COVID-19 has taken its toll on the United States and the entire world. The response to this emergency is rapidly changing the day to day realities of fleet businesses in the United States. The majority of states have issued a stay at home orders. Meanwhile, fleet-based businesses have been deemed essential and continue to operate. Because of the COVID-19 impact on freight, the landscape of freight operations now is vastly different than just a month ago.
COVID-19 Impact on Freight
The transportation industry is facing many challenges. The disruptions in the supply chain, along with the need for emergency deliveries, are causing fleet dispatchers, managers, and drivers to work many hours. Hauling in areas such as equipment for live events and restaurant supplies has halted. Moreover, drivers are now also faced with trying to protect their health while they are out on the road.
Helping Where Needed
Many freight companies are changing their business structure. This is so that they can help in areas that are needed the most. For example, there is currently an influx of grocery store loads that need to be delivered. Therefore, freight companies are pulling resources from other normal freight operations to make sure that grocery stores remain full.
In short, the last few weeks have highlighted the importance of what these freight companies can do.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has changed many of the set guidelines over the past few weeks. For example, a national emergency issued by the FMCSA provides hours of service relief for commercial drivers who are transporting essential goods as a result of the pandemic. Some of the goods include raw materials, food, paper products, and medical supplies. This includes items that are in high demand throughout the country, such as water and hand sanitizer.
Additionally, the national emergency declaration expands to include fuel haulers and any drivers who are providing direct assistance for relief efforts that are related to the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, none of the hours of service regulations apply to any driver that is assisting with any kind during this time. This means that drivers do not have to take thirty-minute breaks from driving. In addition, the regular 34-hour restart is no longer required. To help keep drivers safe, once the delivery is complete, the driver must have ten hours off if they transport goods and eight hours if they are transporting passengers.
As social distancing continues, the demand for truckloads is dropping. The load to truck ratios and the rates have started to fall from the highs seen at the end of March 2020. It is difficult to determine the bottom, but the assumption is that things should level out over the next few weeks. After that, they are expected to stabilize before there is an increase in shipping for produce. The timing of this will depend on the policies surrounding social distancing.
When all of this first started, replenishment shipments were in demand. This has dropped off a bit. In addition, there are now fewer shipments being outsourced from contract shippers. Most demand is now lower than what was seen in 2019.
It is really difficult to predict what is going to happen. Trying to forecast during this very volatile and uncertain time is nearly impossible. To sum up, the Covid-19 impact on what is known is that the freight industry is an essential part of the economy.
With the lax laws that provide drivers with more freedom to deliver, the government is doing what it can to make sure that things are being delivered in a timely fashion. However, even with these less stringent laws about breaks and deliveries, there is still some question about resources. For instance, there is simply not as much to deliver as a result of borders being closed. At this point, it is all about taking things day by day and staying on top of the needs of the country to make sure everything continues to get where it needs to be.
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