How’s COVID 19 Affected Your Routes?

COVID-19 Impact on the Commercial Trucking Industry

There are new challenges and standards in place for the commercial trucking industry. The very survival and success of the sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic requires an adequate response. Although the industry response has been swift, truckers still need more assistance to achieve their targets.

Besides, carriers that haul fuel or transport items to manufacturing centers are witnessing a slowdown and drop in demand. The truth is that the daily realities of truckers are different from most essential services in the US. Their operational methods throughout the altered landscape pose new challenges due to social distancing and other safety measures.

The Current State of the Commercial Trucking Industry Amidst Coronavirus

The transportation sector is going through tumultuous times. From disruptions in the supply chain to countrywide emergency delivery requirements are leaving dispatchers fleet managers, and truckers to work much longer hours. Furthermore, more or less complete hauling in restaurant equipment and supply for events is ceased.

Simultaneously, drivers have to learn new ways to protect their health regularly in their jobs. Just like other industries, it is an unchartered industry for trucking. Nonetheless, truckers want to serve the best of their abilities even during a pandemic.

Also, truckers are experiencing severe emotional stress that deserves more attention. For instance, several truckers follow their companies’ advice on social distancing and self-quarantine inside the vehicle.

It is a new experience for drivers that will need more training in the foreseeable future. As of now, the commercial trucking industry is conveying the information to drivers and allocating resources to be productive and safe at the same time.

A Drop in Goods Demand and Closed Driver’s License Services

Truckers are aware that for the past few months, the market equilibrium has not been kind. Perhaps the drop in demand since the first replenishment wave of shipments was inevitable. However, the current proactive approach of the commercial trucking industry to reverse the impact of the market flip has become the need of the hour.

That said, change in truck-to-load ratios, rolling averages, and load volumes for the past two months repeatedly fell throughout the US Naturally, truckers are in a dilemma now whether or not their next delivery will include running costs.

Currently, the average rate for van truckers is $1.72 per mile and $1.99 per mile. Both of these rates are lower than in the previous months (i.e., (March and April). There is a good chance the new averages will become even lower.

Awareness of New Safety Measures and Practical Pointers

Here are essential safety measures and practical guidance for truckers who cannot undergo complete self-quarantine:

  • Remain in your vehicles when workers load or unload supplies.
  • Truckers do not have to touch a potentially infected fuel pump with their bare hands.
  • Try to keep your windows up during interaction with someone.
  • Always wear a protective face mask to cover your face. Truckers can use a bandanna or scarf as a replacement for a mask.
  • Try to reduce the total number of times you touch objects like pens, cups, handles, credit cards, ATM pads, or clipboards.
  • If a trucker is in a potential hot spot, make sure you remain in a nearby hotel and maintain social distancing of 6 feet throughout the course.
  • Wear gloves if you have to pick an object from a hot spot.
  • If a trucker has the option, accept receipts electronically or digitally rather than physical contact.
  • Truckers should wash hands more frequently to remove dirt and germs. Also, carry around a hand sanitizer that comes with 60% or more alcohol.
  • Truckers should consistently disinfect their surroundings.

No Load Means No Income

Several trucking companies are applying to get Small Business Administration (SBA) program, tax credits, or in the process to avail Exchange Stabilization Funds. However, it may not be a sound strategy to take an opportunity of each federal initiative because the economy is bound to re-start on a full scale.

That said, the expansion of SBA programs will continue to garner bipartisan support in the Congress. The goal is to help truckers gain more liquidity and convey an optimistic outlook of the future. Sure, trucking companies need more than just faux promises. It is one of the reasons the private trucking industry wants to play its part to facilitate truckers get through this financial turmoil.

That said, different aspects of the commercial trucking industry are affecting various facets of truckers. As the rates start to fall throughout May, there will be negotiations of renewed spot rates between the broker and carrier. As a result, you can expect more decrease in the current averages.

The Impact on Reefer Truck Jobs

Contrary to popular misconception, reefer and dry van jobs are often localized. It means there are different parameters attached to different jobs due to the national status of the OTR. The load-to-truck reefer ratio saw a shift of 1.3 to 1.7 a couple of weeks ago.

Trucking industry players need to look at the analytical data from DAT to understand new patterns impacting reefer truck jobs. However, a few weeks back, the top reefer lanes on DAT had higher activity in volume. The origin of most of the lanes was from Arizona, Texas, and Florida.

Although some states want to move more perishable vegetables and fruits, some states have a significantly low volume rate. It is a trend that has to do with crop yields that can improve the demand for reefer truck jobs.

There are two essential carriers when it comes to retailers and food distributors. It depends on these forces as to whether or not they will be able to prepare and manage dock delays, traffic influxes, and gate delays that are an essential part of the supply chain.

The same question is dangling over the commercial restaurants, kitchens, and high-volume producers who wish to reopen successfully. The total posted loads went down to 12% in the last week. It represents an imbalance in demand and supply that will continue to affect reefer truck jobs.

