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APTA Trucking Corner

Car sales? Truck sales? What we need is hope!

It was former US President Bill Clinton who talked about a “place called Hope” and that is what we need to weather the current storm. Hope and optimism are traits of Atlantic Canadians and we need them now more than ever.

We in the road transport industry have been operating in a world of declining freight since December of 2007 in Atlantic Canada. This situation has worsened as economic uncertainty reached epic proportions in the first quarter of 2009. What is particularly unique to Atlantic Canada is the dramatic divide being created by the freight imbalance.

What this means is that we import more into the region than we export. We have become a region of disappearing production in our traditional manufacturing sectors such as forestry and fisheries and that means that truckloads out of Atlantic Canada are hard to come by.

We are still moving full trucks into the region from points west (albeit much fewer these days) but the trucks are leaving the region empty to pick up foodstuffs and goods bound for Atlantic Canadian consumers. Consumers in Atlantic Canada have come to expect strawberries at Christmas and fresh flowers and fruit at Easter. These products are coming into the region by truck from Mexico, California, the US Desert Southwest and Florida 12 months of the year. The fact that trucks have to run empty to retrieve these products leads to higher prices for fresh produce.

The road transport sector like the auto sector in Atlantic Canada is also being squeezed by the financial institutions in the present environment. Whether you are a road transport company or a truck dealership, banks today are reducing lines of credit, cancelling overdraft capabilities and generally making it harder to access operating funds.

Tightening credit combined with freight imbalances and consumer fears in regards to the economy are creating a scenario where people will just sit tight and not make decisions on purchases or even service to their vehicles.

We in the road transport industry have much in common with the auto industry, we haul your new vehicles to your dealerships, we share parts suppliers and we have combined anxiety over the coming year and what it will hold for our combined sectors in total.

During the “Great Depression” years in Canada, then Prime Minister Bennett introduced reforms and stimulus packages to our nation. Our present Federal Government is following the same approach. However, they do not seem to have partners for progress and economic success with Canada’s banks.

Nor do the energy utilities understand that increasing power rates at this point in history will cripple both the manufacturing and retail sectors. Our public sector unions (New Brunswick) are suggesting bringing back road tolls to raise government revenues but that will only increase transportation costs. Our electric utilities need to hold the line on energy pricing, our public sector unions should be directing their pension investment funds to invest in Atlantic Canada and the banks need to start putting money back into the hands of the private sector such as truck and auto dealerships to ignite the fire under the economy in Atlantic Canada once again.

Every Atlantic Canadian has the spirit of past success within them, there is a piece of Atlantic Canada’s leading entrepreneurs from the past in all of us. Who will become the next Steele, Irving, McCain or Joudrey? It is time for hope. And remember, if you bought it, a truck brought it! Peter A. Nelson is the Executive Director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. He may be contacted at (506)-855-2782 or email him at:

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