COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Impact the Trucking Industry

November 23, 2020 Truck Accident Blog

The Second Wave of the COVID-19 Impact to Truck Industry

Like other industries, there has been a significant COVID-19 impact to the trucking industry. Freight transportation managers across the nation have had to deal with the volatile economic behaviors of suppliers, businesses, and consumers. Public health experts are predicting a second wave of COVID outbreaks as temperatures drop during the fall, and this could have just as much of an impact on trucking companies as the first wave.

What is the First Wave of the COVID-19 Impact to Trucking Industry?

Transportation data analytics company Geotab Inc. published a report analyzing the impact of the pandemic during the first wave from March 16 to May 8. During that period, the company found that commercial trucking fell significantly in the U.S. and was operating at 85% of the industry’s activity from Feb. 1 to March 15. The impact was felt most strongly in New Jersey and New York, which experienced commercial trucking activities at a level of 66% of the activity during the baseline period.

During the closures, truck drivers were rightly hailed as heroes for helping to transport much-needed supplies to areas that needed them. However, commercial trucking activity overall experienced a decline. Some of the reasons for the decrease during the first wave can be attributed to border closures, disruptions in the supply chain, and drops in demand for freight. While drivers who transport freight experienced a larger drop, the impact was not even across the industry. Trucking companies that primarily transport retail goods experienced less of an impact. By reviewing how the pandemic affected the trucking industry during the initial wave of the pandemic in the spring, people should get a better idea of what to expect during a second wave.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Some of the slowdowns for freight operators were caused because of supply chain disruptions. While drivers are considered to be essential workers and were not affected by the closures of nonessential businesses during the first wave of the pandemic, they still faced unavoidable problems. Some truckers reported long waiting times at delivery and pickup locations because of a reduced number of on-site workers. In addition, many drivers did not want to pick up loads in areas that were hit hard by the pandemic. This caused spot rate increases for transporting freight.

covid-19 impact to trucking industry

Furthermore, many restaurants and rest areas were closed during the first wave, making driving routes more difficult for drivers. Truck drivers had fewer places that they could stop for rest breaks and for meals. These issues caused many trucking companies and drivers to move to adapt to the changing circumstances. Increased demand for retail goods and groceries led some trucking companies and drivers to change their focuses away from freight operations to helping to supply grocery stores. While the industry has rebounded, these types of impacts can be expected to happen during a second wave if similar closures become necessary.

The Summer Rebound

According to a report in Logistics Management, the trucking industry experienced a rebound in July and August after dismal numbers in March through June. Trucking company executives reported they were back to normal operational levels after businesses began reopening. However, retail continued to do better than freight. Analysts report that the market is uneven and that a wave of closures caused by a spike could send trucking operations back down.

Emergency Declaration From the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

In response to the pandemic, the FMCSA issued an emergency declaration on March 13 that was expanded on March 18. This declaration has since been extended several times and was most recently extended on Sept. 11. The current extension will continue until its expiration on Dec. 31, 2020. This declaration gives regulatory relief and relaxes the hours-of-service rules for truck drivers who transport emergency supplies, including the following:

  • Livestock and feed
  • Medical supplies
  • Sanitation and community safety supplies
  • Groceries, food, and paper products

Truck drivers who transport these goods do not have to comply with the hours-of-service regulations, meaning that they might drive for longer hours than they normally could during each day or workweek. Other exemptions from the regulations include those covering vehicle maintenance and the medical qualifications for drivers.

These exemptions and rules were put in place to help to maintain the trucking industry’s continuity during the pandemic and to allow drivers to continue operating regardless of issues such as problems meeting registration deadlines or license renewals. During the first wave of the pandemic, many state offices were closed, preventing new drivers from obtaining their CDLs and drivers from renewing their licenses.

While some of these changes are necessary during the pandemic, they could also increase the likelihood of other problems, including driver fatigue, drowsy driving, and increased pressures to meet deadlines placed on drivers. Some believe that the pandemic has led to less highway traffic and therefore a lower risk for accidents. However, relaxing the hours-of-service rules for essential drivers who transport emergency supplies could result in an increase in truck accidents caused by drowsy or fatigued driving.

COVID-19 impact to trucking industry on drivers

Another area in which drivers have been impacted is health. While trucking companies work to maintain their operational levels, the health and safety of truck drivers should also be a top concern. Because of the high demand for supplies around the U.S., drivers have been subjected to significant pressures and levels of stress.

Truck drivers who deliver goods to distribution points across New Jersey and other areas of the U.S. may be exposed to the virus. Those who have been exposed might be forced to quarantine in their trucks, which could lead to even more stress. Other drivers may contract the novel coronavirus and be unable to return to work for weeks. This can impact the drivers’ finances while also taking more trucks off the road. The industry was already short on drivers, meaning even greater strain might be placed on trucking carriers that are unable to meet deadlines because of a lack of available drivers.

The expected second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is already showing signs that it has arrived. As case numbers continue to increase across the country, more closures might be anticipated. People can expect that the health crisis will continue to place substantial pressure on the trucking industry. However, truck drivers are essential to helping the country rebound economically. Businesses of all sizes rely on trucking carriers to supply them with goods so that they can remain afloat until the pandemic ends.

Get Help From a Trucking Accident Attorney at RAM Law

As truck drivers do their best to make sure that everyone has what they need during the pandemic, the increased pressure and stress placed on the drivers and the trucking industry may translate into an uptick in trucking accidents. Drivers may be forced to drive significantly longer hours. They might also have fewer places to stop for rest. If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by a commercial trucker, consider contacting a trucking accident attorney at Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. to learn about your options for recovering damages. You can reach our offices in New Brunswick or Somerville by calling 732-394-1549 or by emailing us at contact@ram.law.

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