TT’s Top 50 Logistics Companies.

There was a time when it was a simple matter to understand the differences between a trucking fleet and a logistics provider.

But those days are gone. And as this year’s edition of Transport Topics Top 50 Logistics Companies shows, it’s only getting harder to distinguish the two.

Companies that used to be simply logistics providers are operating trucks and hiring owner-operators to move freight loads, just as companies that used to be simply fleets are offering the full complement of logistics services.

The top 10 logistics operations in our rankings this year include not only logistics pioneer UPS Supply Chain Solutions, but also Schneider National and J.B. Hunt Transport Services — two operators that used to identify themselves as trucking companies — and the logistics operation of truck leasing giant Ryder System Inc., Ryder Supply Chain Solutions.

Exel once again remained at the top of our rankings and was joined in the top 10 by rivals Ceva Logistics, DB Schenker USA and Neovia Logistics, the predecessor to Caterpillar’s logistics company.

AmeriCold is back in the top 10, now that we’ve been able to secure new revenue estimates for the company, as is C.H. Robinson Worldwide.

Some of the line-blurring has come from a flood of investor money into the logistics arena, as investors seek to ride the wave of increased product activity.

As Daniel P. Bearth writes in our report, U.S. logistics spending last year grew by about 6%, to almost $142 billion, and one consultant predicted that it will grow by up to 10% this year.

The growing globalization of manufacturing is helping fuel the growth of logistics operations, as more U.S. companies import more material from countries around the world and sell more products as well.

And the ongoing outsourcing wave at companies is helping fuel the growth of this industry, as more companies shed their internal freight management staff in favor of outside vendors.

Worldwide, according to one expert we talked to, the top 50 logistics companies now control almost half of the total market, as more roll-ups of smaller operators continue.

During 2012, North America regained the No. 2 spot in logistics expenditures at just under $168

billion, reclaiming the mantel from Europe, where logistics spending declined last year. But spending here pales when compared with the Asia-Pacific region, where spending is estimated to exceed $200 billion a year.

Find here the list for 2012. 2012Log50