ECONOMIC WATCH: B.C. fleets face massive Covid-19 revenue losses

LANGLEY, BC - Surveyed members of the BC Trucking Association (BCTA) are reporting a 29.8% drop in revenue due to Covid-19 - representing a further 9.3% drop since March. The province's largest trucking organization describes the trucking and motor coach companies, and their suppliers, as severely strained by the ongoing pandemic.

While trucking companies are struggling under Covid-19, motor coach operators have been hit particularly hard. (Photo: iStock)

While essential supplies such as food, fuel and medical equipment continue to move, there is less freight crossing the border or supporting Asia-Pacific trade, the BCTA says. Empty miles are also a problem.

"In these extraordinary times, we're hard hit. The viability of the road transportation industry and the economy always go hand in hand," said Dave Earle, president and CEO. Thirty-seven percent of surveyed trucking companies had to lay off an average of five employees in March.

By April, 53% of the businesses reported an average of 22 temporary layoffs, and 24% reported an average of two permanent layoffs. Large numbers of heavy trucks and buses are parked, and the businesses that supply new vehicles, parts, insurance and other services are reporting stresses of their own. Associate members who include industry suppliers reported a 35.9% drop in revenue, 7.7% lower than March.

Forty-two percent of them had temporarily laid off an average of 24 employees in March. By April 40% had laid off an average of 34 employees. Last month, 7% of respondents had reported permanent layoffs of an average of 11 employees.

Motor coach operators among them have been particularly hard, reporting a 96.1% drop in revenue. "None of these numbers are good, but we're especially concerned about motor coach companies," said Earle. "BC's motor coach businesses have been devastated by the shutdown of tourism, the cruise ship industry, ski hills and parks, and headline concerts and entertainment events." Eighty-five percent of these surveyed businesses said they were worried about their survival if current conditions continue for at least the next three months.

In contrast, 37% of motor carriers had such worries, as did 18% of associate members. "Our industry appreciates current federal and provincial government relief measures," Earle said, "but further action is required to ensure the protection of BC's supply chain in response to COVID-19 and its aftermath. We recommend strategies like expanding provincial sales tax exemptions for equipment and continued support for investment in clean technology.

For motor coach companies, an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy could help motor coach companies providing seasonal transportation survive, while we all adapt to the 'new normal' in BC."

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