Bill Cameron, the controversial Truck News columnist and owner of four-truck flatdeck fleet Parks Transportation, has a grim outlook on the future for small carriers. He writes in the June issue that there is little interest among big carriers in buying up smaller trucking firms. This is based partly on Bill’s own experience.
He said his profitable fleet with a clean CVOR commanded little to no interest when he shopped it around a few years ago while suffering from a mystery illness. I don’t share Bill’s opinion that there’s no future for small fleets. I think there’ll always be room for well-managed smaller carriers that can provide a heightened level of attention and service to shippers. Nonetheless, his opinion, based on his view from the trenches, provides some interesting fodder. I’ll quote from his column here and you can read the full thing next week when the June issue hits the streets.
“I think, unless the North American economy improves – a lot – and the method of operation of a typical larger trucking company changes drastically, then most of us small operators will, within the next decade, go the way of the dodo bird.
“Since the mid-point of the recession, I’ve noticed an escalation in the number of small carriers losing longstanding customers – sometimes the types of customers that used most of the carrier’s equipment. The reason is almost always rate-related. The longest economic slowdown in recent memory has driven even longstanding shippers and receivers to stray from loyal carriers to the cheapest trucks, sometimes even without comparable equipment…
“Bluntly put, larger carriers will not buy you out, no matter the price, unless you have some sort of significant specialty with relatively new equipment. Why would they bother? They may have as many salespeople as you have drivers. If your workload is worth coveting (not likely, by their standards) you’ll likely just be underbid, or they can wait you out until you give up and then send their salespeople to your old customers.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies