Trucking industry facing leaner times as consumer demand drops

MONTREAL — The Canadian trucking industry faces a shaky market as cargo volumes and freight rates continue to fall compared with the soaring highs seen during the pandemic.

Trucking HR Canada, a trade group, says declining demand prompted an employment decrease of more than 20,500 jobs or seven per cent of the driver workforce in the first three months of this year compared with December 2022.

Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, says smaller fleets with fewer resources and contracts are especially prone to a downturn, which comes as consumers spend more on services and less on household items.

Millian says an even steeper drop in shipments in the United States has also dented Canadian trucker revenues, as drivers struggle to find loads to haul back to Canada after making deliveries south of the border.

Earlier this month, 94-year-old American trucking giant Yellow Corp. declared bankruptcy after years of financial struggles, a demise that supply chain expert John Gradek calls the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile, profit margins in a competitive industry grow even thinner, as prices for long-distance loads fell seven per cent year over year last month in the U.S., according to that country’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.