Conference links up data and economic outlooks

Before adjourning to a rain-drenched golf course, the speakers at the 2014 Link Conference and Golf Tournament all hit holes-in-one with their presentations.

The event which was held at Lionhead Golf and Country Club in Brampton, Ontario, was TransCore LinkLogistics’ 16th annual summer information and networking session. Five speakers were on the morning’s roster—three from TransCore—and two well-known industry thought-leaders.

Claudia Milicevic, senior director and general manager of TransCore, opened the day. She provided a snapshot of current load volumes and said in June, the company saw 25,000 loads per day posted on its load board. In comparison in June 2013, the number was 17,000 loads per day. The six month average for the first half of 2014 was also higher than in 2013 with 24,000 loads (vs. 16.500) and 32,500 trucks.

“Our truck volume capacity on the system is really low. It’s at historical low volumes. We haven’t seen that since 2011,” she said. “It’s really favouring the carrier right now. There is a lot more freight than there are trucks.”

The company sees a truck-to-load ratio of 1.47, but that doesn’t account for trucks posted multiple times by carriers trying to fill LTL lanes. In the second quarter of 2013, there were 2.3 trucks posted for every load.

Milicevic also noted that in Q1 2014, “there probably weren’t as many trucks posted because of the weather and the terrible winter conditions we had. There were a lot more load volumes that needed to be moved.”

She added, “our posting volumes are a great indicator of what’s happening in the economy and our load postings have been phenomenal this year.

“2014 is the highest load volumes we’ve ever had, and trucks started off at the lowest point this year.”

Beyond the numbers, Milicevic made sure the audience heard about the company’s new-for-2014 products including Loadlink Web (which is getting a complete update this year), LinkDispatch, DispatchLite (for small carriers) and DispatchCloud. She also introduced Jacksonville, Fla.-based TransCredit Inc. as TransCore’s new credit service provider. According to Milicevic, TransCredit’s reports only take into account how quickly companies make freight payments, and don’t consider the payment of other business expenses (such as rent, utilities, etc. which may get paid quicker). They also include insurance information.

Milicevic also spoke briefly about the benefits of BestPass, a road-toll group buying program that reduces the cost of tolls for users, and electronically automates the payment of toll fees.

Following Milicevic, sales manager Jane Ayn Lyndon and business development manager Brad Aitken offered several live product demonstrations.

After the mid-morning break, Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada, took to the podium to provide advice about how to manage generational differences in the workplace. She noted that not only does the trucking industry have one of the oldest workforces in the country, it is also an industry where you’ll find four generations of employees working side by side: veterans, baby boomers, generation Xers and generation Ys (or millennials). As well, beyond experiencing a driver shortage, there are also shortages of qualified people to work in almost all of the other positions.

“Managing the generational workforces is emerging as a challenge for many fleets,” she noting that if a company can do a good job of managing the generations, it can improve its recruitment and retention numbers.

“Each generation has certain expectations, attitudes and behaviours and habits and motivational buttons. These different values, these different ideas and different ways of getting things done lead to different ways of communicating in the workplace. What we are seeing is you can have tensions within the workplace. When these paths collide and people have to work together, there can be differences and how you manage those can improve the morale within your company.”

Splinter offered up a description of each group’s typical preferences and working styles, listed what motivates them and offered some advice about tactics not to use when managing them as well.

(To read more about Splinter’s strategies for managing different generational groups, see )

For companies that could use assistance in improving its HR practices and better managing its employees, Splinter suggested utilizing the HR Circle Check tool offered on the organization’s website.

Truck News publisher Lou Smyrlis wrapped up the day’s presentations, with a talk about the economic health of the trucking industry in Canada and the US. While he sees many signs that should encourage optimism about the state of trucking, Smyrlis pointed out that there are almost any many negative indicators in the market. Combining those competing forces means the industry isn’t facing a smooth ride.

“Claudia always asks me if I have good news, and yes, I have good news, but to be fair to you, I’m also going to share with you some of the concerns I have when I look at the numbers overall. So I hope you like roller coaster rides because we’re going to have a bit of a roller coaster ride today.”

On the positive side, Smyrlis said optimists are currently outnumbering pessimists when it comes to the predicting the economic future, and that nobody is talking about a possible recession, which they were even a few months back.

Other positive factors include near-record tonnage figures in the US, the belief that freight volumes are going to be climbing, production volume increases by Canadian companies, an expectation by Canadian shippers that shipping volumes will increase, and a prediction by shippers that they will be increasing their use of trucks over other modes, including intermodal and rail.

On the negative side, he pointed out the low (2%) Canadian GDP, that fact that despite the ongoing expectation that rates will eventually rise, they haven’t done so yet, and the pressures put on carriers by the freight bid process. He also noted the reluctance of shippers to pay fuel surcharges as another growing problem for carriers.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.