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Guys Gone Mild: Survey says truckers’ rosy outlook fades

TORONTO -- You want to talk fickle?

Three months ago, almost 75 percent of truckers responding to an Ontario-based survey said they were optimistic about the future of their business.

Now, just 62 percent have that rosy outlook -- most likely in reaction to cratering expectations for a U.S. economic recovery anytime soon.

The survey, incidentally, is the work of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA). The OTA conducts it every quarter. The most recent results were garnered in a survey of about 70 carriers between Oct 4 and 22.

It says business is on the rebound for most of the truckers. Approximately 60 percent say it’s up compared to a year ago.

But the most recent quarter saw a softening, they say, so that colors the truckers’ outlook.

According to an interpretive statement from the OTA, "economic growth optimism in the industry may have indeed peaked -- at least for the time being -- last quarter."

In its last survey in July, the OTA reported that carrier optimism was already peaking.

Some other survey results from the most recent poll:

U.S-bound volume? Thirty six percent of respondents say it has improved over the past three months; 21 percent say it has decreased. "The percentage of carriers stating that southbound volumes were improving is still the lowest of the four markets examined," says OTA.

Northbound from U.S. volumes: 52 percent noted improvement -- up slightly from last quarter’s results.

Intra-Ontario volumes: 42 percent say they’ve improved, down from 56 percent.

"About the same" is what most truckers reported about rates.

Rates are strongest in the northbound U.S. market, where 42 percent of the carriers reported improving rates, compared to only 9 percent who thought rates are worsening.

About 24 percent said southbound rates are improving.

Last time around, only 13 percent said they were improving.

Most carriers (82%) are satisfied with fuel surcharges.

The length of time that it is taking shippers to pay their freight bills is on the rise, and continues to be an issue.

And approximately 64 percent of the carriers said that credit conditions are staying about the same.

"Overall, there are indications that capacity and volume appear to be coming more into line," says OTA.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said that capacity had either decreased or stayed the same in the previous quarter and expected the situation to remain almost identical over the next six months.

"Clearly, excess capacity remains a problem in some markets with about a quarter of respondents reporting and forecasting capacity increases in their segment of the business."

The OTA has been conducting the survey (and more comprehensive results are available to members) quarterly since Q3, 2008.

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