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Long-Term Effects of the Pandemic on the Transportation Industry

The coronavirus pandemic has already had large, quantifiable impacts on the American economy and transportation industry. Sales of personal automobiles dipped strongly in April and have been slowly bouncing back through May.  Heavy-duty truck manufacturing has been on the decline as well. To state the obvious, few people are flying, and there’s still a significantly reduced number who are now renting cars or commuting to work. This has significantly changed cash flow in America. Here’s our take on how the economy is functioning currently, and how we expect things to change in the near future.

Expect to See More Trucks and Vans on the Road

Gas and oil are at a historic low, which makes it more likely that we’ll see a shift in which vehicles yield the best ROI for different industries. With cost of operation becoming less of a factor, it will likely become more feasible for companies large and small to rely on conventional gas vehicles, rather than saddling the cost of new hybrid technologies. The possibility of increased infrastructure spending in America could also mean more trucks and vans on the road to build that infrastructure.

There May be Fewer Vehicle Manufacturers

According to an article by trucks.com, there’s already been existing pressure for the auto and truck manufacturing industry to downsize. Mergers like the one between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, and the possible merger between Nissan and Renault could result in less total manufacturers left independent, and less true competition as a result.

The article speculates that a combination of the current economic shock with general changes to consumer behavior and government policies could further encourage consolidation between manufacturers.

Class 8 Sales Might Continue to Dip

April’s Class 8 sales in 2020 were half of what they were last year, but that was at a time when uncertainty was particularly high in America as to what the impact of the pandemic would be on the economy, and many American buyers and business owners were unsure of when they’d see financial support from the government and how much that would be. ACT Research has long forecasted tough times ahead for class 8 sales however, and this will have a strong impact on dealerships. As we’re currently expecting a prolonged period of lower truck sales, it’s expected that some smaller dealerships will lack the capital to adapt their model quickly enough to remain possible.

Logistics Fleets Will Be Everywhere

For almost two months now, much of America has been depending on online retailers to meet their needs, rather than their brick-and-mortar counterparts that haven’t been allowed to operate. Digital logistics operations and e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Instacart have had waves of traffic driven in their direction, and this massive shift that could potentially stick to some degree, creating a need for even more local and last-mile transport providers.

New Programs for New Cars?

In 2006, the cash for clunkers program was hugely successful in keeping the transportation industry healthy in the midst of a general recession. Many are calling for a similar program to be launched in 2020, and some analysts are expecting governments and manufacturers to follow through with something similar.

If such a program were instated, the program could encourage auto plant growth, offer safer and more efficient vehicles to the lower end of the income scale, and take plenty of the country’s worst polluters off the road.

Supply Chains Will Work Differently

Already we’ve seen a huge shift in how global supply chains function in relation to the American people, before COVID-19 was even a factor. The trade war with China has been stop and go for years now,  and recently there’s been rhetoric from the White House indicating that Chinese-American trade might continue to dwindle. This affects the traffic coming in and out of major American port cities and cargo hubs. To make a long story short, there’s going to be more or less work depending on which state you’re based in as a trucker, depending on how things settle.

What All This Means for Trucking

Trucking has continued to be supported by the Federal Government since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. There has already been news of large companies like Walmart hiring truckers at phenomenal rates. Insofar as most freight companies have seen a maintenance in demand for their services, or even an increase in some areas, it’s expected that the price per mile for truckers will remain high, even after the pandemic ends and businesses reopen. The Wall Street Journal reports that PPM for hiring a big rig is up 12% since March 1st, meaning that you won’t have to change jobs to make a little more money in trucking.

In general, these shifts indicate a change in how and where truckers will make a profit, not that profit is set to decrease for truckers on the whole. While there may be rough times for dealerships ahead, there isn’t necessarily much indication that they’ll do much better or worse than other industries will. 

The trucking industry has been doing well in the short term, despite some challenges. Support from the federal government has kept land freight stable, and truckers logging hours. Now is a great time to enter the trucking industry, so make sure you get help from a financial lender to get started.

