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When the U.S. Department of Energy challenged truck manufactures to create a truck that improves freight efficiency by over 100%  — Volvo’s Keith Brandis and Eric Bond said "challenge accepted." Volvo's new Super Truck 2 comes with advanced cab aerodynamics, adjustable ride height, a camera-based mirroring system, low rolling resistance tires and most importantly... helps push the industry toward a zero-emission future. And since that's where the trucking industry is headed, host Seth Clevenger decided to sit with the Volvo experts for an in-depth look at the vehicle pushing the efficiency envelope. Tune in.    


Keith Brandis is a 40-plus year veteran of the trucking industry with a diverse background in heavy truck manufacturing, engineering, sales and marketing. He began his career with Volvo Trucks at the brand’s New River Valley cab assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia. 

Eric Bond

Keith Brandis

EP. 2

Guest One, Rob Painter
Guest Two, Todd Cotier

Bond served as the Principal Engineer (Investigator) for Volvo Trucks North America on the SuperTruck 2 project. Bond has been in the heavy duty transportation industry for over 20 years in a variety of engineering functions.


Episode Transcript:

Dan Ronan From Transport Topics in Washington D.C., this is RoadSigns. Here is your host, Seth Clevenger.

Seth Clevenger Thank you for listening to RoadSigns, the podcast series from Transport Topics that explores the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of trucking. In this episode, we're going to take you inside the making of TT's 2023 Top 100 Private Carriers list, which was just published on August 28th. To produce this most recent list, we compiled data on the largest private fleet operators in North America to create an updated top 100 ranking based on tractor count. The publication also includes updated information on each company's revenue, trailers and straight trucks, as well as business units and company descriptions. In addition to the main top 100 list, we also publish separate rankings of the largest private carriers operating in specific industries such as food service, beverage, retail and the energy sector. The new rankings are available now online at ttnews.com. And, if you haven't already done so, you can get exclusive access to the complete version of our Top 100 Private Carriers report by subscribing to Transport Topics at ttn.ws/subscribe. And now to discuss how we assembled this year's top 100 list and our biggest takeaways from this project. I'm going to bring in two of my colleagues at TT, features editor and RoadSigns co-host Michael Freeze and features coordinator Mike Senatore. Thank you both for joining the conversation.

Michael Freeze Thanks for having me, Seth.

Mike Senatore Thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure.

Seth Clevenger So just to get started here, I'd like to take our listeners inside the making of the top 100 and sector lists. Now, Mike, you, of course, led the data gathering aspect of this project, which is the lion's share of the work. So just walk us through that process, how you gathered the data and then used that information and raw material to update the rankings.

Mike Senatore Sure. So, the most prominent way that we collect this data that we use in the lists and the rankings is through the FMCSA's Online Safety Measurement System database. These private carriers, They register their equipment with the Department of Transportation and the documents listing their total equipment counts, those are publicly available online. And that's how we gather the figures to create these lists. And for a large majority of the companies on the top 100 and the sector rankings, those are where we got their equipment counts, but some companies do choose to respond to our annual fleet survey, or they correspond with us directly. And that's great as well; it helps us get the most up to date information possible. But that's where we get pretty much all of our data that we use in this in this publication.

