American truck drivers have felt an uneven impact due to the COVID-19 crisis. There are trucking companies that cannot keep up with shipping demands and desperately need more qualified CDL driving professionals behind the wheel. At the other end of the spectrum, many non-essential products aren’t moving, and companies have jettisoned hundreds of seasoned truckers.
To say these are challenging times for truck drivers, and everyday people alike, would be something of an understatement. But Americans have learned a valuable lesson that the very survival of our communities depends on the men and women of the road traveling thousands of miles to deliver food, medicine, and other essentials. During these challenging times, CDLjobs.com continues to be a news and employment resource for our valued truckers.
Freight Hauling Industry Struggles with COVID-19 Disruption
With the economy mostly shuttered, consumer goods volume plummeted. Truckers working with carriers servicing non-essential retailers or working container ports have been largely stung by the economic downturn. Others have never seen such opportunity as the federal government has rolled back hours of service limits and leaned on hard-working truckers to buoy the nation.
“If you’re a carrier engaged in grocery deliveries or in the medical supply chain, you have been busy,” American Trucking Associations (ATA) spokesman Sean McNally reportedly said. “If you’re a carrier that hauls primarily fuel or to manufacturing centers, you are seeing anything from a slowdown to a cratering of demand.”
Shippers Transport Express, a Carson, California-based freight hauler, felt the brunt of the coronavirus back in February. The freight company laid off 145 of its unionized drivers via text message, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Containerized freight stemming from trade with China accounts for upwards of 40 percent of goods and materials flowing into the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. The sister ports suffered a massive plunge of more than a half-million containers each month with China manufacturing mostly closed and few American consumer outlets open.
“The overall impact is not only on the regional economy, it is on the national economy,” Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero reportedly said. “We are ground zero for Asian imports. We were already down because of the trade war. With the coronavirus, we’ve gone from uncertainty to potential chaos.”
But with some regions and sectors suffering downturns, others are enjoying a trucking boom. The federal government’s use of the Defense Production Act requires businesses that might have closed to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) such as ventilators and masks. Other industries have been deemed essential, such as agriculture, food processing, and medical supplies, among others. Most are open for business, and demand remains high.
Essential Goods Freight Haulers Need Short-Term Truck Driver Help
The COVID-19 health crisis has played havoc with the nation’s supply chain of necessary goods and products. Industries deemed essential saw spikes in output as consumers loaded up with meats, non-perishables, and (oddly) toilet paper, among others. Supermarkets and retail outlets were desperate to keep shelves stocked as truckers continue to meet a marathon delivery challenge.
“With all these places shutting down (due to state lockdowns), you sure would think that because the supply of freight is less, that the quantity demanded would be less. Well, what we’re not seeing right now is that, and I don’t understand why,” Meiborg Bros. Trucking president Zack Meiborg reportedly said. “We’re actually seeing that the spot boards are extremely busy, and some of our customers are extremely busy as well. Now we’re heavy in the food sector, probably 75 percent. So, we’re positioned well from that standpoint. But I think a lot of people are trying to clear their inventories now because they’re worried about the impending shutdown.”
Large food processing plants have struggled with coronavirus outbreaks, leading to up-and-down production. Output has impacted truckers primarily in terms of where these essential goods need to be loaded and transported. Vital products such as hand sanitizers, and masks, among others, have helped replace the dip in non-essential consumables.
While retailers may be hard hit at the checkout lines, many Americans have pivoted to online shopping, and website retailers such as Amazon have seen exponential growth. It’s essential to keep in mind that Amazon and other e-commerce organizations tend to increase over-the-road and last-mile deliveries.
DAT Freight and Analytics indicated that March’s available loads increased by 39.1 percent when compared to 2019 data with truck drivers posting for loads at a low 6.3 percent. Although these numbers reportedly dipped in late March, overall trucking demand remained ahead of 2019 measurables even in the face of COVID-19 adversity.
“I think we’re just as busy now as we are through the summertime. That’s usually our busy period, and it’s just kind of all hands on deck right now because we’re seeing freight that we don’t normally see,” trucker Nate McCarty reportedly said in a Fox News interview. “Some of the truckload carriers, they’re running at capacity. We’re seeing a lot more stuff. All of our drivers are working right now. Everyone is just super busy. That puts a lot of trucks on the road right now.”
Although essential goods transportation has been heightened during the crisis, many states are poised to begin reopening their economies. Mid-Western states didn’t feel the severe impact of the virus that rocked New York, New England, and much of the Eastern Seaboard. As Phase 1 starts, truck drivers are expected to be in high demand across sectors.
Laid Off Truckers Can Get Back Behind The Wheel
Truckers in sectors and regions that suffered downturns are expected to see employment opportunities uptick as states reopen. Non-essential retailers will begin reopening, pushing consumer good freight loads back into focus. It’s essential to keep in mind that as busy as refrigerated freight and non-perishable edibles have been, CDL drivers may very well want to adopt the mantra: “There’s no rest for the weary.” That’s largely because reopening restaurants will likely radically increase demand.
As retail outlets reopen and shoppers begin flocking — even with masks and social distancing protocols — drivers will again be called on to replenish shelves. This sector may not require top-end loads in the early weeks, but demand is expected to return as the health crisis subsides. Trucking companies are likely to feel exacerbated by the persistent 58,000 truck driver shortage as America rights its economy.
Drivers that were displaced due to the COVID-19 crisis can anticipate a relatively quick job market recovery and access to emerging trucking job positions.