Cities all over the United States went into quarantine starting in March. Many local businesses (mainly the “non-essential” ones like shopping malls, sports and party venues, beauty salons, etc.) temporarily closed shop since then. Corporations encouraged their employees to work-from-home, and all events and gatherings of more than 50 to 100 attendees were canceled.
Americans seemed reluctant to believe the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning, but now, the majority is in favor of a nationwide lockdown. People are sheltering in place, practicing social distancing and frequent hand-washing, and leaving home only to buy food and daily essentials.
Given the collective effort to prevent the further spread of the deadly Coronavirus, it became inevitable that local economies would shut down. Many have been directly affected by this turn of events: service workers, entrepreneurs, service providers, and transportation workers, to name a few. Out of all these affected industries, it’s the trucking industry that’s in a unique situation.
Hot and Cold Markets
With “shelter-in-place” orders being imposed in the country’s major cities, commercial activity became reduced to transactions in supermarkets, grocery stores, and discount stores. For a truck driver, this means that there’s now a massive demand for trucking shipments to these establishments as owners and managers rush to restock their shelves and provide for their customers’ needs.
As people started their self-imposed quarantine and followed the CDC’s recommendation of self-isolating at home for 14 days, purchases of perishable goods, toilet paper, and other essentials likely fluctuated in the next couple of weeks because the start and end dates for self-imposed quarantines aren’t uniform. Additionally, people who bought food in bulk at the beginning of the shelter-in-place order may not emerge from their homes until their supplies start running low.
This situation is creating hot and cold markets for truckers. Their services are in-demand (albeit fluctuating) among grocers. For retailers, the demand is virtually non-existent.
This is creating another big problem for the trucking industry.
The Biggest Problems for Truckers
For each long-haul trip to be worthwhile, truckers delivering food and essentials to grocery stores must find cargo to bring back on the return trip. This is especially true for truck drivers who are paid on a “piece rate” basis. They get paid per mile, load, or percentage of load. If they return with an empty rig, they get paid less every time.
Of course, health is another pressing issue given the current environment. They might be sitting in their trucks most of the day, but they are also vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19. As such, truckers need adequate protection like face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and protective gear. Unfortunately, not all trucking companies can provide these essentials to their drivers. Some don’t have the funds for it, while others simply cannot procure supplies because they are no longer available.
Other problems truckers face are closed-down rest areas, restaurants, and roadside bathrooms.
Fortunately for truckers, they are entitled to raise their concerns about their health and safety to their employers. Washington DC also requires employers to provide adequate insurance for work-related injuries, among other things. If truckers feel that they are working under unreasonable and unsafe conditions, they can consult truck labor lawyers in DC anytime.
Now is the best time for truck drivers and employers to work together and find ways to overcome the challenges waiting on the road. Failing this, truckers can demand compensation by getting in touch with trucking attorneys in Washington.