Seth Clevenger Yeah, and of course, it's not quite as straightforward as you made it sound almost easy, Mike, but I know there's a lot of hard work that goes into this, but part of the challenge and complexity is that some of these really large companies, really large private carriers operate several different DOT numbers. Sometimes in the course of mergers and acquisitions, they acquire competitors and take on their private fleet operations as well. So you wind up with multiple DOT numbers and that can be a challenge to track them all down. And they're sometimes updated separately, of course, you know, our ideal is to get updated figures directly from the company. That is always our first option. When we get a response from a company either through our survey or through direct correspondence one way or another, that is always our first choice because that's always going to be the most updated, getting it straight from the company. But of course, we do rely heavily on some of the publicly available data on equipment that's out there. But we compile all the information from these different sources, and that's how we arrive at these rankings. And of course, speaking of the rankings, I think we can just go ahead and dive right into it. I'll start right at the top. Not a big surprise to those who've seen this list and reviewed it closely year over year, but PepsiCo, of course, a giant in the world of beverage and snack food — Frito-Lay, of course, is a division of PepsiCo — is once again our number one company. The company did expand its private fleet to nearly 12,600 tractors at this point. So it is a massive private fleet operation, and that tractor count is up more than 1,500 from a year ago, so it's definitely a big increase there. And a similar growth number, too, with Walmart. Walmart is now operating more than 11,000 tractors and more than 81,000 trailers. So, of course, just a massive trailer fleet. They rely heavily on the for-hire market as well. And, of course, much of their freight is moved by for-hire carriers, but a big chunk of their transportation needs they handle in-house with their own private fleet. And that is a very big private fleet, and that's not a surprise, I think just seeing all the trucks on the road and just the massive size of the company. An interesting note about Walmart: they've been bolstering their labor force lately through a new program to train some of their in-store and warehouse employees to become professional truck drivers. So there's a CDL training program, and some of those new drivers are starting to hit the road now. But that’s an example of how some private fleets are working to strengthen their driver pool, because maybe it's not as bad as in the for-hire trucking industry, but finding, hiring, retaining drivers is such a core focus for private fleets as well. And then just moving right down the list, another fast-growing company is Sysco, food and beverage distributor. They're number three on the list with more than 9,000 tractors. A lot of big food service distribution companies listed on our top ten in particular. So that sector in food service and grocery really is one of the top areas, or where we see some of the largest private fleet operations. Another one I’ll highlight here is Amazon. Always an interesting note to see how they expand in the world of transportation and logistics. And they're now in the top ten of our top 100 private carriers, number nine this year. That's up from number 19 a year ago. Just under 4,000 tractors at this point, but I think it is important to keep this in context because, even though they're now up to 3,900 tractors, that's still much smaller than their trailer fleet, you know, for more than 40,000 trailers at this point. So really, again, a company that relies very heavily on for-hire trucking companies to move their freight. But, you know, they have a pretty big tractor fleet now that they've assembled as well, in addition to their straight trucks and all the Prime delivery vans you see that are typically independent contractors and small companies. But, those are some of the highlights that I wanted to mention at the very top of the list, Michael, what companies and ranking changes stand out to you the most when you take a look at the updated top 100?

Michael Freeze Well, I kind of want to get to the jumps first. You know, it's a combination of things, Seth, when you're looking at the movers and the ones who went up and the ones who went down. For instance, you have a great increase in some supermarkets. You have, for instance, Kroger jumped [to] 39 from 52 and you have Publix, which is 41 from number 61 last year. And I don't want to pontificate about what is going on with the market when it comes to groceries. Maybe it's something to do with consumer expenses, how the consumer maybe has some room in their pocket, in their household pockets to get more groceries and that translates to better business for these particular supermarkets. But that was one thing that jumped out to me, just when you have the jumps and you're kind of following that, the whole homebuilder, home buyer, your home expense subject, kind of move that forward. You know, you have Builders FirstSource, the position that they're in and in the current market conditions, that's something to take notice of. And then when you get to something like Ace Hardware, where they were 63 from 81 last year and, you know, Perdue Farms, they were 82 from 96. So those particular things, when it comes to the jump, you could say that the trucking industry is sort of a harbinger for the industry at large, where commerce is going from point A to point B, So those are particular things to take notice [of] especially when you look at the U.S. economy. And another thing, you know there were some drops to take notice of, but the one particular drop that I took notice of was Anheuser-Busch, to 71 from 50. So just kind of with the politics that's been going on with that, and what you're reading in the headlines, who's to say if those particular production costs and those unit costs have an effect on what's been transpiring in the news and in politics in the last year. So those are those are the things that kind of jumped out at me looking at this list.

