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Step 6: Different types of trucking companies


This article is step 6 in our multi-step Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a CDL Driver. To read the entire guide follow the link above to be taken to our step by step slideshow.

In step 5 we discussed the different types of trucking jobs within the industry so hopefully by now you have a better idea regarding the type of trucking job you want to strive for. However, there is another factor that you need to keep in mind and it has to do with the different types of “trucking companies” within the industry.  Did I lose you? You may have thought that all companies were the same, but in fact, that this is not the case. Many drivers may overlook this concept, but in some respects, the differences in “trucking companies” can play a even larger role in a drivers income and overall happiness then the type of truck driving job they actual have.  After knowing about the different classifications of trucking companies you should have a better grasp on which direction you want to tailor your career path towards.

Table of contents:


For Hire Truckload Carriers

For hire truckload carriers is a classification of trucking companies within the trucking industry that earns their revenue by hauling other companies freight. If you work for a for hire truckload carrier you are working for a company that doesn’t actually manufacturer or produce anything. Instead, for hire truckload carriers sell their fleet capacity to other companies who are in need of logistic support and supply chain management.

Typically, for hire truckload carriers will contract out their trucks, trailers, and drivers to another company that needs their services. Since these types of companies do not manufacturer or ship their own goods their entire business model is based upon the freight demands of other companies.

The downsize to working for this type of trucking company is that freight contracts turnover and are offered up to other trucking companies to bid on. You might work for one of these companies today and you enjoy hauling the freight that they run, but it does not mean that they will always win the bid for that customer’s freight contract. This means you must be aware for the potential of the freight changing.  Often times, for hire truckload companies have multiple customers to protect aganist the loss of one customers freight.

Another downsize to working for a for hire truckload carrier is that their drivers typically operate as part of a over the road network of drivers. This is not true in all cases, but generally, a for hire truckload carrier will have a large percentage of their driver fleet made up of OTR drivers and as a new driver in the industry this is where you may have to start if you want to change to move up.

Interested in working with a for hire truckload carrier? Explore these companies:

Top 30 For Hire Truckload companies ranked in order of revenue.

RankCompany2015 Revenue (000)
1Swift Transportation$3,131,771
3Landstar System$1,894,221
4J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.$1,836,766
5Werner Enterprises Inc.$1,644,874
6Penske Logistics$1,400,000
7U.S. Xpress Enterprises$1,346,000
8TransForce Inc.$1,263,357
9NFI Transportation$1,200,000
10Roadrunner Truckload Logistics$1,175,594
11Knight Transportation Inc.$952,098
12Ryder Dedicated Transportation Solutions$895,538
13Crete Carrier Corp.$775,000
14XPO Logistics$770,000
15Celadon Trucking Services$748,337
16Heartland Express Inc.$736,345
17Universal Logistics Holdings Inc.$696,134
18Cardinal Logistics Management Corp,$630,000
19CRST International$585,587
20Mullen Group Ltd.$559,477
22Western Express Inc.$520,079
23Canada Cartage System$466,463
24Covenant Transportation Group$449,029
25Cowan Systems$432,000
26P.A.M. Transportation Services$417,050
27Bison Transport Inc.$406,981
28Mesilla Valley Transportation$397,716
29Interstate Distributor Co.$392,109
30USA Truck$356,528

Private Fleets

There are hundreds of companies out there that manufacturer a product, but also control the distribution and supply chain of that product. Private fleets are comprised of companies that in addition to supplying the actual freight that is being hauled they also supply their own trucks, trailers, and drivers.

Truck drivers that work for a private fleet are generally an employee of the company that has the freight. For example, Frito Lay is a private fleet. Frito lays produces the product and they have their own drivers that delivers the goods through their own supply chain. FedEx and UPS also private fleets. They have their own fleet of truck drivers that work for them, but with that being said it is not uncommon for a private fleet to need help with their freight capacity. For example, FedEx and UPS may not have enough of their own trucks and drivers to support all of their freight demands so when this happens they may need to broker out their extra freight to other for hire truckload carriers.

Generally, drivers who work for private fleets are paid more and are usually more experienced. It is typically more difficult to get hired on by a private fleet. The downsize of working for a private fleet is that your job security is determined by the overall financial health of a single company. This mean as a driver you are more or less putting all of your eggs in the same basket. Since driver that work for private fleets are hauling the same product if that company begins to struggle or if things start to slow down their miles might suffer because the company does not have has much freight to haul.

Interested in working for a private fleet? Explore these companies:

Top 10 private fleets ranked by total tractor size.

