Truckers Are the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic Truckers keep on truckin', Covid be damned.
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One category of small business that I am fortunate to work with is trucking. As most are small businesses working as contractors and subcontractors for larger freight and logistics companies, I've worked with them for 10+ years before the onset of the pandemic and have helped them through several boom and bust cycles.
Indeed, truck drivers are the unsung heroes of Covid-19. When airlines cancel flights, truckers keep driving. Through the cycle of lockdowns and re-openings, the public should consider drivers essential workers and frontline responders, delivering medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and ensuring that retail shelves remain stocked with food and essential goods.
However, now, nearly one year into the pandemic, I've observed the resiliency of this industry, in addition to some changes—some that might linger for years to come.
Healthcare still a priority
The ability to expedite the movement of crucial medical supplies and equipment, especially into regions of high concentrations of Covid-19 cases, will still be a priority. Trucking companies with experience and existing contracts with medical suppliers will certainly succeed.
Let's not forget about how the vaccine will get distributed. Pfizer understands the need to consider the logistics of distributing the vaccine and intends to use "strategic transportation partners" to ship the vaccine to dosing centers. As other vaccines become approved for use in the U.S., such as that by Moderna, they will need to be distributed strategically and at scale, and again, those carriers with experience in moving critical supplies will receive priority.
E-commerce isn't enough
While the pandemic accelerated e-commerce — Amazon's sales were $96 billion for Q3 2020, representing a 37% year-over-year increase — it is a fallacy to assume that all participants in the freight and logistics industry benefited.
In fact, with an expected boom in-home deliveries, Amazon flooded the market with thousands more drivers in the form of either DSPs (Delivery Service Partners) or Amazon Flex drivers. While Amazon Flex Drivers tend to be individuals simply looking to make extra money delivering packages, DSPs have given real competition to experienced trucking companies.
Specialization can hurt
As some sectors shut down during the pandemic, those trucking companies that served them might not recover for quite some time.
For example, trucking companies that delivered fixtures and equipment for live, in-person events, such as for sports and concerts, might need to wait years for such contracts to return.
If such trucking companies can pivot easily to another sector, they will hopefully be able to survive the pandemic and replace the revenues they've lost.
A heavier reliance on apps
Shipper-driver matching apps, such as Uber Freight, Convoy, and Loadshop, have been around for several years.
However, with the need to pick up extra routes or loads — and with the shipper's office employees working from home—the reliance on sourcing work via these introduction apps has proved crucial for survival for trucking companies of all sizes.
Further consolidation in the industry
While trucking companies serving healthcare or essential retailers might consider 2020 as their best year yet, others may have had the opposite experience. Some trucking companies might have been able to pivot and find new customers not affected by the pandemic; others not so much.
Whether it's via the apps or more communication between entities, another change in this new normal will be deeper relationships among shippers, carriers and third-party logistics providers to enable all parties to work more efficiently within — and better react to — future disruptions.
When you finally do receive the vaccine, whenever that might be in the future, just know that a trucker helped make that happen.