As cities and states have rushed to shut down most businesses to flatten the curve and help stop the spread of COVID-19, roads are also emptier. Our nation’s response changes day by day and undoubtedly impacts the lives of fleet-based businesses. Even amidst shelter-in-place orders, truckers, utility workers, and energy workers have been deemed ‘essential’ services.
What does this mean for trucking companies across the U.S.?
The transportation industry is tackling new and extreme challenges. While the nation’s emergency delivery needs are causing some in the trucking business to work longer hours, hauling in restaurant supply and other less important fields has completely ceased. Truck drivers are now being recognized for keeping freight moving during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they are just as much at risk for exposure to the virus themselves.
Here’s some advice for running your trucking company during COVID-19:
Keeping track of up-to-date information is critical for both fleet managers and drivers. It’s not a bad idea to formalize a way to easily and quickly distribute information to your truck drivers, whether that means sending out a daily newsletter or setting up text alerts.
For example, a few weeks ago, the Department of Transportation suspended some regulations requiring drivers to take breaks while making deliveries. Before COVID-19, truckers were allowed to work only 14 hours days, and could only spend 11 of those actually driving. This no longer applies to fleets transporting emergency supplies, like medical equipment, masks, and gloves. This means that those drivers are working around the clock.
The “new normal”
For starters, trucking companies need to familiarize themselves with national emergency declarations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), one of those being: providing hours-of-service (HOS) and other regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The expanded national emergency declaration is comprised of the following:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
- Immediate precursor raw materials—such as paper, plastic or alcohol—that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items;
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine;
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services
While public fleets are providing essential duties during the pandemic, it’s no small task to pivot from normal to emergency operations.
What else can fleets do
To reality is that a lot of trucking businesses are going to struggle to keep the trucks busy for the foreseeable future, but this will largely depend on the sector.
Keep your drivers busy to the extent you can and bear in mind that after this is all over, most companies are going to require a restock in supply and will also need partners. Communicating with your customers and figuring out their needs is a good idea.
As we see a decline in trucking miles particularly in the northeast and from port cities due to the coronavirus, we understand this may impact your business.
In answer, the federal government has passed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus) package. There are two plans for small businesses. We will discuss the Payroll Protection Program (§1102) which includes support for sole proprietors and independent contractors.