What Truckers Need to Know About COVID-19

New CDC Resources for Long-Haul Truckers

The Centers for Disease Control has extended a helping hand to workers all around the world who need to prevent becoming infected or spreading infection of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Earlier this week, the CDC released an article titled “What Long-Haul Truck Drivers Need to Know about COVID-19,” which lays out all of the best practices for truckers that are still at work during the pandemic.

Truck Drivers and the Risk of Infection

The CDC notes that many truckers might not believe themselves at particularly high risk of infection, but according to them, that might not always be the case. “As a long-haul truck driver, you spend many hours alone in the cab of your truck,” the article says. “However, there are times when you will be at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. For long-haul truck drivers, potential sources of exposure include coming in close contact with truck stop attendants, store workers, dock workers, other truck drivers, or others with COVID-19, and touching your nose, mouth or eyes after contacting surfaces touched or handled by a person with COVID-19.”

70 percent of America’s freight travels by semi-truck, which means that it takes a lot of truckers on the job to keep things moving. President Trump acknowledged the 3.5 million truck drivers in America that have stayed on the job during this difficult time. “In the war against the virus, America’s truckers are really the foot soldiers that are carrying us to victory,” President Trump said during an event honoring truckers at the White House last month. “Truckers are playing a critical role in vanquishing the virus, and they will be just as important as we work to get our economic engine roaring.”

There’s a strong psychological element present in practicing good health habits in regards to the virus as well, which is why the CDC article is such a valuable resource in remembering how and why everyone has to make sacrifices to keep others safe. In an article with the Los Angeles Times, one driver said, “We would like to just go in and sit down and take a break, have a meal. For a lot of drivers, it’s a way to unwind,” that the current state of trucking has “a lot of drivers wound up.” With so many restaurants offering carry-out only, and truckers working extra long hours to keep the country supplied, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance on the road right now, making extra support from government agencies especially valuable.

Key Takeaways From the CDC for Drivers

The CDC has indicated when truck drivers need to be the most careful when they’re on the road. Among their recommendations for truck drivers are that you notify your employer and stay home if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, making a plan with your employer and family as to what could happen if you get sick on the road, and how to limit time spent outside the cab in general.

One important resource according to the article, is to use paperless methods for billing and invoicing for fueling, deliveries, and anywhere else possible, to reduce the likelihood that the virus could spread as a result of close contact with other people.

How Employers Can Help Truckers, According to the CDC

A survey and analysis conducted by the driver feedback platform WorkHound found that 27% of drivers wanted to be assured that their companies were taking “extra precautions to ensure that their equipment is safe and sanitized,” and according to the CDC, that’s just the start of how employers should be supporting the workers on the front lines currently. The CDC article mentions that some drivers might be at higher risk for serious illness than others, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Treating these workers with extra care to ensure that they minimize face-to-face contact can go a long way to prevent these especially susceptible drivers from becoming infected. It’s also critical for employers to help train drivers on proper handwashing practices and other preventative measures that help prevent the spread of many diseases, including COVID-19.

“Consider drafting non-punitive emergency sick leave policies if sick leave is not offered to some or all employees,” the guidelines say. “Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.”

For those who are currently still at work, it’s especially important to stay up to date on the best practices for minimizing the chance of exposure to COVID-19. If you need help staying on the road, contact us at Mission Financial. With us, you can have more control over your work environment.

The Importance of Innovative Technology During the Pandemic

Why Truckers Needs Digital Tools Now More Than Ever

 

Whether you’re a semi-truck owner/operator currently helping to move supplies in America or a logistics expert managing a fleet of trucks, it’s important to be aware of the technology that’s available to help freight workers manage shipments all across the country. The American supply chain has continually undergone changes in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and it’s become increasingly important for truckers to rely on digital tools to get their jobs done.

