TORONTO, Ont. — Ontario trucking companies are increasingly optimistic about their prospects going forward, according to the latest Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) Business e-Pulse Survey.
The most recent edition shows the fourth consecutive quarter of improving optimism among the 75 fleets that responded.
Fifty-two per cent of carriers said they were optmistic about the overall prospects of the next three months, which marks the first time the majority voiced optimism since the OTA began its survey in the third quarter of 2008. In the first quarter of 2009, for instance, only 17% of carriers were optimistic about the impending quarter.
But while carriers are increasingly optimistic, many (37%) remain uncertain.
“The survey results give credence to the view that the worst is over for the economy, but things remain fragile. There is still concern for the US economy, in particular southbound shipments, which also reflects upon the outlook for Ontario’s export-based economy as well,” surmised OTA president, David Bradley.
The OTA survey indicated the recession ended in the second half of 2009. Eighty-two per cent of respondents feel the Canadian economy has bottomed out, 69% think things can only get better in Ontario and 59% feel the US economy is on the mend.
Fewer carriers reported declines in freight volumes over the past three months in intra-Ontario, interprovincial, southbound US and northbound US lanes. Volume improvements were more pronounced within Canada than across the border, the survey found. Thirty-four per cent of carriers suffered freight volume losses of 20% or more over the past year and 23% said they suffered a 10-19% decline in freight.
Freight rates continued to be a source of concern, according to the latest survey, but less than 11% of respondents reported that rates were continuing to fall while 35% felt that way a year ago. Most respondents said rates are remaining at current levels but some firms reported modest prospects for firming rates over the next six months.
Seventy-two per cent of carriers said they are collecting a reasonable fuel surcharge and 69% said they’re charging accessorial fees to most or all of their customers.
It seems some shippers are still slow in paying their bills, but the percentage of carriers reporting that shippers are taking longer to pay has fallen below 40% for the first time in the survey’s history.
Most carrier said they do not intend to increase the size of their driver pools, but they also conceded the worst of the layoffs are behind us. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents said their net number of drivers will remain unchanged over the next three months, while 27% said they’d be hiring and only 5% said they’d be shrinking their driver force.
As far as equipment is concerned, most fleets seem ready to stand pat. Sixty-four per cent said they will not change the net number of tractors or trailers in their fleet, while 26% say they’ll add tractors and 29% say they’ll be buying trailers. Those are improvements over previous surveys. Only 10% of fleets plan to reduce their number of tractors and 7% will shrink their trailer capacity.
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