Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Chicago is the nation's freight hub

Sector Strengths

  • Chicago has a full suite of transportation, distribution, and logistics companies, with over 14,593 TDL firms[1] – the highest number in the country – operating in Chicago, including 24 of the top 25 third party logistics providers, including the top 5: H. Robinson, XPO Logistics, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, J.B. Hunt, and Expeditors.[2]
  • The TDL industry in Chicago is the nation’s second largest, by number employed, with 224,250 employed as of the end of the second quarter 2020.[3]
  • Within the broader TDL industry, Chicago leads the nation in truck transport employment, with over 55,000 employed in the second quarter of 2020.[4]
  • Trade moving through O’Hare for first half of 2020 is up 10.06% compared to the first half of 2019, representing $110B – $25.4B export and $84.6B in imports.[5]


  • Chicago is the third largest intermodal system globally, benefiting from 200 million consumers within a 500-mile radius and 30% of North American consumers within a one-day truck drive.[6]
  • Chicago is the nation’s rail hub, with six of the seven Class I railroads operating major terminals, which is the only U.S. gateway where these Class I railroads can interchange traffic.
  • O’Hare is the nation’s second largest port by value, with 6.2% of all US trade.[7]
  • Chicago has the largest industrial market in the US by square feet with over 1/3 more inventory than the next largest market (LA).[8]

Talent Pipeline

  • Among top metros for the TDL industry, Chicago produces the most ethnically-diverse talent pool, with Chicago City Colleges Olive-Harvey College in the top 5 nationally for Black TDL talent.[9]
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne ranks number 4 in the nation for number of data science graduates.[10]
  • Chicago is ranked within the Top Ten Cities for Tech Degree Graduates.[11]
  • Chicago has the second largest data scientist workforce in the in nation.[12]
  • Chicago has 7,250 transportation, storage, and distribution managers, 6,740 logisticians, and 3,370 operations research analysts.[13]


  • Chicago has a robust ecosystem of incubators, accelerators, and industry groups, being ranked at the 7th most innovative city globally.[14] This combined with one of the most diversified economies, fosters partnerships at the intersection of tech and industries that lead to new startups and innovation.
  • The greater Chicago region includes over 200 TDL startups founded since 2010, with a total of $3.66 billion raised, $2.23 billion in 2019 alone.[15]
  • Chicago’s Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) builds research teams, matches them with funding, and awards R&D seed grants to principal investigators from University of Illinois system universities and university partners for research in TDL. 2019 grantees included research on high-speed autonomous vehicles.[16]  DPI projects to have trained and educated over 10,000 students by 2024 and generated over $700M in economic activity through research and innovation programming.
  • Illinois ranks 9th in the US for National Science Foundation awards and UIUC ranks 6th compared to nationwide universities. In 2019 Illinois institutions and small businesses received $39M for engineering research – $5M to small engineering businesses.

Top Employers

  • The Chicago metro area has more logistics and transportation companies than any other metro area on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies 2020[17]
  • In Illinois, jobs postings within the truck transportation subsector have increased 17% over last year.
    • United Airlines – 9200
    • UPS – 5500
    • Amtrak – 2095
    • Uber – 1900
    • American Airlines – 1800
    • CH Robinson – 1600
    • Echo Global Logistics – 1400
    • Coyote Logistics – 1200
    • BNSF – 715
    • CCC Information Services – 600
    • Partstown – 600
    • DSC Logistics – 550
    • J.B. Hunt – 520
    • DHL Global – 475
    • YRC – 334