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Canada's Top 100 Carriers


TORONTO, ON — Well, it's no surprise to see Transforce at the head of this year's Top 100 list. It's very odd, on the other hand, to see Vitran missing from last year's third-place position. Elsewhere on the list, there has been movement up and down but none of the changes were wildly dramatic.

The Vitran story did have some drama to it late last year, with Transforce ultimately winning a bidding war with Manitoulin Transport. Already holding about 20 percent of Vitran, the Quebec giant bought the rest of its Canadian assets for a reported US$6.50 per share. Having bid US$6.00 previously, Manitoulin chose not to fight further.

Winnipeg's TransX filled that number three spot on the Top 100 list, moving up from sixth. The Mullen Group stayed in second, and not that far behind Transforce.

Will there be other failures and mergers in 2014? Your guess is as good as ours but the fact is we're another year away from the recent disasters in the U.S. economy and things are looking up. In fact modest growth in both freight volume and revenue is in the forecast for the next few years.

Judging the state of the industry in early 2014 is no easy task but even if there's no obvious economic doom and gloom on the horizon, there is still the usual uncertainty and not enough money out there to satisfy all the needs and wants. And of course there are far, far too many compliance potholes to negotiate, some of them deep enough to swallow a 53-footer.

The biggest of them by a long shot concerns hours of service and the serious productivity hit that's been taken by highway carriers. Which is probably where that 53-ft trailer went. Meaning, for instance, it was once possible for an owner-operator we know to do three Toronto-Chicago rounders in a week cleanly and now he's down to two. Adios to two trailer loads.

There are also signs, which were entirely predictable, that driver pay is being adversely affected, especially for all those with a mileage-based compensation package. The driver work week has been significantly shortened, so the math is simple. And along with the increasing demands of CSA and safety compliance in general, the truck-driving job thus looks less and less attractive to young people about to enter the workforce. We don't need this.

In fact nobody's happy with the CSA safety-monitoring program, not even an arm of the U.S. government that created it. A recent Government Accountability Office review of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA regime reinforces industry concerns with the program and calls for reform, according to the American Trucking Associations.

Especially egregious is the safety enforcement program's inability to assess the safety of small carriers accurately.

So there we are early in the new year. No thanks to regulatory realities, the survivor fleets continue surviving. Resilience is the name of the game. As it always has been.

See the Top 100 list here. 

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