The Impact on Dry Van Truck Jobs

The average van load-to-truck had a ratio of 0.94 last week. It means there were more trucks available as compared to the loads. And it has been going on for three consecutive weeks. However, when you compare this load-to-truck ratio to another previous week, the spot average van rate was relatively higher on four out of the hundred biggest van lanes in terms of volume.

The total load volume moved throughout those hundred lanes went over 4.8%. However, the outbound van truck rates took a plunge in the market when social distancing and lockdowns came into effect. However, as the stay-at-home orders start to lift, the new price will pose new challenges for van truckers. From Dallas to Atlanta to Memphis, each city comes with specific shopping and business restrictions.

Gradually, the van trucking market will see a more flattened ratio than just 0.01%. However, even a slow reduction in van ratio is not unusual. But the 0.1 sub-decrease matters because it means there are van trucks than onboard loads.

What about OTR Trucking?

Over the road (OTR) refers to truckers that haul fright for long instances and spend between 3-4 weeks on the road. Today, OTR or over the road truckers drive throughout the US and Canada. It is imperative to understand the value of OTR drivers. After all, these drivers transport machinery, heavy freight, construction materials, equipment, and much more.

The US Energy Information Administration states that the fall in average diesel fuel prices in the recent few months will have long-term consequences. The drop to 4 cents from $2.44 per gallon represents a drop of 73%. As a result, the rates of spot truckload are at an all-time high.

Practically, these drivers combine fuel surcharge and line-haul aspects when there’s an increase in fuel prices. Conversely, when the fuel prices decrease, the surcharge rates also drop. Consequently, the total rate also decreases.
Surprisingly, the rate of this rolled-up has fallen more quickly as compared to the decrease in fuel surcharge. Therefore, it is changing the way contractors price their spot freight. So, when trucking companies see that the fuel price will decrease further, they intend to have downward pressure on the spot rate.

What Strategies Can Decrease the Financial Burden?

Contemporarily, the implementation of FMCSA exemptions serves as an immediacy to maintain the continuity of trucking operations across the country. However, the guidelines and rules offer added financial relief to trucking companies and their truckers.

However, there are various problems, like vehicle registration and license renewal requirements, that are surging among new drivers. Now, since the closure of several state departments or reduction in personnel staff, it is hard for new drivers to get their CDLs.

Although trucking companies are feeling the effects of COVID-19, certain FMCSA exemptions can assist truckers. From vehicle maintenance to medical qualifications, there are a few useful financial perks for the truckers.

However, the new rules will also cover better driving conditions, haul operations, and driver breaks. As of now, there is an extension on all the exemptions until July 14. However, the extension applies to three primary categories rather than all exclusions. The categories include livestock, medical equipment, or supplies related to COVID-19 treatment. Furthermore, it applies to equipment or supplies related to sanitation. Lastly, the exemption applies to masks, soaps, disinfectants, globes, and other community safety tools for the prevention of COVID-19.

What Truckers Can Expect and Hope for Throughout the Pandemic

Yes, numerous truck companies are improving how they clean their facilities. Several drivers, however, are open about reduced rates and unfairly closed space, which means drivers often have to find parking for their vehicles.

Truckers hope that the commercial industry learned new lessons that would make all the difference in years to come. Whether its documentation or research on trucking operations, transportation companies will have to make long-term new changes for the betterment of the truckers.

To conduct more trucking research on operations, there is an ocean of data that the industry could use in the future. For instance, several trucking companies have jumped to virtual onboarding processes, orientation, and paperless bill of ladings to avoid physical contact.

Truckers hope that the innovations will safeguard their well-being without compromising the standard of trucking operations. Many truckers believe that pandemic is an opportunity to introduce safety guidelines and access safe parking throughout the nation.

What Lies Ahead for the Commercial Trucking Sector?

Several trucking companies are changing the traditional cultural values to adapt to post-COVID-19 reality. It is not going to be easy, but it will continue to have a positive impact on the commercial trucking industry.

The family-oriented values of transportation business still exist; the norms of communication, however, are changing. But the tough times have brought truckers closer than ever. Drivers share their invaluable experiences to learn new things.

Fundamentally, transportation companies will have to review what constitutes in-person contact going forward. In hindsight, there will have to be a balance between virtual and safe-distanced physical contact.
Conclusion

Although most of the country’s population adapting to limited movement and confinement in homes, millions of goods still require physical transpiration. Truckers are facing enormous challenges to help keep the economy moving in the right direction. It is no wonder that people are calling truckers the unsung heroes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the response of the truckers has been tremendous.

Even though the economic situation seems pessimistic, the relentless work ethic of truckers during the health crisis offers a glimpse of new hope for economic recovery. Sooner or later, the economic rebound will take place. The question is how the trucking industry will set forth new innovative changes to maintain the same logistics standards before coronavirus.

Nonetheless, small and big businesses need to realize that reintroducing a new continuity model will take some adjustment time. In essence, the goal is to ensure truckers’ safety and boost delivery activities across the US.