Transportation Contractors Offer Bleak Market Assessment in Latest ARTBA Survey

Uncertainty over long-term highway and transit bill a driving factor says survey.

WASHINGTON - Transportation contractors continue to deal with a very challenging economic environment that is impacting employment and capital spending decisions, with more than half of survey respondents saying they are working below 75 percent of capacity.

"We cannot continue working day-to-day without long-term planning," said one contractor in the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's (ARTBA) latest "Quarterly Market Conditions" report. According to another: "It's worse than ever before in my lifetime. Many competitors have closed their doors. We have been in a four-year downturn with no hopes of turning things around. Most left are just clinging to stay open."

Fifty percent said they have fewer workers on payroll, while just 13 percent say they have more. Project backlogs, a key indicator of market stability and performance, are down with 56 percent reporting less work in the queue. Similarly, overall capital spending is lower at 49 percent of firms while profit margins are down at 61 percent of companies. And 74 percent say materials costs are climbing.

Contractors are very concerned about the continuing congressional delays over reauthorization of the six-year highway/transit investment bill. "We need a long-term transportation spending package," said one. Another said his firm is putting capital spending and hiring until the highway/transit bill is passed.

Expectations for the market in the remainder of 2011 are also low. "If I don't pick up some contracts soon, I will have to shut down operations," shared one industry executive.

Full results can be found at

For 108 years, ARTBA has represented the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, news media and general public.