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Maple Leaf Motoring: TFI eyes more U.S. final mile acquisitions

CEO Alain Bedard says company may buy more firms in the United States as it looks to bolster underperforming logistics and final mile units and clean up market.

TFI's U.S. logistics and final mile units are underperforming their Canadian counterparts. Photo: TForce

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: Digging into TFI’s third-quarter earnings, Mullen CEO moves on after the election, and Bison to install AI safety system in trucks.

TFI International (TSX:TFI) CEO Alain Bedard had a lot to be happy about during the third quarter despite complaints about Driver Inc and the trade wars. TFI’s trucking and less-than-truckload businesses brought herculean performance, particularly with Canadian truckload units pulling off an operating ratio of 83 percent. It’s a remarkable feat in North America, particularly Canada where some established firms run into the high 90s at times. 

But the company’s logistics and final mile segment was another story, as operating profit dropped by C$18 million as revenue increased by 8% to C$256.8 million. As Bedard explained to analysts, the weakness came from the United States, where TFI has its collection of TForce businesses.

One of TFI’s August acquisitions, assets of Georgia-based US Logistics, will help the segment. Bedard said the acquisition, which has roots in Dicom, brought in about US$50 million in revenue, though not a huge amount of profits. 

Bedard seemed most excited about adding more medical logistics business to TFI’s portfolio. He also suggested the company might buy up more U.S. final mile companies “to eliminate some of the players in the market who cannot make money or don’t like to make money.”

Until the summer, U.S. logistics and final mile reported directly to Bedard. Now they report to executive vice president Kal Atwal, who previously oversaw just the Canadian counterparts. 

“We have a very good team in U.S. They needed more support,” Bedard said. “Maybe I was not doing a good enough job.”

Mullen CEO embraces government spending

Murray Mullen, CEO of Mullen Group (TSX:MTL), hasn’t been shy of his desire to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government booted out of office. But during a call to discuss third-quarter results, the Alberta executive was ready had moved on from Trudeau’s reelection

“The election is over. Let’s get over it. Let’s think about life, running our business,” Mullen said.

And then some. He also suggested that the consumer spending pushing up Mullen’s less-than-truckload business had roots in the “propensity of governments to invest” in Canada’s social safety net. 

He also welcomed federal investment in pipelines, namely the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. 

“One of our biggest customers is the federal government,” he said, referring to Mullen’s oil services business.

Bison to install AI safety systems in trucks

Bison Transport, one of Canada’s largest carriers, will install artificial intelligence-based driver monitoring systems in some of its 120 trucks. 

The Bison trucks will get outfitted with Guardian from Australia-based Seeing Machines. The real-time system aims to prevent driver fatigue and distraction-related incidents.

Guardian analyzes eye, face, and head movements, and it alerts drivers when certain parameters are exceeded, with audible alarms and vibrations.

One Comment

  1. Noble1

    Since the TFI International CEO ,quote: “had a lot to be happy about during the third quarter ” ,

    I’ll be a contrarian and make a bearish call on the stock . I’ll also boldly predict an insider(s) will dispose of some shares in the open market .

    Stay Tuned !

    In my humble opinion ………

Comments are closed.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]