The Latest Uber Freight Update

First-come-first-serve freelance trucking software has been on the rise for months now. The most notable of which, Uber Freight, has been positively impacting independent owner/operators’ ability to find shipments that chain efficiently together. It’s not always the case that a trucker’s destination will have a profitable pickup destination nearby, and the use of digital freelancing tools has been a huge factor in making sure that independent owner/operators can maintain profits while supply chains have been so severely disrupted across the country. Uber Freight in particular has updated their software infrastructure to allow for truckers to get better access to the jobs that are available.

As of last April, Uber Freight has begun to use a bidding system on its load app, that gives drivers more options. “It’s vital that carriers and drivers have access to loads with transparent pricing so they can make fast, informed decisions about their business,” the company said in the blog post that announced the upgrade. “That has never been more apparent than it is today, with the freight market in flux and drivers and carriers in our network working around the clock to keep shelves stocked and the country moving forward.”

Uber Freight said that truckers and motor carriers can now submit bids and receive feedback on select loads directly in the app, and then get notified later if they won or lost the bid. If the bid is won, the load will be temporarily reserved at the winning price. In addition, “all the loads Uber offers will still have an instant ‘book now’ price for those who find it’s still in their best interest to lock in a load. As a complement to our dynamic pricing engine, and by automating and streamlining the traditional bidding process, Uber Freight’s in-app bidding aims to improve functionality for the entire freight marketplace,” the company said. For truckers on the app, and suppliers everywhere, this should be a significant step in leveling out supply versus demand supply chains.

Other Mobile Apps Impacting Owner Operators

There are plenty of smartphone apps available to the general public that can make a big impact on the ability to avoid infection and keep up to date with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the best include the CDC Mobile App, which can help anyone stay informed on best practices to avoid infection, and how our understanding of the virus continues to improve over time. There have been plenty of trucker-friendly apps available for years however, and now is a better time than ever to make sure you’re using all of the best tools available that can help you while you drive your truck during the pandemic.

One of our favorites is Overdrive, which includes the weather forecast and can help you locate rest stops. It also gives you access to Overdrive online magazine, an integrated message board and an integrated load tracker.  Our second favorite tool is the Weigh My Truck App, which keeps you from having to walk into weigh stations to pay down your truck load. The Weigh My Truck App was built to work with CAT Scales and allows you to weigh your truck and pay your weight with your smartphone at the scale, without needing to leave your truck. In times like these, avoiding delays and hazards can be crucial for ensuring that you get to your next load on time, and it makes sense to see what tools the app stores have to offer you.

Platooning Technology

The last bit of trucking tech worth talking about is platooning. “Improved driving systems can now allow for trucking rigs to arrange into formations. These formations are controlled by complex computing systems that communicate with one another, allowing trucks to follow closely behind other trucks in their fleet. The end result makes for a long line of heavy vehicles heading in the same direction, one after the next,” says Transmetrics.

This method can be a powerful cost-saver when it comes to emissions and fuel consumption. The platoon of trucks that’s created works to fight against wind resistance and traffic jams. The resultant file of large vehicles creates stability in traffic, allowing for other vehicles to navigate around them smoothly. Platoon technology can result in “fuel savings of 4.5% for the lead truck, and 10% for the following truck,” as shown by Peloton. It might be time to investigate whether platooning could improve your ROI.

Make sure to follow our blog for more updates on the freight industry, and contact us if you’re looking for a financial lender you can trust.

How the Coronavirus is Affecting the Freight Industry

What Truck Drivers Should Expect This Spring As the Coronavirus Spreads 

The infection rate of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is continuing to increase in countries around the world. Some experts claim that America’s trajectory of infection is in-line with Italy’s, which indicates that the overall number of infections will continue to increase into the coming months. Currently, there’s a high level of general alarm for members of the service and restaurant industry, as the White House has delivered specific instruction to the American people to work from home whenever possible, avoid social gatherings, and avoid going outside. The U.S. treasury is considering sending every adult American a check in the mail to help tide them over during these difficult times – and the trucking and freight industry have also seen some recent government intervention.