Seth Clevenger Yeah. I think some of the areas you highlighted, Michael, do illustrate that private carriers really do — and trucking in general, of course — really do touch just about every industry out there, anything that goes with physical goods and even some beyond. I mean, [it] touches on really everything. And you look through our private 100 list and you really do see a little bit of everything: a lot of food service, a lot of beverage, as I mentioned earlier. But yeah, I mean, there's manufacturing, there's some oilfield companies, energy sector. There's construction materials, building materials is an area where a lot of those large companies do own and operate their own in-house private fleets or their own trucking divisions. So it's interesting to see that. And all those industries have their own challenges, their own trajectories. So sometimes, these private fleet operators are dealing not just with the macroeconomic situation, but also what happens to be going on in the specific industry that they serve. So it can be a different story. I mean, you go down the list and each company is dealing with different types of market changes and different types of conditions. And, sometimes that reflects directly on the private fleet and sometimes it doesn't. Ultimately the private fleets exist to serve the supply chain of the parent company. And, sometimes it’s the freight market conditions — maybe more than the macroeconomic or business conditions in the core industry that they serve — that really drives what's happening with the private fleet operation. And that is interesting, of course, because the freight market has been softer for the past year-plus now. So, basically if you're a shipper, you can look to the market and find for-hire truck capacity readily available and generally available at lower rates, certainly [lower] than a year or two ago. And maybe that means that you're less reliant on your in-house private fleet right now. And I'll dig into that a little bit more, I think there's an interesting topic to explore there, but before I meander too much down that tangent I want to bring back in, Mike, to kind of ask you the same question, you know, as you review this top 100 list, again, you spent more time working on this than anyone. What companies or ranking changes stand out the most to you?

Mike Senatore Well, the biggest change to the top ten, as you mentioned, Seth, was Amazon jumping up ten spots to number nine on this year's list. They more than doubled the size of the company's tractor fleet, and that really goes to show the strength of the e-commerce industry and, sort of, how Amazon is obviously the leader of the pack with e-commerce and online retailing, and the demand that we're seeing there is just huge and it's continuing to grow over time. And the jump in fleet size goes to show that Amazon is making sure that they're able to move more of their own freight, which is going to continue to help them over time as that demand continues to grow and that whole industry continues to expand. And as Michael said with the grocers that were jumping up the list in multiple places, what I noticed was a lot of wholesalers and retailers in general, they really stood out to me. Companies like Walmart and Costco Wholesale [and] Ace Hardware also had major expansions in their tractor fleets. And so, that sort of trend in that industry, that's something that really jumped out to me as something of note.

Seth Clevenger Yeah, for sure. And actually, I'll circle back to your comments on Amazon. I know there's always great interest in anything that Amazon is doing in the transportation and logistics space for our audience at Transport Topics. But from what I've seen, we don't have perfect visibility of course, we're looking at numbers that are available through FMCSA's online database. But from what I've seen and what I understand, the tractors are generally day cabs being used for local regional operations, likely moving freight, from one logistics center to another. I do see the Prime branded day cabs once in a while, where I live in the greater Washington, D.C., area in Northern Virginia, out on the road. So those are starting to show up a little bit, and I think that'll be a more common sight on the highways moving forward, but doesn't change the overall dynamic where, certainly [with] longer haul, Amazon is very dependent on trucking companies, for-hire trucking companies. It's not like they're going to bring all that freight in-house, certainly not anytime soon. If they did, they would be probably, possibly number one on our list of private carriers if they tried to do all that themselves. But, you know, there is clearly a move to handling some more of their transportation and logistics needs in-house where they see fit. But that is certainly a company to watch moving forward. And I will remind our listeners that you can review the top 100 and sector lists online now at ttnews.com. And as I mentioned before, you can get access to the complete version of the Top 100 Private Carriers report by subscribing to Transport Topics if you're not a subscriber already.

