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A sold out crowd attended the 2014 Surface Transportation Summit at the Mississauga Convention Centre on October 15. This year’s conference had 30 speakers and panelists and two networking tracks. While I was not able to attend all of the tracks, here are some of my key takeaways from this year’s sessions on Trends in the Economy and Trucking.

The 2015 Economic Outlook track featured a leading economist and transportation equity analyst along with two trucking company executives. Despite the recent turbulence in the stock market, Carlos Gomes, Senior Economist with the Bank of Nova Scotia, highlighted that the US economy is trending positively and expects this momentum will carry into 2015. Mr. Gomes stated that U.S. and Canadian household balance sheets are in their best shape in some time as interest rates remain low and energy prices have trended lower. In terms of economic activity, orders for manufactured goods in the U.S. have picked up and the number of backlog orders is at the highest level in years.

In addition, annual automobile sales are above 16 million units and will likely remain at elevated levels due to the average age of cars in the U.S. and Canada. Exports are also trending upwards in Canada and should be sustained by the low Canadian dollar and the fact that the U.S. remains Canada’s largest trading partner. This combination of variables suggests that Canada will benefit from the strong relationship with the United States. Mr. Gomes expects GDP growth in Canada of 3.5% this year and 4% next year.

David Newman Equity Research Analyst, Cormark Securities, noted that regulatory changes in the U.S. and driver shortages are leading to pricing improvements in the trucking and rail sectors. These shortages are pushing spot and contract rates upward. Looking at the PMI (Purchasing Manager’s Index) and ISM (Institute of Supply Management) indices, there is momentum in freight volumes. This could support healthy freight activity through the first six months of 2015. Truck orders are back to 2006 levels that reflect the confidence in the economy. Truckload carriers are consolidating with TransForce and Celadon making major acquisitions. Mr. Newman expects more consolidation in the Canadian market but he also expects the truckload division of TransForce to be spun off.

Mark Seymour, President, Kriska Holdings Limited, talked about the “discipline” and technology that Kriska employed to drive improved pricing and profits. This discipline has allowed his company to have a good “run rate” over the past few years. Driver wages and the treatment of drivers are keys to future growth at Kriska. Mark highlighted the requirement for short term (one year) pricing with long term commitments (“annual pricing conversations”).

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For the sixth consecutive year, Dan Goodwill & Associates and the Business Information Group (publishers of Canadian Shipper and MotorTruck Fleet Executive) will be co-hosting a Surface Transportation Summit. The 2014 Summit, scheduled for October 15 at the Mississauga Convention Centre, will feature expanded networking opportunities and more educational tracks. The following are some of the highlights.

The event will be kicked off by Carlos Gomes, a Senior Economist with the Bank of Nova Scotia. Carlos along with a panel of shippers and carriers, will take a look ahead at where the Canadian Economy and the Canadian Freight Industry will be going in 2015. Joining Lou Smyrlis, Publisher and Editorial Director at the Business Information Group on a panel will be David Newman, Director, Equity Research Analyst with Cormak Securities, Patrick Cain, CEO at Cain Express and Mark Seymour, President of Kriska Holdings Ltd.

This will be followed by an Executive Leadership Perspectives panel. Paul Cooper, President of SLH Transport, Douglas Harrison, CEO of Versacold Logistics, Mathieu Faure, Marketing & Sales, Intermodal, CP Rail and Rob Penner, Executive Vice President and COO, Bison Transport, will share their thoughts on some of the major issues facing their sectors of the Transportation industry.

One of the hot topics at last year’s Summit was the need for more shipper-carrier collaboration. In fact, the primary advocate who spoke on this topic was Jacquie Meyers, President of Meyers Transportation Services. Jacquie will be back this year and will discuss this topic in a panel discussion with Gary Fast, Associate Vice president, Domestic Transportation Services at Canadian Tire and Elias Demangos, President & CEO, Fortigo Transportation Management Group.

The final track of the morning will focus on Same Day Delivery Service- Challenges and Opportunities. March Wulfraat, Founder and President of MWPVL International, one of the world’s foremost experts on Amazon’s fulfillment centres and same day delivery initiatives, will address what has become one of the hottest topics in the freight industry.

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