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What Does the Post-Pandemic "New Normal" Mean for Trucking?

Truck driving in the desert with mountains in the background on a clear day

The world may never be the same again; the coronavirus pandemic changed nearly everything about our lives. But governments' responses to it will take time before we see any semblance of normalcy return, at least not in most places around the globe where this novel virus took hold.

It's been a rough few months for truckers, but it looks like the pandemic is finally starting to wane. Communities are opening up, and businesses are recovering as time goes on- though not all change will be temporary or reversible.

Increase in Last-Mile Parcel Delivery Volume

The pandemic restricted movement of people, which meant less retail activity. As people return to work and consumerism returns, the volume of parcels being delivered will increase. This new service gap has created opportunities for companies specializing in last-mile deliveries. The increased demand for parceling services is not exclusive to the U.S. market - it's across all of North America. That makes it a great opportunity for Canadian-based trucking companies.

Truck Drivers Remain in Short Supply

The lack of qualified truckers will continue to be a problem despite the post-pandemic recovery. Since the pandemic, recruiting and retaining good drivers has been easier said than done due to increased demand and opportunities.

Some employees can make more money delivering parcels than hauling freight. That makes it difficult for trucking companies to find reliable drivers. The increase in parcel deliveries will place additional strain on the already-overworked industry, making it even more important for carriers to hire qualified drivers who can meet their obligations.

Workforce Reduction

The coronavirus pandemic made many carriers reduce their staff due to the increased demand for parcel deliveries and a recovering economy. But even post the pandemic, many trucking companies still haven't recalled most of their workers. This continued reduction in the workforce has created a significant problem for trucking companies competing for qualified drivers.

Low Driver Turnover

With trucking companies reducing their workforce, the number of drivers left couldn’t meet the economy’s demands.

To combat this, many companies worked to ensure their workers stayed put. Trucking companies were offering bonuses for new hires and signing incentives like guaranteed hours or paid vacation. This increase in driver productivity may continue, with turnover decreasing until the end of the year.

Increase in Driver Pay

Most trucking companies do everything they can to retain their drivers. This includes higher remuneration to ensure that the few drivers on their payroll stay put. Studies indicate that higher pay may help reduce the employee turnover rate.

Increase in Fuel Price

Fuel prices increased during the entire coronavirus period. Higher fuel prices are due to the increased demand for fuel during the pandemic, exacerbated by panic buying. Once the pandemic subsided, fuel prices decreased but not to normal standards initially. This "new normal" might continue for an indefinite period, making fuel prices unpredictable.

Increased Use of Telematics

Telematics devices are now commonplace in the trucking industry. Once considered semi-advanced technology, telematics units measure various aspects of a vehicle's performance and provide real-time data to its driver and fleet manager about how well the driver is performing. This data is especially important during an emergency such as a pandemic. Telematics can also be used for other aspects of fleet management such as scheduling, routing and delivery prioritization.

Decreased Demand for Shipping

In the wake of the pandemic, companies were wary about ordering goods from foreign vendors because of possible health risks. This eventually led to a reduction in demand for shipping and a major reduction in the workforce (when deemed necessary). There’s still no significant increase in demand for shipping due to economic conditions. This decline may continue unless the economy improves drastically over the next few years.

Plus, most trucking companies aren’t sure whether the pandemic would resurge or not. The companies are cautious with quantities they import and export.

Less Speedy Delivery Times

The number of trucks on the road has decreased even though there's an increase in the final-mile delivery. This is due to workforce reduction and an increase in package deliveries by small vehicles. Small vehicles have a smaller capacity than large ones.

In addition to this, there's more congestion on the streets due to telematics increasing demand for real-time vehicle information. As a result, customers have to wait for extended periods before receiving their goods. In some cases, customers have already vacated the delivery location by the time their parcels arrive. That may be a complete waste of time and resources on both sides.

Staying Healthy

The coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst disasters ever. It killed millions and cost billions in economic damage.

Although not everyone infected with coronavirus will get sick, carriers are still contagious until they start showing symptoms. This created an atmosphere of fear where people shied away from public gatherings or even large buildings like shopping malls.

For truckers, this means that they might have to cancel or cut short delivery trips if the customer isn't in a safe location (safe according to pandemic standards). While it is unclear whether there will be another outbreak, trucking companies are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their drivers. The companies provide free screens for coronavirus. They also provide necessary face masks, gloves, and sanitizers.

Many trucking companies are also working with government agencies to create pandemic preparedness plans. These companies train workers in how to deal with the virus.

The Bottom Line

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting the United States hard, the transport industry adapted to the COVID-19 world. And with these things returning to normal, trucking companies seem to pick a “new normal.”

Trucking companies have put measures in place to increase driver pay and reduce turnover rate. The companies still put much emphasis on health matters and use technology and innovation in their services.

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