Not since before the Great Recession of 2007-09 took hold has the term “M&A” been tossed around in connection with trucking. But that may be changing.

One recent research study indicates that over half of the motor carriers surveyed would be interested in buying or selling a firm— with larger carriers (over $25 million in revenues) being twice as likely to be (at least) interested in buying, compared to smaller carriers (under $25 million in revenues).

Interest in potentially engaging in M&A activity was covered in the recent Second Quarter Business Expectations Survey released by Transport Capital Partners (TCP).

“The carriers are looking for partners to ‘tango’ with as volume and rate expectations are very positive,” stated Richard Mikes, TCP partner and survey founder said. “This means buyers have an incentive to step forward and sellers have enhanced asset values and cash flows waiting to be courted.”

And while TCP partner Lana Batts emphasized this is “an ideal time to strategically determine what the best future strategy is and develop a plan to maximize the [given] carrier’s value proposition,” she also pointed out that “even though 86% of the carriers said they have access to reasonable credit, only one-half see the 18 months ahead as a possible key time to invest in buying new companies.”

For another perspective, consider that PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers) in its Q1 M&A analysis of the global transportation and logistics (T&L) industry found the quarter’s deal market to be “smaller but still active.” However, echoing TCP’s positive take, PwC contended that that activity is “likely to change” over the rest of this year.

“Buoyed by accommodative capital markets,” stated the PwC report, “financial investors remain interested in the [global T&L] sector, and strategic investors have continued to improve their liquidity. Accordingly, we are optimistic that deal flow over the full year should be robust by historical standards.”

PwC also observed that “in short, we would characterize the transportation and logistics deal market [going forward] as fairly active but with a focus on smaller transactions.”

Returning to the TCP survey, it also asked if carriers would consider leaving trucking if tonnages do not increase in the next six months. Only 11% said “Yes” for the last two quarters - which compares positively to the over one-fifth who said “Yes” back in February 2009 when the Great Recession was still on.

TCP added that 18% of “smaller” carriers gave a similar response, while only 8% of larger carriers did.

“Our interface with larger carriers and investors indicates a higher degree of future confidence and our assistance in strategic analysis generally confirms the survey results on the cross currents evidenced this past quarter,” Mikes noted.

Per another TCP question, only 53% of the carriers responding said they are receiving an “adequate rate of return” to buy new equipment - compared to 47% that are not satisfied with the rate of return. Only 45% of the smaller carriers said they are receiving adequate returns, compared to 57% of the larger carriers.