Countries come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s no country quite like Canada. Canadians are used to dealing with long drives and harsh weather, but when it comes to the logistics operations of a business, things get significantly more complex than what is experienced in many other countries. Here, we will explore many of the factors that impact the logistics of a business operating in Canada, as well as explain how many companies overcome these challenges by leveraging the resources of 3PL logistics providers.

Size of Country

For starters, it’s no secret that Canada is simply massive in terms of area. As the second-largest country in the world, Canada has over 9.9 million square kilometers within its borders. This fact alone means that simply traveling from one side of the country to the other requires significant resources in place to successfully make the trip. Couple this with the fact that the Canada is surrounded mostly by oceans, one of which is frozen and inhospitable for a large portion of the year, and you can quickly see how these factors can make transportation of goods quite difficult.

Since the country is so vast, fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance are critical factors in the logistics performance for Canadian companies. There’s simply no getting around the fact that trucks use fuel, and the more miles they cover, the sooner they will require maintenance. Canadian companies must invest substantial resources and effort to maintain an effective transportation fleet, and this investment may result in tighter profit margins in highly competitive markets.

Vast Distances Between Population Centers

In addition to simply being a huge country, Canada’s population tends to be focused on a handful of major city centers, with medium-sized and smaller cities scattered in between to varying levels of frequency. Canada’s two largest cities, being Toronto and Montreal, are separated by a distance of approximately 550k. While this may seem like a significant distance, the third largest city in Canada is Calgary, a whopping 3,400km away from Toronto. Things only get bigger when you consider the distance between two of Canada’s largest ports (Vancouver and Halifax) is over 6,100km.

These distances are staggering, and even with these numbers, we still haven’t taken in to consideration how far north the country extends. Transporting goods across Canada is a mammoth task, and not something that every company is capable of. For nationwide transportation and warehousing needs, 3PL logistics providers are often the only solution for many companies who otherwise simply don’t have the resources or capability to reach all of their markets.

Majority of Population is Near the US Border

While the distance between Atlantic and Pacific oceans is a major consideration for Canadian businesses, so too is the proximity of the bulk of the Canadian population to the US border. Recent estimates from the Canadian Census show that of the 23 million people in Canada, nearly 90% of the population lives within 100km of the US border. In addition, with the relatively free flow of goods across the border in both directions, Canadian companies must face the reality that their logistics operations are significantly impacted by those of the United States. US customs and border regulations play a major role in the ability of Canadian businesses to transport goods to their customers in major Canadian cities, as well as affect the competitive situation as US products flood these same markets.

Canadian businesses may choose to leverage the international expertise of a 3PL logistics provider in order to more effectively manage these factors, and improve their competitive situation in core markets. 3PL logistics providers help improve overall distribution efficiencies at each step in the supply chain.

Climate Factors

While it may seem stereotypical to talk about the severity of Canadian winters, there is a certain level of truth to it. Winters in Canada can range from mild and short to fast and furious, and sometimes both, even within the same season. The size of the country, and the fact that cities can be found in all geographic areas of the country from mountains to coasts to prairies, means that virtually every major city has a unique climate. For example, Vancouver winters are generally mild, while cities like Calgary get buried in snow, and others like Winnipeg experience plummeting temperatures.

Aside from the obvious need for things like snow tires in the winter, this variety of climates in major cities means that companies who deal with temperature-sensitive products must put extra care and precaution in to their warehousing and transportation resources. Sometimes it means extra heating equipment, while other times additional refrigeration may be needed.

For companies looking to streamline their supply chain and improve efficiencies, investing in the resources necessary to successfully overcome these factors is not always a wise move. Canadian companies can choose to go with a 3PL logistics provider who has extensive fleet resources and a nationwide network of distribution facilities (DCs) that can meet their needs for climate control and product handling.


As you can see, it’s not always easy doing business across a country like Canada. Expanding to a new market in a new city is not a simple matter of an extra hour or two of driving time. These factors mean that Canada is a challenging country for many businesses to thrive in, but they are certainly not insurmountable. Examining the logistics needs of your company, and then evaluating the services available from a 3PL logistics provider can often highlight many positive opportunities. For some, these opportunities may come in the form of additional warehousing or expanded transportation capabilities, for others it may mean a smoother transition of goods across the border or from one ocean port to another.

Whatever challenges your company is facing, you can be sure that a 3PL logistics provider like SCI can help your business succeed in Canada.

There are few companies in the world that can match the resources and expertise that SCI brings to Canadian businesses. Contact us today and let us help you achieve your goals.