Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: Trucking executives tackle the state of Canadian freight at TCA event; Garneau reappointed as transport minister; and TIP cleared to buy Trailer Wizards.
As Canada’s freight market concludes a challenging year, dogged by an excess of trucks and lower volumes, executives speaking at a Truckload Carriers Association event near Toronto affirmed that conditions remained choppy but also pointed to reasons for optimism.
“Most retailers have told us in their modeling, at least for Canada, that they see a pretty good Christmas season, so we’ve seen upticks in that,” Bison Transport CFO Damiano Coniglio said at TCA’s Bridging Border Barriers in Brampton, Ontario, on Nov. 20.
But Coniglio characterized 2019’s market as complicated. Bison, he said, has had to adjust to weakness in its contracted truckload business.
“We’ve tended now to be in the spot market more this year, brokering loads, because ultimately the contracted rate isn’t there in our truckload business,” Coniglio said.
Coniglio made the comments during a discussion with Trevor Kurtz, general manager of Brian Kurtz Trucking, and FreightWaves Chief Insight Officer Dean Croke. Chris Henry, vice president of carrier profitability at FreightWaves and manager of the TCA’s Profitability Program, moderated.
Kurtz said the freight market appears to be in the midst of a natural correction.
“Things have slowed and started to right themselves,” he said.
Kurtz noted that carriers “that grew to chase the dollar” in 2018 were facing a reckoning of sorts with an excess of trucks without the business to sustain them.
Croke helped ground the discussion with North American data from the FreightWaves SONAR platform.
Issues for Canadian carriers to watch closely include the declines in industrial production and intermodal volumes.
“That’s alarming, particularly in Canada,” Croke said.
Garneau stays on as transport minister
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reappointed Marc Garneau as federal transport minister, one of the few cabinet members to remain in a post-election shuffle on Nov. 20.
Garneau has had a strong working relationship with the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) even as the Trudeau government moved ahead on policies that rankled the industry, particularly the carbon tax.
The CTA has lauded Garneau for listening to industry feedback about the implementation of Canada’s electronic logging device (ELD) rule. As a result, the mandate will require third-party certification of ELD devices.
In the short term, Garneau faces an ongoing strike of more than 3,000 Canadian National (CN) workers. Going forward, he will face pressure from the trucking industry to go after carriers operating under the Driver Inc. model and also ensure rapid implementation of mandatory driver training standards.
Feds clear TIP Trailer Services to acquire Trailer Wizards
Federal regulators gave Netherlands-based TIP Trailer Services the green light to acquire Canada’s Trailer Wizards.
Tip announced on Nov. 19 that Competition Bureau Canada has issued a no-action letter, allowing the acquisition to close in January.
The acquisition adds more than 23,000 trailers and 21 locations to TIP’s portfolio.
TIP’s newly enlarged Canadian division will have more than 33,000 trailers.