Seth Clevenger Next, I'd like to go ahead and talk a little bit more about business conditions for private carriers. And, you know, I got into this a little bit earlier, but it's clear, of course, that the broader freight market has softened, freight capacity has loosened a lot. A couple of years ago, we were in a very tight capacity situation and shippers were really struggling to find a truck. Now, that's not really the case anymore. And there's a sense that, of course, capacity is abundant, maybe overabundant in the trucking industry. That being said, even though maybe that in some ways devalues or diminishes the value of owning a private fleet, companies that run their own private trucking divisions aren't in the transportation space just for guaranteed capacity. There's more to it than that: it's also to help provide a higher level of service for their customers, and they just will have more control over their supply chains. They can kind of control their own destiny more when you have your own equipment, your own fleet operation. And oftentimes it’s a balance, especially for the larger companies that are on this list, it's not uncommon to handle a certain percentage of your freight in-house with your own trucking division and to go to the market and find for-hire carriers for the balance. And that can be more flexible depending on the ebbs and flows of your business: if you need to ramp up your capacity and your capabilities, you hire more for-hire carriers, and if it's a slower time, you can dial that back. It's a lot easier to dial back, you know, outside company business than it is in-house. But, all that aside, when you look at our top 100 list and compare the tractor counts to a year ago, a majority of the top 100 companies actually expanded their fleet size during the past year, even under these conditions. So, of course, there are many examples of companies that maintained their current fleet size or contracted [and] shed tractors. But that being said, it was still the case that, at least among the set of very large private carriers, more expanded than contracted. So, Mike, I want to get your thoughts on private carriers’ ability to grow even when the freight market is soft. Any thoughts to add on that?

Mike Senatore Yeah, so one thing that I definitely took away from the list is that for these companies on the top 100, growth doesn't have to be and oftentimes isn't tied to the strength of the freight market. I mean, as you said, a majority of the carriers on this list grew their tractor fleets, and that's more than half of them [that] have more tractors now than they did last year. And that growth tends to be a good indicator for the demand that they're seeing for their freight. And you can take Clean Harbors, for example, number 14 on our list, up from number 32 last year. Not only did they bolster their fleet over the past year, but they saw a huge increase in their revenue [of] $1.5 billion. And you can see that in a couple instances on this list of companies seeing revenue increases in tandem with growing and expanding their own fleets. And so that goes to show that as companies expand their services and start to reach more people, they're able to expand their fleet and increase their freight capacity. And the opposite is true, as well, as a well-maintained fleet really helps prepare them for the kind of market fluctuations that we've been seeing recently.

Seth Clevenger Yeah, for sure. And, I’m also curious and I would wonder if the story that we see for the top 100 is the same, for, say, small- and medium-sized private carriers. I suspect that it would be more of a mixed picture and maybe even more of a pullback in terms of fleet size for smaller private carriers. You know, that’s speculation on my part, but generally, based on some of the mergers and acquisitions we've seen, it has been the case that the bigger tend to keep getting bigger. And maybe that's what we're capturing to some extent on our top 100. But clearly among these large private carriers, many of them just kept right on expanding and some of them expanded quite dramatically even during the time that was down for trucking in general. Michael, anything you'd like to add on the current operating conditions for private fleets out there and how that maybe plays into their decisions to either add tractors or maintain the size of their fleet or maybe even downsize.

Michael Freeze For sure, one of the things you were just saying that, you know, the bigger gets bigger in the sense of, you know, let's take, for instance, Costco: number 46 this year, and then a jump from [number] 69 [from] last year. And as you were alluding to Seth, owning your own supply chain, that's one thing, and then having the partnerships that will allow you to utilize that supply chain to best efficiently deliver those products to those particular warehouses. And I think that's where COSTCO is probably seeing that jump where, it's kind of a hybrid of things. You have that supply chain, but you also have partners as well to help you out in that sense. And for those national brands, that's very essential. And that's where the savings and the growth comes in, as well. You look at that national player and as you were saying, the big guys get bigger, but also too, the regional players are getting bigger as well, especially when they utilize their supply chain more effectively. And that example is in California's [Ecology] Auto Parts: they are [number] 62 this year, [up] from 77 last year. And they [do] regional auto parts distribution, so they are able to deliver their auto parts to particular garages throughout California, in the West Coast and in the western states. And there are quite a bit of companies right now, especially regional companies, that are utilizing their space. I mean, it's about growth, but it's also about having growth where it makes sense. If you're able to grow, that's one thing, but if you're able to grow more revenue within that growth, that would be helpful. So, you know, it's kind of getting in where you fit in when it comes to these particular private fleets. So, we definitely want to have that growth where it makes sense, for the [Ecology Auto] Parts perspective because they have such a region within that they work with, you want to have that efficiency there. So it's definitely nice to be a big fish in a small pond when you're a regional business.

