As we continue to navigate our new normal in the face of this crisis, I have been closely following and educating the public about the challenges currently facing the trucking industry — specifically, truck drivers — amid this pandemic.
In the third week of March, freight volumes may have peaked, reaching three-year highs. Pockets of freight markets are still busy. But as the supply chain pivots to more “essential” goods, like groceries, medicines, and medical equipment, we are facing an issue with the spread of misinformation and the fear of contagion among truck drivers. Statistically speaking, the majority of truck drivers fall into the “at-risk” category for COVID-19, yet they are still out there, delivering essential goods to the public, at great risk to their personal health. It is essential that we continue to fight for their safety, security, and well-being on the road. (Learn more about the issues they’re currently facing and what I’m asking of elected officials in this blog post. I also spoke with CNBC about this topic; you can watch that brief clip here.)
I have been laser-focused on bringing this issue to light because the risk of inaction is too great. If we do not advocate on behalf of those who are most vulnerable on the frontlines of the supply chain, the spread of misinformation and fear of contagion threatens to lead to severe shortages in the near future in the most at-risk communities.
In fact, we are already beginning to see these concerns realized. According to a state of the industry report compiled by experts in the field, analyzing the NY-NJ-CT-PA combined statistical area, workforce anxiety and related absence rates are increasing. One trucking firm with nearly 2,000 drivers had 7 percent absenteeism for the first week in March and 16 percent for the fourth week. We all have to do our part to make sure drivers feel supported and safe as they set out for work, or we could continue to see this increase in absence rates.
California is seeing its own unique set of COVID-19 hot spot capacity issues. A report circulated this week by an industry think tank showed shipment tender rejections are higher for San Francisco freight than for Puget Sound. This defies reason on its face because Puget Sound is more of a hot spot than the Bay Area. We have theories on why San Francisco’s crisis supply chain doesn’t appear as resilient, which we’ll detail in future reports.
In the meantime, should you have any questions about regional guidelines, I encourage you to check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Essential Workforce Tracker” for updates as statuses continuously change across the country.
As mentioned in my update last week, at Tucker we remain 100% operational and are ready and able to help wherever needed. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you. In the meantime, we sincerely thank you for time, attention, and service. Be well.
Jeff Tucker, CEO
Tucker Company Worldwide