It is said that respect is hard to find, that it must be earned, and may come in the strangest ways and at the strangest times. In the trucking game, a gruelling industry that takes no prisoners, being respected ain’t easy. The general populace is wary of 18 wheel behemoths hogging the road and spewing smoke and air pollution, rain and snow spray. They don’t give truckers or the industry enough credit for how they make their lives better. But lately, events have shown how important trucking is and put a line under the positive future that lies ahead for the trucking industry.
Indeed these have been strange times. COVID-19 put immense pressure on society and the economy. It is during these difficult times that truckers and the trucking industry have become modern-day heroes for everyone. The trucking industry has stepped up and put itself in harm’s way during the COVID pandemic, at a time when we needed them most. The nation became aware of how critically important the trucking industry is for our day to day survival, especially in times of unpredictability, uncertainty, and in the case of the Pandemic, downright fear.
At the end of July, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about the dangerous situation Ontario and Canadian truckers were facing when they cross the border to pick up or drop off a load in the United States. He said “the province is working with the Trucking Association to make sure that enough PPE was available to truckers, and that safe accommodation was available for them. It was important that truckers be vigilant while in the U.S.” Ford went on to say “the economy would stop dead without the truckers, they are amazing!” and that he wanted “to thank personally for everything they were doing during the pandemic.”
Drivers have a higher average age than many other professions, and many harbour pre-existing conditions such as obesity or heart disease. Those factors put them at higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Carriers are acutely aware of this and take extra precautions to protect this core segment of their workforce.
“There will continue to be lots of emphasis on personal safety around providing protection to those employees,” said Sid Brown, CEO at truckload carrier NFI in the U.S. “That will continue for a period of time until they come up with a vaccine or medication and people feel comfortable again that they won’t catch the infection.” “The flow of paperwork and the interchange between a driver and the workforce either at the pickup point or delivery point may be limited. It might permanently change that way,” Brown said. “As far as operations going back to normal all of a sudden and we’re through with this, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Coming out of the pandemic there are a large number of unknowns. How will strong will the economy be? Will there be a vaccine in the near future? Will manufacturing slow to decreased demand due to economic uncertainty? Will people start getting out of their homes and go out for a meal, or go back to the office? These are short term uncertainties. The economic ones will definitely affect trucking. The vaccine, if it is discovered will affect everyone. In the short term business will be slow to recover, but recover it will.
So why does trucking’s future look good? The trucking industry has finally been hailed as national heroes, deservedly, now the population really gets why trucking is so important and vital. This new respect will encourage younger people to get involved in the industry, as well as women, and others who may have never been interested before. Trucking has a new cache, an allure that it never had before. Attention thrown on to trucking during COVID-19 will mean greater innovation, new technologies, new integration into society, new opportunities all around. I know this may sound strange, but COVID-19 may actually prove beneficial to trucking in the long haul and ensure a bright and positive future for trucking.