Seth Clevenger I did briefly touch on M&A activity and that's always a topic that comes up, whether it's this list of private carriers or any of our other top 100 or top 50 lists that we compile during the course of the year, one of the biggest sources of changes on the list would be companies either merging [or] acquiring one of their competitors as well as spinoffs. And that's certainly the case here with our updated Top 100 Private Carriers list yet again as we review the list. Now, of course, the big merger that we're watching, and still watching, is in the grocery sector, and that's Kroger's proposed acquisition of Albertsons Companies. These are two very large supermarket chains and grocery companies. That was originally announced back in October of last year, but it's still pending approval by antitrust regulators, there's been some concerns voiced and some opposition that has surfaced. The company management is still targeting early May [2024] for that to potentially close. And if that deal does ultimately succeed, this would be combining not just two very large grocery companies and grocery chains, but it would also unite the number 38- and number 40-ranked private fleet operators on our list. So that would really make a giant, not just in the grocery sector but also in the private fleet sector. Another example I want to bring up is Darling Ingredients. They're a Texas-based company that converts edible byproducts and food waste, sometimes it’s like food oil and waste into products like renewable fuels, fertilizer [or] animal feed. So [it’s] a very specialized business, but they're up to number 30 on our list this year, up from number 47, and that's powered in part by their acquisition of Valley Proteins; that’s a company that has appeared on our top 100 list in the past out of Virginia with a similar type of operation. But another interesting example of some of these very specialized companies with their own large private fleet operations. Another new name I’ll highlight on the top 100 is Knife River Corporation. So that's a new name, but it's a spinoff. This is a company that became independent in June after its spinoff from MDA Resources, which was number 67 on last year's list. And this is a business that provides construction materials like concrete and asphalt for industrial projects, so very much in the construction and building materials operations. So those are the ones I really wanted to highlight here in terms of M&A activity. But Mike, what examples of M&A stand out to you when you take a look at the top 100?

Mike Senatore So, as you mentioned, the largest acquisition near the top of the list was Darling Ingredients [and] their acquisition of Valley Proteins last year. Valley Proteins had been a mainstay on our top 100 list for a few years now. Last year, Valley Proteins landed just outside the top ten as well on our agriculture and food processing sector ranking. So, Valley Proteins is certainly a major player in that food processing industry. And this deal really is what propelled Darling Ingredients up the top 100 list. It added more than 400 tractors to the fleet of Darling Ingredients, and that bolstered tractor fleet really strengthens Darling as one of the strongest food processing companies in that industry.

Seth Clevenger And Michael, any other additional thoughts on how we see this M&A activity changing the private fleet landscape?

Michael Freeze Well, I think you alluded to it earlier with Kroger's upcoming, impending acquisition of Albertsons, it's just one of those things that I was talking about earlier with the household expenses and how the grocer industry is adapting to that. And there's definitely a space to watch when it comes to that, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that all plays out.

Seth Clevenger Yeah. I mean, it's a very interesting space. And, yet again, for this year we have separate rankings and separate entries for Kroger and Albertsons. We don’t combine the ranking until the proposed acquisition is completed and goes through. So, another year where these companies remain separate. If the deal does succeed and goes through, next year's top 100 may have a combined entry that will probably be moving right up the list when you combine those two. So that's something to watch moving forward. So, I’d also like to highlight some of the new names, you know, that qualify for the top 100 after not having been ranked that highly [in the] previous year. So, one new name is number 73 on our list, that’s MasTec Inc. That's an infrastructure engineering construction firm out of Florida. This is a company that builds pipelines and oilfield equipment, electricity towers, wind farms, those types of utility structures. So a pretty specialized company that handles a lot of its transportation needs in-house, so they have a large fleet operation [and] a lot of tractors, good enough to land them number 73 on our list. Another new one is Nine Energy Service at number 96, that's a publicly traded oilfield services company out of Houston. Really, they're operating across North America, major oil and gas producing regions, but they're one of several large oilfield services companies on our list. Another newcomer is McKee Foods Corporation at number 97. If you don't know or recognize McKee the company, you'll certainly recognize some of their brands. They're best known for the Little Debbie snack cakes brand. They have products under Sunbelt Bakery [and] Drake's Fieldstone Bakery, so when you go to the grocery store, you probably see a lot of those on the shelves, [also in] convenience stores and whatnot. And then another new company that just cracked a list at number 100 is Lipari Foods. So, they're a specialty food distributor based out of Michigan, and they have a list of different types of products that they deliver, so these are bakery items, deli, dairy products, confections, meat, seafood. They have international foods, and they deliver to grocery and convenience stores in 32 states. So, yet another food distributor, in this case a specialized company, that is now on our top 100 private carriers. Mike, what's your take on the newcomers to the top 100 this year? Anything really stand out to you?

