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COVID-19: Impact on Trucking Companies, Economy and Trade

Coronavirus and the nation’s response to the emergency are rapidly changing the day-to-day realities of fleet-based businesses in the United States. The pandemic has impacted millions of businesses, and people, as well as me, Petru Grati, and my business, GPN Express Co, out of Chicago area (Illinois). While several states are enforcing stay-at-home rules, transportation, field service, utility workers, energy workers and many other fleet-based businesses have been deemed essential services and continue to operate, albeit in a vastly altered landscape.

The transportation industry is facing extreme challenges. Supply chain disruptions and nationwide emergency delivery needs are causing fleet managers, dispatchers and drivers to work longer hours, while hauling in other areas, such as restaurant supply and equipment for live events, has ceased. And according to this article in Heavy Duty Trucking, drivers are struggling to protect their health while out on the road.

According to Nick Beck, Owner of Beck Trucking, trucking companies are already doing their best to meet increased demand across the country.

On both sides, inbound and outbound, we’re definitely trying to help out; a few customers have asked us to help supply grocery chains. They have had an influx of grocery store loads that they need assistance with, including around 600 loads earlier this week. We’ve been able to pull resources from what we normally do to assist in keeping the grocery stores full.

Keeping track of up-to-date information is critical for fleet managers and drivers. As a company dedicated to serving fleet-based businesses, Verizon Connect will update this space frequently to provide industry updates and resources managers can use to make informed decisions.

"The events of the past few weeks have emphasized why we do what we do: deliver the solutions, services, and expertise that help keep drivers safe, and drive efficiencies and productivity for fleet-based businesses,” said Verizon Connect President Andrés Irlando.

During this global pandemic, Verizon Connect is ready to provide whatever level of support is required.

  • We are fully staffed at regular levels. We have enabled our teams to work from home while maintaining normal levels of support and accessibility to our teams.

  • We are committed to keeping our systems and platforms up and running and have implemented emergency operations to care for our customers.

  • We will continue to work closely with our customers and suppliers to support critical business operations.

To see everything Verizon is doing to respond to the crisis, please view this page.

Landmark rule announced by FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on May 14 published a long-awaited final rule updating hours-of-service (HOS) rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers that offer the industry more flexibility. 

The new rule addresses long standing key concerns of the industry including:

- The 30-minute break rule

- Sleeper-birth rules

- Changes to adverse driving conditions exceptions

- Changes to short-haul exception

Read all about the rule change on FMCSA website.

Relaxed hours of service: What trucking companies and drivers need to know

As of April 9, 2020, the FMCSA has extended its Emergency Declaration providing HOS and other regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak another five weeks, through May 15. The declaration was also further expanded to cover liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems.

According to the FMCSA, none of the HOS regulations apply “while the driver is engaged with providing direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption.” This means that drivers are not required to take 30-minute breaks and the regular 34-hour restart is not required. To help ensure safety, “once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.” Read more about the options provided by FMCSA on ELD devices.

Critical business concerns for fleets

How can businesses run efficient fleets in these pressing times? What are the practical steps to take care of your drivers' health? Watch the following webinars to hear from industry experts and editors of major industry publications including, Automotive Fleet, Heavy Duty Trucking and Government Fleet.

  • Trucking and logistics keep medical supplies, groceries, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, and much more moving through the supply chain during these tough times. Fleets are currently trying their best to keep drivers and employees safe and healthy and stay compliant with regulations while continuing to operate efficiently. In this webinar, Heavy Duty Trucking brings together a panel of industry experts to share what they’ve learned as they monitor the fast-changing conditions—such as the current regulatory landscape and what to expect with freight and the economy moving forward. Watch now: What Fleets Need to Know Now About COVID-19

  • While public fleets are providing essential duties during the pandemic, it’s no small task to pivot from normal to emergency operations. From technicians to management, fleet employees are at their jobsites, working to keep police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, trash trucks and other essential vehicles on the road. In this webinar, Government Fleet brings expertise from public fleet managers and leading consultants to help you tackle current operational challenges—including how to help keep employees and drivers safe, and how to handle the coming weeks and months. Watch now: How Public Fleets Are Coping with COVID-19

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm—COVID-19 and its hazards included. In this unprecedented environment of managing a fleet during a pandemic, this webinar identifies the procedures and policies you should consider implementing to help reduce the risk to your employees and customers.  Watch now: Fleet Policies to Help Reduce COVID-19 Risks

  • The times are challenging for both businesses and the customers. As the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, it calls for businesses to think differently. Though landscapers are deemed an essential service, they like other services, are not immune to the unpredictable market conditions in the times to come. The Harvest Landscape Consulting Group got its experts together to help landscaping businesses make sense of the current situation and plan for the future. Watch now: Running a Landscaping Business During the Time of COVID-19

More industry updates

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recently updated guidelines for commercial truck drivers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The trucking industry lost more than 88,000 jobs in April, a 5.8% drop from March. This was part of a record-setting 20.5 million job loss across the U.S., putting the nation’s overall unemployment rate at 14.7%.

  • Crude oil futures hit a historic low, as the benchmark price for oil in the U.S. dropped to negative $37.63 on Monday, April 20.

  • A recent survey showed nearly half of carriers (48%) have reported “significantly” decreased freight levels throughout the U.S. A number of areas, such as the eastern part of the U.S., have been particularly impacted.

  • The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has granted an exemption for Hazardous Material Endorsement (HME) holders. States can grant an extension of up to 180 days for any TSA security threat assessments (STAs) for HMEs that expired/will expire between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance for essential workers to allow them to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19. The guidance covers "critical infrastructure workers," such as healthcare workers, law enforcement, transportation and logistics workers, provided they remain asymptomatic and take precautions to protect themselves and others.

  • Truck drivers have officially been exempted from an order requiring adults entering the state of Utah to fill out an online form concern potential exposure to COVID-19.

  • On April 9, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced members would cut oil production decrease by 10 million barrels per day—meaning recently low diesel prices may start heading back up.

  • The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has announced that International Roadcheck, which was scheduled for May 5-7, has been postponed until later in the year. Roadside safety inspections and regular traffic enforcement will continue to be conducted.

  • According to the CDC, current domestic travel advisories "do not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply."

  • On March 24, the FMCSA issued a waiver for commercial drivers whose licenses/permits and/or medical cards have expired or are set to expire after March 1, 2020. The waiver is valid through June 30.

  • On March 13, the FMCSA issued a national emergency declaration to provide HOS relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting necessary goods in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These goods include food, raw materials, medical supplies, paper products and the supplies/equipment necessary for sanitization and community safety—including those items that have been in the highest demand around the country such as water and hand sanitizer. The declaration was updated on March 18 to include fuel haulers, and an expanded declaration on March 21 states that any “motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief.”

  • The federal government has released a list of those “critical infrastructure industries” whose workers are “essential”.

  • Currently, the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are closed to nonessential traffic—but trade and commercial traffic are still on the move.

  • Rest areas on some of the busiest routes have already started to reopen, hopefully providing some relief to truckers after long hours on the road.

  • The U.S. Treasury Department, IRS and U.S. Department of Labor have announced a plan to implement paid leave for workers and tax credits for businesses to help recover the costs of COVID-19 related leave. The tax credits will apply to small and midsize employers, reimbursing them for paid employee leave.

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has announced a number of measures to support the economy and allow banks to continue lending.

  • The Department of Transportation has issued guidance on drug and alcohol testing for federally regulated transportation workers—this may help fleets and commercial drivers if they face challenges complying with regulations during the pandemic.

Source: HERE

Thank you for your time,

Petru Grati,

GPN Express Co.


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