Motor carrier margins fare better than expected, StatsCan survey shows

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OTTAWA, Ont. – Canadian trucking companies did surprisingly well overall in keeping their profit margins intact according to Statistics Canada’s new Quarterly Trucking Survey.

During the fourth quarter of 2009, motor carriers earned operating revenue of $9.9 billion and businesses reported operating expenses of $8.9 billion.

As a result, the operating ratio (operating expenses divided by operating revenue) was 0.898. A ratio greater than 1.000 represents an operating loss. A ratio of lower 0.95 or lower is, arguably, considered healthy for the trucking industry, although that makes for much thinner profit margins than other transportation sectors, rail in particular.

 Among the specific expense categories obtained by the survey, salaries and wages accounted for 28% of total operating expenses. For their part, fuel expenses represented 18% of the same total. All other operating expenses including such items payments to owner operators, purchased transportation services, maintenance and depreciation represented more than half (54%) of the total operating expenses incurred during the fourth quarter of the year.

Statistics Canada’s Quarterly Trucking Survey replaces the Quarterly Motor Carriers of Freight Survey, which was discontinued following the release of data for the fourth quarter of 2008. The government agency says data from the two surveys are not strictly comparable due to the expanded coverage of the Quarterly Trucking Survey, which covers all businesses with annual revenue from trucking establishments of $30,000 or more. The Quarterly Motor Carriers of Freight survey covered only for-hire carriers with annual revenue of $1 million or more.

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