
How Shippers Interact with Brokers
Delivered Right to Your Door

The Top 10 Freight Companies in the USA

  1. UPS Inc
  2. FedEx Corp
  3. XPO Logistics
  4. J.B. Hunt Transport
  5. Knight-Swift Transport
  6. YRC Worldwide
  7. Schneider
  8. Landstar System
  9. Old Dominion Freight Line
  10. TFI International

Is a Broker the Same Thing as a Carrier?

The short answer is no. A freight broker utilizes it’s connections with carriers in order to move goods for a shipper. Brokerages don’t usually own big trucks unless they have a hybrid operation. Brokers strive for good relationships with carriers, because the health of their business depends on these relationships. They make money by connecting the shipper with a carrier for a fee. Shippers often choose to use brokers, because a broker allows them to scale with a large network of carriers.

A carrier, on the other hand, is an entity that transports goods around the country or the world. They have assets for moving these goods around the globe. These include trucks, trains, planes, and ships. Carriers tend to focus on one form of transportation, although, some will use multiple forms of transportation. These are called multi-modal.

Full Truckload vs. Less-Than-Truckload

There are two ways that trucks get loaded: full truckload (TL/FTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL). Freight carriers generally categories themselves as TL, LTL or both. FTL is often referred to as simply truck load or TL. It is used to ship large volumes of freight. If a shipment can fill an entire truck’s trailer by volume or weight, then it qualifies as a TL shipment.

LTL, on the other hand, is used for shipments that are smaller and only require part of the space inside of a truck’s trailer. This type of shipping allows multiple shipments to be carried inside of one trailer. Because LTL freight often moves from one trailer to another during shipment, it is typically carefully packed into crated or palletized packages. Shipping freight using LTL typically makes it more affordable, but can take longer. Check out some of the largest LTL and FTL carriers in the USA:

The Top 10 LTL Carriers in the USA

  1. FedEx Freight
  2. YRC Freight
  3. XPO
  4. Old Dominion
  5. TForce Freight
  6. Estes
  7. ABF Freight
  8. R+L Carriers
  9. SAIA
  10. Southeastern Freight Lines

The Top 10 FTL Carriers in the USA

  1. Knight-Swift
  2. Schneider
  3. Landstar
  4. JB Hunt
  5. Prime
  6. Werner Enterprises
  7. CRST
  8. U.S. Xpress
  9. Crete
  10. CR England

How Shippers Interact with Brokers and Carriers

When you add shippers to the equation, you start to understand how logistics works. Simply put, shippers are companies that start the transport of goods. They organize the freight before delivery, and then contact a carrier or work with a broker to help them find a carrier to actually move the freight.

It’s in a shipper’s best interest to interact with both brokers and carriers. Building a solid network of carriers is essential to a shipper’s success. They begin to trust the carriers that are reliable, communicate well, and deliver on time. But, what happens when a carrier is at capacity and can’t fulfill a load? That is when a good broker can make or break a deal. They will tap into their network of carrier connections, and find one to fulfill the load.

Delivered Right to Your Door

Even though logistics operates in the background for most of us, it is a huge part of our world. Now that you understand how freight companies are labeled and categorized, you can begin to see how you fit into the world of shipping and receiving.

We live in an era of instant gratification. Deliveries come to the modern American’s doorstep almost daily. It’s no wonder the industry is growing. Our buying habits as humans are changing. COVID-19 forced us indoors and our online shopping skyrocketed. Freight companies enable this shop-at-home convenience. They are moving more goods than ever across the globe. Every package has a journey. Whether it’s by TL or LTL, carriers, brokers, and shippers make it happen.


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