1PepsiCo Inc.9,950
2Sysco Corp.8,391
3Wal-Mart Stores6,277
4Coca-Cola Co.5,664
5Halliburton Co.5,637
6U.S. Foods5,242
7Schlumberger Limited3,994
8Reyes Holdings3,936
9Agrium Inc.3,930
10McLane Co.3,837

Less Than Truckload Carriers

There is a large segment of trucking companies out there that operate what is know as less than truck load freight also known as LTL.  If you think about shipping products from point A to point B there are numerous products that are being shipped to and from consumers, but whenever there is a product that is too big to be sent through the general postal service that’s where less than truckload carriers come into play.

A less than truckload company will typically operate either a 53′ trailer or doubles to move smaller products that need home or business delivery all across america. One less than truckload trailer might be shipping 10-30 different products to all different customers. LTL companies will have their drivers and dispatch schedule the delivery of these goods to the customers home or they may have the customer come pick up the freight from their local distribution center.

Companies that focus on hauling LTL will typically employee 2 different types of drivers. The first type of driver would be a line haul driver that runs dedicated freight from point to point.  This may be distribution center to distribution center. Because these drivers run back and forth they typically get consistent miles, and regularly scheduled home time.  The second type of driver the LTL companies employee is typically a city driver who runs a day cab making local deliveries all through the city.  These drivers are usually home every day, but they also have to navigate city traffic all day and they are required to meet with numerous customers a day.  One load might have 12 stops or more so a city LTL driver does a lot of freight handling.

Interested in working for a less than truckload carrier? Explore these companies:

Top 25 less than truckload companies ranked in order of revenue

RankCompany2015 Revenue (000’s)
1FedEx Freight$6,170,000
2YRC Worldwide$4,832,400
3XPO Logistics$3,600,000
4Old Dominion Freight Line Inc.$2,972,442
5UPS Freight$2,881,000
6Estes Express Lines$2,367,000
7ABF Freight$1,918,450
8R&L Carriers$1,429,000
9Saia Inc.$1,221,311
10Southeastern Freight Lines$955,052
11Averitt Express Inc.$702,000
12TransForce Inc.$691,014
13Central Transport International$675,000
14AAA Cooper Transportation Inc.$595,368
15Roadrunner Less-Than-Truckload$516,251
16Dayton Freight Lines$452,817
17Pitt Ohio$396,000
18New England Motor Freight$388,000
19A. Duie Pyle Inc.$281,554
20Day & Ross Freight$270,148
21Central Freight Lines Inc.$205,000
22Daylight Transport$192,000
23Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc.$186,974
24Ward Transport & Logistics Corp.$166,944
25Watkins & Shepard Trucking$159,000

Household Movers

Another segment of drivers that work in the industry are drivers who work for household moving companies. This can bee a unique hybrid role that combines physical work with transporting the freight. The majority of the work that comes to household movers are from single customers that needs their household items moved due to a relocation.

People who enjoy physical labor or who wants to stay in shape might enjoy working for a household moving company. Each company has different relocation packages so some companies may offer moving packages that requires the driver to pack of the customers household with the assistance of some local help. Depending on the company, the driver might be required to pack up the customers goods, load them into the trailer, drive the freight from point A to point B, and then offload the household items at the customers new location.

The downsize to this type of work is the increase risk for injury due to the physical labor that might be involved. In addition, as a driver you can never anticipate the condition of the house the you will be moving from day to day so there might be times when you walk into a dirty house or are packing someone else’s mess.

Household movers can make great money though and the physical activity should help the driver stay in shape.  Some drivers like the break up off driving as well so having the ability to drive half the time and then load and unload freight half the time is appealing to some drivers.


Transporting freight through tractor trailer is not the only way that freight is hauled throughout the world. Inter-modal drivers are usually local drivers that haul rail containers to and from the rail yard. For many companies, shipping freight through rail can be a much more efficient solution. The problem with using rail to ship freight is that shippers are still required to get their product to the rail depot in addition to making sure the freight is picked up again and delivered to the final customer.

This distribution process requires more hands to touch the freight. First, you need one truck and driver to take the freight to the rail yard.  Then the freight is moved by rail the majority of the way. Once the freight arrives to the final detestation another truck and driver is required to pick it up to get it delivered to the final customer. Hypothetically, the normal truckload process would only have required 1 driver and 1 truck to haul the freight from point A to point B, but because the freight was shipped by rail it ended up requiring 2 drivers and 2 trucks to complete the shipping process.

Because there are more hands involved with shipping freight by rail it typically provides good jobs for drivers that want to haul freight locally.   If you live near a major rail hub or shipping port you might want to look into companies that haul inter-modal freight.


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