Mike Senatore The newcomer that stood out to me the most was MasTec, debuting at number 73 on our list. MasTec saw a lot of growth thanks to the variety in the services that it offers: handling infrastructure construction needs across multiple industries for utility customers. And Mastec continued that strategic growth by, in October of last year, they acquired a large renewable energy infrastructure solutions provider, IEA Inc., and that helped to further the diversification of MasTec’s services. And that really helped them to grow in a number of markets within the utility engineering space. Obviously, it spurred growth in the renewable energy services industry, but also they acquired a lot of IEA’s assets in heavy civil services, rail and transit construction and other kind of transportation infrastructure areas. So that continued building of [the] variety of their services really is what makes them such a big company on this list.

Seth Clevenger Yeah. Michael, additional thoughts on some of these new names that you see on this year's list.

Michael Freeze Yeah, just a few things to what Mike was saying about MasTec. You know, just kind of the combination of things, with Mastec and Nine Energy Service. We always talk about infrastructure when it comes to electric vehicles on this show, and there's plenty of infrastructure to go around now, especially when it comes to electric towers and wind farms and just the energy and the alternative energy that this country is getting introduced to in establishing that via infrastructure. And those particular companies are enjoying success from that particular demand, especially when it comes to oil and gas and building infrastructure. And another thing, too, as I was alluding to with just kind of the regional players, McKee Foods Corp., delivering snacks and other bakery [items] throughout the Sunbelt. So that's another regional player that is doing well, and especially too with our last [company on the top 100] Lipari Foods being a distributor and also a regional player, handling food to the point of purchase. I guess Lipari is more [widespread], I wouldn't say regional, [being] in 32 states, I mean you [could] say semi-national, but delivering food to the point of purchase especially in McKee Food Corp's case and also in Lipari Foods’ case as well, it's just those particular regional players getting bigger and being that big fish in that small area. So, those are the things that stand out, especially when it comes to the newcomers, and it's just that particular growth, and being on this list is an achievement as well.

Seth Clevenger Yeah, for sure. And again, I guess the food service industry, the food service sector is no stranger to the top 100 private carriers list. And it seems like even more are making their way onto the list. And one final point on companies like MasTec that are building some of these major feats of engineering like pipelines and electric towers and wind farms, sometimes that involves some really specialized transportation. I’m aware of [an] Oregon-based for-hire carrier, Combined Transport, that does some of this, and some of the work they do is moving these massive blades that are used in wind farms. You don't realize just how big those are sometimes when you go by, but that's just a massive, massive piece of equipment and moving those on the highway is really specialized: specialized equipment, special permits and all kinds of stuff. This is not just, “drop it on a regular flatbed and get it there.” This can involve some really specialized transportation that's quite interesting to look at. Before I wrap up the conversation here, I want to just briefly touch on the sector rankings. This is where we're listing the largest private fleets in various industries, whether it's food service or energy or construction or manufacturing [or] retail. Mike, when you look at the pages of the sector lists in our publication, which industry do you find most interesting this year and what stood out about it?

