TORONTO, Ont. — Ontario carriers remain optimistic, but they do have concerns weighing on their minds, according to the latest Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) Business e-Pulse Survey.
The Q2 survey found that 72% of the 65 carriers that responded were ‘optimistic’ about the trucking industry’s overall prospects over the next three months, down from 75% in the Q1 survey. The OTA said rising fuel prices and concerns about the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan may have caused the slight decline. Only 7% of carriers said they were ‘pessimistic’ about where the industry is headed and 21% said they were unsure.
Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said freight volumes have increased compared to a year ago. Intra-Ontario freight seems to be picking up, with 53% reporting an increase, up 20% compared to the last survey. Inter-provincial freight has improved for 60% of responding carriers, a 24% improvement over the last survey.
Northbound US freight has increased for 61% of respondents while southbound US freight volumes continue to lag, with just 39% reporting an increase in southbound volumes.
Loaded miles are increasing for 44% of responding carriers, up 5% from last survey. Most carriers reported the average length of haul is staying about the same while 15% said it is increasing.
Twenty-two per cent of carriers sad the rate environment for intra-Ontario freight is improving, up from 16% last quarter. However, most carriers characterized the rate environment as “about the same.”
Thirty-nine per cent of carriers said the freight rate environment for inter-provincial freight is improving, up 14% from last quarter and setting a new high since the OTA began conducting the survey in 2008.
Northbound US freight rates are also improving, according to 59% of responding carriers, which is a 20% improvement from last quarter.
Southbound US freight rates remain weak, the survey found, but 25% indicated an improving rate environment. Twenty-seven per cent reported decreased rates for southbound loads while 28% reported no change.
More carriers are reporting a decrease in capacity. Thirty-eight per cent said capacity decreased over the past quarter, up 15% from the previous survey. Thirty per cent expect capacity to continue decreasing over the next six month. However, 34% of respondents said they felt capacity actually increased over the past quarter.
About half of responding carriers said they plan to hire more company drivers (48%) and owner/operators (46%) over the next few months.
Similarly, 40% of carriers plan to add new tractors to their fleets while 46% are planning trailer purchases.
Carriers, it seems, are beginning to face shipper resistance to fuel surcharges. Seventy-eight per cent said their customers are paying a ‘reasonable surcharge,’ however that is down 10% from last quarter and the lowest number reported in the history of the survey.
The survey also found more shippers are looking to lock in capacity, with 33% of respondents indicating customers are lengthening timeframes in contracts, up 9% from last quarter.
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