The pandemic has taken a toll on many industries, though it seems to have hit trucking extra hard. Some of its effects are anticipated to be shorter-lasting and will likely reduce or resolve completely as COVID starts to decline.
This includes those related to the increased need to have some goods transported quicker than normal (such as the vaccine and personal protection equipment), along with a shortage of drivers, in part, due to being exposed to or testing positive for the virus.
Other impacts of the coronavirus might linger a bit longer, affecting the trucking industry for years to come, if not changing it forever. Here are a few projections about what the long-term effects of COVID might be on trucking companies and the workers it employs.
Development of standard social distancing practices
Best case scenario, we are never hit with a pandemic again. But if there’s one thing that COVID has taught us is that it’s better to be prepared. And the more prepared we are, the greater our ability to continue operating our businesses with minimal disruption. In trucking specifically, it can keep transportation flowing—even in the event of a lockdown.
One way to do this is by developing social distancing practices that employees must follow when there is an increased risk of an environmental contagion. At a minimum, many businesses will have these practices ready to go if needed. Others will make them a permanent part of their employee handbook so that staff knows immediately what is to happen should a similar circumstance arise.
Cross-training of key personnel
If one or two top people are out, it might hurt a business, but that business should still be able to run. The problem with a pandemic-type of issue is that it can cause companies to lose several key players at once. This can cripple a business, especially if it has a smaller number of staff. During COVID, this factor alone contributed to the closure of many businesses, creating a lasting impact.
The trucking industry can help protect against this in the future by cross-training its people to perform other duties or fulfill other roles. Even having a clearly defined set of flow charts for each job function would make it easier for others to step in if need be. While the process might be slower, it wouldn’t be stopped completely.
Promoting lean operations
Several companies have taken a financial hit during the pandemic, forcing them to find ways to keep running amidst reducing revenue or risk closing their doors. As a result, increasing productivity while reducing costs is likely here to stay, offering transportation businesses the opportunity to remain resilient even during difficult times.
One way some companies are doing this is by allowing certain employees to work remotely. This reduces reoccurring overhead costs related to office space for staff who can still perform their jobs without reporting to a physical location. Figuring out how to lower expenses in other areas can aid with this as well, such as planning driver routes efficiently, reducing the amount of gas used and limiting their idle time.
Creating a contactless experience
If the pandemic has reminded us of one thing, it is that germs can be easily passed from one person to another. This has caused several businesses and industries to work toward creating a contactless experience. The food industry is a prime example, enabling customers to have meals delivered to their door without requiring any type of interaction.
This same approach will likely be applied to the trucking industry, creating long-term changes in how we move goods from one location to the next. Paper contracts will be replaced with online forms. Drivers’ movements will be tracked via apps and new employees will be onboarded virtually versus bringing them in for face-to-face interviews and hiring.
No doubt COVID has left a lasting impact on many industries. These are just a few that will likely exist within trucking specifically, changing it long-term.
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