Is Ontario fleet optimism wavering? (December 01, 2010)

Truck News

TORONTO, Ont. –The majority of Ontario fleets responding to the Ontario Trucking Association’s Q4 Business e-Pulse Survey are still optimistic, but some are less optimistic than they were just three months before. The Q4 survey of 70 Ontario carriers shows 62% of respondents are optimistic about the trucking industry’s prospects for the next three months, an 11% drop compared to the Q3 survey.

More than a quarter of respondents said they were “unsure” what the fourth quarter would bring. The OTA says optimism may have peaked in the last quarter for the time being as economic growth slows to a crawl.

Sixty per cent of fleets surveyed said their freight volumes have increased compared to a year ago with 21% reporting increases greater than 10%. However, a softening of freight growth has been noted in the second and third quarters.

Just 36% of fleets reported southbound US freight volumes had improved over the past three months, making the southbound market the “weak link” in terms of volumes, the OTA reported. Of the four markets examined (southbound, northbound US, intra-Ontario and interprovincial), southbound freight growth is the weakest. In fact, 21% of fleets reported southbound volumes had decreased over the past three months.

Northbound US freight is the strongest segment, with 52% of fleets reporting growth over the past quarter. Intra-Ontario and interprovincial freight appears to be softening, with 42% reporting improved volumes intra-Ontario (down from 56% last quarter) and 44% reporting volume improvements interprovincially (down from 53% last quarter).

Most respondents described the freight rate environment as “about the same” as in the third quarter. Forty-two per cent of carriers reported rate increases on northbound US freight and 24% said the rate improvement is improving for southbound loads.

The majority, 82%, say fuel surcharges are adequate but carriers continue to complain about shippers who take too long to pay their bills. Nineteen per cent of carriers reported credit availability is improving while 64% said credit conditions are about the same.

Nearly 75% of respondents reported capacity had either decreased or stayed the same as the previous quarter. The OTA concluded excess capacity remains a problem in some markets.

Fifty-four per cent of fleets said they will be hiring company drivers in the next three months, up 10% from the last quarter. Forty-two per cent said they will add owner/operators. Most fleets, however, will not be adding to their net fleet size. Just 44% of fleets indicated they would be adding tractors to their fleet.

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