The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost every industry, with businesses having to shut down around the world to help slow the spread. Travel, hospitality, restaurants, and entertainment are feeling the biggest pinch, but even other sectors – like the trucking industry – have been affected.
Because trucking is considered an essential service in Canada, drivers have been working throughout the pandemic, despite dealing with some challenges along the way. But there are some segments of the trucking industry that have been hurting, too, as demand for certain goods and services has decreased.
Take a closer look at what the trucking industry has been going through these last few months, and what to expect on the road ahead.
How Was Trucking Affected?
Trying to summarize the trucking trends in 2020 is complicated since the impact of the coronavirus crisis has varied. For example, according to Trucking HR Canada's Labour Market Snapshot, during the first two quarters of 2020, 49,000 truck drivers lost their jobs. However, from June to August, the industry added 43,500 new drivers. What's more, the unemployment rate amongst drivers decreased from a high of 12% in June, to 6.3% in August, which is less than the overall national unemployment rate. This goes to show that COVID-19's impact on the trucking industry has been like a rollercoaster ride.
Here’s a closer look at some of the trucking industry issues to arise this year:
Fluctuating demand for drivers
Fleets that are responsible for transporting medical supplies, food, and other essential goods have been quite busy throughout the crisis. Some trucking businesses even had to hire new drivers to keep up. In fact, many consider truckers to be heroes along with other frontline workers because they kept on reporting to work to make sure supply chains kept running smoothly.
Not all drivers saw increased demand, however. With some sectors shutting down completely or at least scaling back, from professional services to hospitality to events, the need for truck deliveries to those types of businesses slowed considerably. As such, some drivers have lost their jobs or been furloughed. For these types of businesses, the future of trucking in Canada is still uncertain.
Warehouses closed down
During the height of the pandemic, especially in virus outbreak hotspots, some warehouses were forced to close down because of multiple workers getting sick. In turn, that meant that truck routes were disrupted as drivers weren’t able to enter these distribution locations.
Challenges on the road
Finding places to eat was difficult during the months when restaurants were locked down, and since trucks can’t go through drive-throughs, options were limited. This made driving long shifts quite challenging. Roadside rest stops did remain open to accommodate drivers, however. On the positive side, there was less traffic to contend with during the lockdown periods.
Future of the Trucking Industry
Just as the COVID-19 experience has changed the way people work and the safety precautions everyone thinks about, the future of trucking in Canada may look a little different. The trucking industry has had to adapt and consider making long-term changes to make things safer and more efficient for drivers. Some of these include:
A shift to paperless and contactless
The fewer physical exchanges of paperwork there are, the safer truck drivers and the people they meet along the way may stay. Instead of paper bills, receipts, and check/cash payments, everything may be exchanged electronically. This is expected to be among the key trucking trends in 2020 that will stick around.
Onboarding new truck drivers virtually
Just as other organizations have realized, it is possible to onboard new employees with reduced in-person interactions. Many trucking companies are hosting virtual orientations or at least allowing drivers to complete some of the process remotely. This cuts down on large group gatherings and makes social distancing more feasible.
Healthy habits and protocols
Once it became available, many drivers were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves so they could follow safety guidelines when coming in contact with others. In some cases, temperature checks are part of the daily routine when truckers reach distribution centers or delivery points. That is all likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Even when mask-wearing and health assessments are no longer necessary, cleaning and disinfecting procedures will most likely continue to be required.
The trucking industry outlook might be uncertain for now as the pandemic rages on, but like other sectors, it’s finding ways to adapt. Despite the challenges in the trucking industry this year, the future of trucking in Canada should recover as things gradually improve, although things may look a little different going forward. One thing is for sure: the pandemic has helped to highlight the important role that the trucking industry plays in making sure people have access to the most crucial supplies they need for survival.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.