How the Coronavirus Is Impacting the Trucking IndustryMay 4, 2020
From Disrupted Supply Chains to Emergency Deliveries, the Effects Are Far-Reaching & Far from Fully Known
COVID-19 has deeply impacted several aspects of the trucking industry. From recruitment and regulations to load demands, motor carrier policies, and more, the trucking industry—like so many other industries in the U.S.—has experienced drastic changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, truckers, shippers, brokers, office workers, and even motor carriers are confronting these effects and doing their best to respond and carry on.
5 Impacts of COVID-19 on the Trucking Industry
These impacts, while possibly just the beginning, have already made waves across the U.S. trucking industry.
1. Training & licensing for new truckers has been disrupted.
In-person training has largely been suspended, with everything being pushed online, to the extent possible. Additionally:
- Drivers’ license departments across the country are closed: This makes it impossible for people in some states to obtain their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).
- Some types of truck drivers may need additional in-person training: This can be the case for handling hazardous, refrigerated, or volatile substances.
All of this has created fears that the disruption in driver training and licensing may end up intensifying the trucker shortage the U.S. has been struggling within recent years.
2. Some sectors of the trucking industry have been derailed.
Truckers and motor carriers that haul goods for events, auto parts for manufacturers, restaurants, retail centers, and more have seen jobs and demand screech to a haul. Some have had to cut back hours. Others have tried to parlay resources to help cover emergency delivery needs.
Federal authorities have taken some measures to provide financial relief and support to drivers and trucking companies negatively affected by the coronavirus. There’s no telling whether that will be enough to keep some of the motor carriers that are struggling the most afloat.
3. Other sectors have been extraordinarily busy.
These include truckers and motor carriers transporting cleaning supplies, bottled water, non-perishables, other grocery items, medical supplies, and more. Many have seen demand skyrocket well beyond what they can keep up with.
The exponential stress on these individuals and companies can present its own challenges and risks, particularly when it comes to the greater risks of virus exposure while carrying out their jobs and trying to keep up with demand.
4. Federal trucking regulations have been adjusted.
Recognizing the extraordinary role the trucking industry has been playing in supporting the nation during the pandemic—and giving a nod to the impacts the coronavirus has had on the industry and the U.S. as a whole—federal authorities have made number of moves to adjust all sorts of trucking regulations. This includes (and is not limited to):
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suspension of HOS rules until May 15: The initial HOS rule suspension was issued on March 13, 2020, extending to those providing “transportation to meet the immediate needs for” food supplies, medical supplies, sanitation supplies, etc. Days later on March 18th, the FMCSA extended this order to include those transporting liquified gases for refrigeration and cooling.
- FMCSA waivers for expiring medical cards or CDLs: On March 24th, the FMCSA announced a limited waiver for truckers whose CDLs or medical cards expire from March 1st through June 30th. This was largely driven by mass closures of clinics and licensing bureaus across the U.S.
- New U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guidance regarding drug and alcohol testing for truckers: In light of clinics and labs either being shutdown or dedicated to supporting the fight against COVID-19, the DOT has stated that all reasonable efforts should be made to conduct drug and alcohol testing on truck drivers (as required under federal regulations). If, however, it is not possible to carry out this testing due to closures or zero available resources, motor carriers should document why the testing was not completed and conduct the testing at another time.
5. The pandemic has brought out the best in some motor carriers.
As grim as the spread and impacts of the coronavirus have been—and continue to be—there have been some bright spots during the struggle. Many have come from the actions and support dedicated to supporting those who have suffered due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For example, some motor carriers have gone out of their way to try to support their staff and others by doing things like (but not limited to):
- Offering emergency pay to any of their staff who contracts the virus, guaranteeing them funds to pay their bills while they’re quarantined and out of work
- Offering hazard pay and/or bonuses to some those working on the front lines and who continue showing up, putting their health at risk
- Providing free cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment to staff in an effort to keep them safe
COVID-19 & the Trucking Industry: The Bottom Line
With experts still unsure about when the virus will be contained, there’s no telling what additional impacts COVID-19 may have on the trucking industry. As we all wait to see what the world will look like on the other side of this, one thing’s certain—the trucking industry will make a big difference in getting us through the pandemic.