WHO'S WHO: 3PL titans revealed

The names at the top of this year’s <i>Who’s Who in Contract Distribution</i> rankings are familiar. But there’s capacity and capability up and down the list

WHO'S WHO: 3PL titans revealed
<font color=red>WHO’S WHO:</font> Big, bigger, biggest
By Jason Whittaker |
November 2, 2009

The names at the top of this year’s Who’s Who in Contract Distribution rankings are familiar. But there’s plenty of capacity and capability up and down the list

Who’s who? Well, family-owned businesses largely, the transport, warehousing and logistics providers – 3PLs as they’re universally known in supply chain vernacular – who successfully stencil their own footprint, carve their own market niche, to act as the backbone of the contract distribution task.

Together, the 50-plus companies in this year’s 3PL directory – more than any other year in the long history of the Who’s Who survey – employ some 90,000 people to move well in excess of 600 million tonnes of freight.

They run more than 30,000 vehicles and manage more than 10 million square metres of warehousing space. In a financial year to June 2009, heavily hit by the global economic downturn, they still generated some $12 billion in revenue – and that’s without the many large but more private companies that keep revenue figures close to their chests.

Logistics is still big business. The biggest, in fact - and this year’s Who’s Who shoulder much of the responsibility and the reward.

But a deep schism remains in the provider market. The Who’s Who remain a top-heavy lot.

Take Toll Holdings, which was responsible for almost a quarter of the $20 billion market revenue reported. Paul Little’s empire, the reigning champions of the Australian logistics space and now colonising much of Asia, again tops both lists of the region’s biggest transport and warehousing providers.

The figures are staggering: it generated some $4.8 billion in revenue in 2008-09 from Australian operations alone, up on the $4.4 billion it reported in last year’s survey (what recession?); its workforce numbers some 30,000 people throughout Australasia and Asia; it owns at least 5,500 trucks and sub-contracts out another 3,000; and it manages roughly 4 million square metres of storage space across more than 1,000 – yes, 1,000 – sites.

Little’s dream of becoming an all-service provider, dominating markets here and across the seas, would seem complete. Yet at the company’s annual results in August the bolshie Managing Director declared his appetite for gobbling up more of the market was far from satisfied.

"We are continuing to see real opportunities for acquisitions which match our long-term strategic vision," he says. "We see some very interesting future growth options both here in the region and around the world."

Even during a recession-hit year it acquired rivals Perkins Shipping, Extra Transport, Couriers Australia and Victoria Express, among others, along with regional freight forwarders BALtrans and Gluck.

Little predicts "generally flat" economic conditions over the next 12 months, but warns the company is "well positioned" to benefit from the inevitable revival. As if rival providers didn’t already know.

Linfox – again a wildly successful second-banana on the transport and warehousing rankings – had a relatively quiet year. Yet it still managed to sign what it called one of the single largest logistics contracts in Australian history – a decade-long, $2 billion extension of its National Foods distribution deal.

The contract will employ nearly 300 people alone, adding to the 15,000 Lindsay Fox’s logistics juggernaut already has on its books, while new DCs will be built as part of a logistics property portfolio totally 1.8 million square metres of warehousing.

Take Queensland Rail. You won’t find it among the top 20 in transport vehicles or warehousing space, but its foothold in the State’s lucrative coal markets saw it shift some 245 million tonnes in the last financial year – the highest reported – while generating $3.5 billion for its State Government owner.

In the courier market, Star Track Express and TNT have about 3,500 vehicles running around Australia’s cities between them, while the merger of Kings Transport with Blue Circle Logistics saw its fleet numbers jump above 1,100. A new entrant, ParcelGroup Direct, stitched together half-a-dozen courier players to amass a fleet of 800 and boast integrated supply chain functionality. More M&A activity seems likely.

Of the specialist warehousing providers, global players like CEVA, DHL, Schenker and Menlo compete in Australia with quality local operators like Costa, SCT and Versacold.

But there is significant capacity and capability up and down the list, names that may not be familiar with budgets not in the Toll stratosphere, but still offering the flexible, quality service customers demand.

Let the negotiations begin.


  1. Toll Holdings
  2. Linfox Australia
  3. Star Track Express
  4. TNT Express
  5. Kings Transport and Logistics
  6. Allied Express Transport
  7. K&S Freighters
  8. Mannway Logistics
  9. CEVA Logistics
  10. 1st Fleet
  11. ParcelDirect Group
  12. Glen Cameron Group
  13. Border Express
  14. Northline
  15. Booth Transport
  16. Wettenhalls Group
  17. Schenker Australia
  18. Simon National Carriers
  19. DHL Supply Chain
  20. Swire Cold Storage

(Based on the number of company-owned and dedicated sub-contracted vehicles of those companies participating in the survey)


  1. Toll Holdings
  2. Linfox Australia
  3. Menlo Worldwide Logistics
  4. CEVA Logistics
  5. Costa Logistics
  6. DHL Supply Chain
  7. SCT Logistics
  8. Versacold Logistics
  9. TNT Express
  10. 1st Fleet
  11. K&S Freighters
  12. Schenker Australia
  13. Simon National Carriers
  14. Booth Transport
  15. Glen Cameron Group
  16. Border Express
  17. Axima
  18. 18. Deluxe Freight Systems
  19. Supply-LINQ
  20. MJ Logistics

(Based on the total warehousing space managed by those companies participating in the survey)

For the full list click here.

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