Wednesday, June 19, 2024

How COVID-19 Has Affected the U.S. Trucking Industry

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has not only had a significant impact on the health of the world, but also the economy. Industries of all kinds have been hit hard since the beginning of the pandemic. Many have had to deal with less demand, and with that comes much less revenue than they are used to. This includes the trucking industry, especially throughout the U.S., which has been hit particularly hard by the virus.

While online retailers have ensured that trucking companies can still order and receive quality Cat® parts to keep their fleets working and delivering during these tough times, there are several other impacts that the virus has had on the industry. Here is a closer look at just how COVID-19 has affected the U.S. trucking industry.

Drop in Commercial Transport Activity

Perhaps the biggest way that the pandemic has impacted the trucking industry is that it has led to a significant drop in commercial trucking overall. At the start of COVID-19, there was still a lot of demand as people were buying and stocking up on products to prepare for the uncertainty ahead. But once that replenishment period was over, many trucks were left looking for loads and were forced to be proactive.

If trucks have no loads to transport, they don’t make any money. Demand for trucking fell off significantly, and this led to many companies bringing in much less profit than what they were used to. However, this largely depended on the items that were being transported. For example, if a trucking company transports medical supplies, they likely saw an increase in demand.

Either way, many trucking companies have been struggling as people are purchasing less from stores, retailers and other businesses than in the past. The industry is slowly rebounding, but those few months have cost companies a lot of money and set them back significantly.

The Job Is More Difficult and Potentially Unsafe

Being a truck driver is already a very difficult job. It requires a lot of time away from family, a lot of long days, and a lot of time on your own. But being a truck driver during a pandemic takes it to a whole new level. Because many businesses are operating with less staff due to lower demand or social distancing rules, some parts of the supply chain have also been severely slowed down. This has led to much longer wait times for pickups and deliveries, due to less personnel being available.

In addition to these concerns, there are also the major issues of potential health concerns for truckers. Many truck drivers make multiple deliveries every week and meet with multiple people in different locations, which can greatly increase their risk of getting the virus. Because of this, some drivers may also be unwilling to make pickups in areas that were hit hard. Also, many truck drivers may struggle with concerns over the health of their family, which can make long absences away even more difficult.

Not only is a trucker becoming infected by the virus terrible for themselves and their family, but also the company that employs them. If enough truckers get ill and cannot work due to isolation, it can significantly slow down their operations, and even lead to halting them altogether in some extreme cases.

All things considered, truck drivers need to familiarize themselves with what they need to know about COVID-19 in order to keep themselves as safe as possible.

Increased Adoption of Technology

While many of the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the trucking industry have been negative and challenging, there are some positives that have come from the pandemic. One bright spot is that it has increased the use of technology in trucking. Because many in person meetings and contacts are not recommended or deemed safe, the trucking industry has had to make some changes.

Many more processes have gone paperless and contactless. This includes electronic billing, virtual communications, video conferencing, online orientation and training, and many others. It is believed that these solutions will be the new norm going forward in the industry. This increased adoption of technology will help trucking companies work more effectively, safely and efficiently in the future. While this whole situation has obviously been incredibly difficult for trucking companies, this adoption could be the silver lining. 

A Major Impact on Trucking

As you can see, COVID-19 has had a major impact on the U.S. trucking industry. The virus led to a massive drop in commercial transport activity, made the drivers’ job more difficult and potentially unsafe, and has also ushered in a future of trucking that is more technological than ever.