Mike Senatore So, I touched on it briefly earlier, but the growth in the private fleets across the wholesale and retail industry is really what jumped out the most to me. Across that sector ranking, 18 of the 33 wholesalers and retailers that appear on our list this year expanded their tractor fleets in the past year. And when you put all [of] them together, the companies on that list, they added nearly 5,000 tractors when comparing it to last year, and that's a 23% increase across that industry. And, obviously, our job is to sort of speculate on why this could be and the kind of trends that are going on here, and I would say that this likely goes hand-in-hand with the largely strong consumer spending that we've been seeing recently in the face of high inflation. As we know, this is all subject to change and the strong job market has gone a long way in boosting sales for many of these businesses. And so, I think the expansions of their fleets is just another way that we can see that kind of growth that's been spurred on by that.

Seth Clevenger I know that many companies even beyond the retail space, but certainly 3PLs and lots of for-hire trucking companies are always very interested in consumer spending as a key metric and how that will affect freight demand from the shippers that they work with. But to your point, consumer demand has held up quite well. When you consider the inflationary pressures that you might expect to cause people to be a little bit tighter with their spending. But [with] unemployment being quite low, people are still spending and that's still driving freight as we speak. Michael, I'll ask you the same question before we wrap it up here. Which industry sector list [and] which particular industry stands out the most to you as you go over the sector lists?

Michael Freeze You know, grocery is a list that kind of pops out to me. Not so much because of the impending Kroger and Albertsons merger, but it's just the list and that top 15 or so that I've seen and it's kind of like the eye test, especially in the political context, if you're riding down the street and you see all the political yard signs during election season, you're kind of thinking, “hmm, that person is definitely going to win because I've seen more yard signs [for them] than others.” It's sort of like the eye test for me when it comes to grocery stores, just kind of traveling around the country. For instance, number 11 on that grocery list, Meijer. I've seen Meijer’s [locations] open up in various places, especially in the Midwest, I've seen that growing a bit. And I'm kind of just curious for the 2024 list when we do this next year, if they moved up the list or not. I mean, they're currently at 252 tractors right now, but United Natural Foods is at over 2,000. But I'm just kind of curious to see that particular growth. It's just these regional players are getting bigger despite the softness in this freight market, and that was the one sector [where] I've seen many private fleets are growing, and so I'm really curious to see how the Meijers and even the Wegmans of the world are going to move up that particular list.

Seth Clevenger Yeah. And it is interesting to see there's still these very interesting regional players in the grocery industry, and people can get very attached to those depending on where they live and where they grew up. And I'm also from Ohio, so, yeah, I mean, our go-to was always Meijer, growing up in northwest Ohio. You go down to Florida and you see Publix everywhere, [and] H-E-B being really big in Texas. And then I was very happy here in the D.C. area when Wegmans opened a new location nearby just down the road, kind of a northeastern chain. But still a lot of kind of regional specialty and [that] kind of adds a little bit of a regional flavor to where we live and which part of the country we happen to reside in. And these are all companies that typically appear somewhere on our grocery sector list. Most of them do have, to some extent, their own private fleet operation. So, in just a final note here, I'd like to thank you both for helping to take our listeners through the inside the making of this year's top 100 list. This certainly is one of our biggest annual projects at Transport Topics, so it always feels great to see the final list come together, to put it out there and hear the reactions, and hopefully this is a really good, valuable resource for the industry, not just for the fleets to see where they stack up against one another, but also for really the whole industry to see who the big players are and who they might be working with or could work with in the future.

Seth Clevenger I hope that you've enjoyed this in-depth look at the Transport Topics 2023 Top 100 Private Carriers list. And as a final reminder here, you can view the entire top 100 and sector lists online at ttnews.com. And of course, if you are a TT subscriber, you already have a hard copy packaged with the August 28th issue of TT. Later this year, we will present the final episode of our Inside the List series on RoadSigns after we produce our Top 50 Global Carriers list in November. If you've enjoyed this episode of RoadSigns, please let others know, rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. And if my questions have sparked questions of your own, share them with me and the RoadSigns team. You can email us at share@ttnews.com; we’ll read them and respond daily. And of course, we'll be back in two weeks with a fresh episode of RoadSigns. Until then, I'm Seth Clevenger. Thank you for listening.

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Kenworth Truck Company is a North American truck manufacturer. Founded in 1923, Kenworth specializes in production of heavy and medium-duty commercial vehicles.