I hope you all had a special Christmas. Well, as the self-appointed “Trucking Activist,” let me take this opportunity to give my reflections on the year of 2020 – one that will be going in the record books. The obvious story was the pandemic and how well this country, particularly the trucking industry, navigated those turbulent waters. But, just like real turbulent waters, there were highs and lows. If the pandemic were not enough, we endured the most divisive election for president that this old man can remember. Additionally, there were record hurricanes and wildfires. The only thing missing to signify the coming of the end was the “locusts.” Low and behold, in the remote Northwest there were killer hornet sightings! What in the Hell is going on? However, through all this I cannot help but ask, why in the hell did wearing a mask become such a polarizing act? I believe the greatest country in the world has some work to do, but I have faith that the will of this country’s citizens will endure on the path to recovery.
“Path to recovery” would be the theme of the trucking industry in 2020. As the year started, I had my calendar set, doing my usual 190 days on the road meeting with my clients, members, and friends. One of the first road trips was to serve as a panel member at the TCA Annual Convention in Florida discussing the prospects for the coming year. In general, I was bullish coming out of a down 2019. There was some discussion about an impending challenge from imports, wow, if we had only known! There was discussion of a Coronavirus? Upon returning home the realty set in as March Madness was cancelled Are you kidding me? Then the world changed, and my normal world of travel was also cancelled, and my current sheltering in place is a 20-year record for my wife to endure. Then I watched the industry shelter in place thru April and May after a huge demand at the end of March. The industry was navigating the best it could, we had many Zoom meetings putting members together to share ideas and concerns. Early on, these sessions were categorized as “misery loves company!” Then there were factions of this broad industry that started to see exceptional demand for their services, and the path to recovery began. Many of the supply chain carriers soon became overburdened with excessive demand.
A usual byproduct of high demand in trucking are the driver challenges that ensue. The ability to navigate healthily in a 24/7 business during a pandemic seemed like a monumental challenge for the carriers. As I have stated in the past, the results of carrier actions, and driver reactions have been nothing short of phenomenal! However, the virus did have an impact as the months went on; availability of driver hours shrunk, and the number of unseated trucks grew. These issues compounded the challenge of shippers demands, and load commitments expected. Drivers are getting well-deserved pay increases, and carriers manage driver utilization erosion, but student drivers have not kept pace with industry needs.
All in all, 2020 was a remarkable year for this industry. We went from the lowest lows to seemingly some of the highest highs we have ever seen. The waters remain turbulent going into the New Year, but, that new year can’t get here fast enough, my wife wants me out of the house…Amen to that!