Government Declares Truckers are Essential to the Economy

There’s been concern for the trucking industry specifically, and a level of attention that generally bodes well for freight companies and owner/operators. The U.S. government has recognized that now more than ever, it is absolutely crucial for semi-truck drivers to be able to stay on-the-job during the outbreak of COVID-19, so that food, medical supplies and equipment, and other necessities can be readily replenished in areas across the country.

President Trump has relaxed trucking regulations in response to this need, rolling back a law that’s been in place since 1938, which disallows truck drivers from working more than 11 hours per any 14 hour work period. After that period, truckers are required by law to take a break for at least 10 hours. This keeps the total number of hours a trucker is allowed to be on the road at 11 hours per day maximum. With this law no longer being in effect, truck drivers are able to manage their own schedules more freely should their carrier companies oblige them, of course. If you’re an independent owner-operator, this puts a lot more of the safety precautions associated with truck driving on your own personal judgement, which makes it vital to operate responsibly during this time.

Truck Drivers and the Risk of Infection

According to an article by Business Insider, truck drivers are in a unique position as to how they should follow the White House guidelines for work moving forward. Truck drivers are not in a position to work from home and are often forced to come into contact with other individuals when they purchase food or enter a rest stop. Truck drivers rely on foodservice employees and custodians around the country to ensure that the services they require to move products across the country are infection-free.

Truck drivers are at increased risk compared to the average American according to a 2014 study that claims up to 38% of truck drivers do not have health insurance. The article also cited studies that found long-haul truckers to smoke cigarettes at a higher rate than most Americans, which has the potential to exacerbate coronavirus symptoms according to Epidemiologist Saskia Popescu, who practices at the Honor Health medical group in Arizona. The FMCSA has estimated that the government’s decision to relax trucking regulations will result in $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy, but it’s difficult to say whether those savings may be offset by semi-truck operators contracting COVID-19 at an increased or decreased rate than the general population.

Businesses are Working to Keep Truckers Safe

Freight companies and companies that manage rest stops have been outspoken in their role of reducing infection. Walmart has been circulating information to their drivers, urging them to take proper steps to keep their hands and cabs clean of infection. Pilot offered in a statement to Overdrive, that they are reinforcing proper cleaning procedures and sanitation methods, saying “Additionally, we have hand sanitizer dispensers for public use near the restrooms at our locations and working closely with our suppliers on inventory contingency plans. We will continue to follow the advice of global and local health authorities as the situation evolves and take preventative measures as necessary.”

If you’re an owner operator running familiar routes, it may be worth investigating whether your favorite dining establishment or rest stop has issued a statement for how they’re planning to adapt to the coronavirus update. Many businesses are moving their business models towards transactions that don’t involve human contact, and those services can be helpful for reducing your own risk of infection when you’re on the road.

What Will Trucking Look Like through the Spring?

There have already been strong movements to keep the trucking industry virile during this time of change in America. It’s vital for freight companies to maintain operation in some degree, so that food service providers, manufacturers, and hospitals can continue to operate at an appropriate efficiency level. One of trucking’s most powerful lobbying groups, the ATA, has recently requested provisions for the industry, and it’s likely that the executive branch will continue to adjust trucking regulations in the short term to keep the industry healthy. There’s currently a national driver shortage in America, which means that truck drivers are one of the few labor areas that could see increased demand during the outbreak

How to Maintain Healthy Driving Practices

Some news outlets have offered advice on how to stay safe during the outbreak, which can be useful resources, but it’s always best to refer directly to the CDC, World Health Organization or your Government’s official correspondence about the Coronavirus when making changes that affect your lifestyle. If you’re lucky enough to be driving an EV vehicle, there’s a good chance you’ll cut down your risk of exposure. Being extra cautious during fuel up times, or finding ways to decrease fuel consumption can be a great way to reduce stress and keep yourself healthy as well. Contact us with any questions you might have regarding how to be successful as an owner-operator, and make sure to browse our news section for the outlook of long-haul trucking in 2020. Thank you to all of you brave, hardworking truckers out on the road!

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