Exploring the State of the Canadian Transportation Industry

By Brian Everett, Lead Strategist for the Women In Trucking Association and Industry Thought Leader in Transportation Marketing and Sales

Last month, I met with more than 40 sales, marketing and business professionals in transportation and logistics at the Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel during a transportation marketing and sales conference. The dialogue at this conference was provocative - and extremely relevant in today's competitive market in North American transportation. I was particularly impressed with the gender balance of those who attended - a very balanced mix of high-level men and women, most of whom made significant contribution to the discussion. Here are just a few of the items covered:

State of Canada’s Transportation Industry
Part of the discussion included context around the state of the commercial freight industry in North America, and how marketing and sales metrics are helping to drive productivity in the industry. Attendees expressed some concerns over potential changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and their impact on trade (and ultimately transportation and logistics activity) between companies in Canada and the United States. There’s also ongoing concern over tight trucking capacity and how to creatively address it to maximize productivity and profitability.

The ongoing challenges involving the driver shortage also continue to contribute to capacity problems. Of course, the Women In Trucking Association will continue to play an important role in helping its members (and the industry at large) to recruit more female professionals drivers!

Many attendees expressed relative optimism about the current state of the transportation and logistics industry. In fact, it was recently reported that market spot market load volumes through TransCore Link Logistics’ LoadLink load board reached an all-time high in recent months. Canadian and cross-border load volumes surpassed all previous records, surging 81% year-over-year and 41% compared to December 2017. Intra-Canada loads accounted for 20% of the volume, and reached a 51% increase year-over-year. Cross-border load postings represented 77% of the data submitted by LoadLink users. Loads leaving Canada to the U.S. were up 99% year-over-year, while loads entering Canada surged 92%. Currently, TransCore is a member of the Women In Trucking Association. 

What’s Next for Canadian Transportation and Logistics?
These and other issues likely will have an impact on the Canadian freight business. But there are many remaining questions asked by the attendees: Can the strength of the economy and stock markets be sustained? How will the ELD mandate play out?  How much will freight rates increase? To what extent will North American supply chains be disrupted by capacity shortages? Will NAFTA be terminated and how will this play out in the three participating countries in 2018 and beyond? Stay tuned as Women In Trucking members from Canada continue to weigh in.

More Mergers and Acquisitions
One attendee suggested that merger and acquisition activity will likely continue in certain sectors of the Canadian trucking industry. “While there are thousands of truckload carriers throughout North America, no truckload carrier controls more than five percent of the total market,” one attendee said. “With interest rates relatively low and the supply of truck drivers still tight, this appears to be a good time to gain market share and drivers through mergers and acquisitions.” In addition, for companies trying to gain an entry into the last-mile delivery business, he said a purchase is an optimum way to learn the business and gain needed expertise. Even for companies in the last mile business, an acquisition can stretch geographical coverage. 

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