• ITVI.USA
    11,095.550
    -126.500
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.880
    -0.310
    -1.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    11,081.180
    -123.910
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.900
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.520
    0.160
    6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.860
    0.020
    1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.310
    0.140
    12%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.260
    0.100
    4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.260
    0.040
    3.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.730
    0.150
    5.8%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
  • ITVI.USA
    11,095.550
    -126.500
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.880
    -0.310
    -1.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    11,081.180
    -123.910
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.900
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.520
    0.160
    6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.860
    0.020
    1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.310
    0.140
    12%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.260
    0.100
    4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.260
    0.040
    3.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.730
    0.150
    5.8%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
Driver issuesNewsTrucking

Scared drivers press on toward looming freight cliff

“Essentially, there is no safe place anymore,” driver says

A train coming to a sudden stop is how veteran driver Henry Albert describes what truckers will soon face in seeking freight loads to haul.

“When the front of a train stops, the slack between the couplers comes out,” he said. “I can see for the first time that there are trucks coming out of the equation.”

Trucking companies last week began to accept loads they would have rejected two weeks ago. There are fewer loads to choose from as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down all but essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies. Manufacturers of most expensive items like cars and trucks are shut down. Their suppliers have no choice but to cease production.

The Outbound Tender Volume Index began to slide last week after peaking on Monday, March 23. The number of available freight loads is expected to decline dramatically as the coronavirus pandemic continues., (FreightWaves/SONAR/OTVI.USA)

“All of the auto plants are down. Nobody is shopping at the malls for clothes or furniture,” Albert said. “Stick it with a fork. It’s done.”

Driver perspectives

Albert was one of several drivers who spoke with FreightWaves about how they are coping with the present and planning for the future.

“You just try to stay away from people. Everybody’s scared,” said Carla Dickey, a 33-year veteran driver. “If you aren’t scared, you’re foolish.”

For Dickey, who drives a refrigerated trailer for Buckley Transportation based in Bashear, Texas, having a microwave oven and refrigerator in her sleeper cab promotes a form of sheltering in place as she delivers hatchery eggs, coffee creamers and produce.

“I’m 63 years old,” Dickey said. “I don’t need to catch this stuff.”

She has all but given up purchasing food on the road as restaurants close dining rooms while maintaining carryout, drive-thru and some curb service with designated pickup for truckers. 

Dickey’s husband is laid off from his job at a car dealership. She takes food from home with her on the road.

“My job is pretty secure,” she said.

Alec Costerus is less sure about his. Driving a load of plastic plumbing parts from Aurora, Colorado, to Stockton, California on Friday, he had no return load scheduled.

“My future is as long as this trip lasts,” he said. “I am waiting for agriculture demand to pick up.”

Costerus gets his loads from third-party logistics provider Landstar System Inc. (NASDAQ: LSTR), which usually means consistent work. But bidding is fierce for new contracts.  

“I’m looking on the load boards,” he said. “There are loads up to Washington, but that is just going to send me into a hole.”

Washington was the first U.S. state with a concentration of COVID-19 cases, a health risk for someone traveling there. It also means practically no outbound freight. 

New York, New York

None of the drivers who spoke with FreightWaves wanted to drive a load to New York, where the coronavirus spread leads the nation.

“It’s not worth the aggravation. I’m not gonna go,” said Dickey, adding that Buckley doesn’t have many New York routes.

Load rejections climb as the coronavirus spread worsens in New York City. (FreightWaves SONAR/OTRI.NY)

The Ohio-based independent driving team of Stephen Halsted and Sandy Goche has sworn off New York and California during the pandemic. As freight expeditors, they staged near the Indiana-Michigan border this week waiting to pick up a load of non coronavirus-related medical equipment.

Albert, who consistently drives between Laredo, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, delivering parts for a major truck manufacturer, said accepting a load to New York would require a big premium because the trailer likely would return empty.

“If there was a time to drive a truck to New York, this would be the time to do it,” he said, referring to the lack of rush traffic and bottlenecks.

Costerus felt safer driving loads to lower infection areas like Billings, Montana and South Dakota, less-populated states which reported COVID-19 cases later and in lower numbers than other states.

“Essentially there is no safe place anymore,” he said. “I stopped in Kansas and I used a napkin to grab a door handle. I walk through restaurants with my arms up like a surgeon.”

The coming cliff

Albert began seeing signs of the slowdown when he reserved an overnight parking spot in Hammond, Louisiana earlier this week. The lot filled much later than usual. Ample spaces were available for trucks that weeks earlier would have “creatively” parked nearby for the night.

He still has loads of replacement truck parts destined for aftermarket outlets deemed essential for keeping freight moving. But with original equipment demand frozen, plants cannot justify making only replacement parts for the long term.

Groceries need replenishing, but not because people are eating more, Albert said. It’s because they are eating differently. With sit-down restaurants closed, some of those deliveries are diverted to grocery loads.

“Flatbed will fall off pretty quick because construction is going to come to a stop,” he said. “What are you going to do? You can’t haul clothes to people if they aren’t buying. 

“This is the easiest I ever had it in my [trucking] life,” Albert said. “But I think that’s about to dry up. Monday is going to be a different world. It’s going to hit hard and fast when it hits. Hopefully, it’s going to hit hard and fast when we come out of this.”

Tags
Show More

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

40 Comments

  1. The only freight that will be available with this pandemic going right now? Will be medical supplies? And food stuffs going to the grocery stores. Everything else will dry up for quite a while. Thank god refrigerated freight won’t stop moving. I do feel sorry for the specialized and flatbed haulers. Their going to have it rough for the rest of the year. But drive safe everybody. Including those headed back home.

  2. The virus shutdown should be short term. After everyone comes back from vacation the economy should take off and return to normal. Businesses will be hustling and bustling by mid Summer. The economy might even turn into a wild wild western, just for the fun of it.

  3. Stop being so afraid. You folks are scaring yourselves. Do you not even realize that by doing this crap that you actually lower your bodies immune system? You have to to go out and talk to people ,get dirty and stuff to build your immune system up. Covering yourself and staying inside only weakens your immune system.

    1. That is absolutely not correct. Please read up on the difference between COVID-19 and a regular cold/flu before you put yourself and other people in the hospital.

    2. Lol, yeah go to New York and roll around the halls of elmhurst hospital. That should give you a nice boost. People like you unfortunately have no clue. Natural selection is alive and well in trucking.

  4. Driver’s need to Mann up and get big boy pants on , Stop living in fear and keep trucking!
    Government doesn’t care about Us , stop and think without fear of ?????
    Clear Your mind adapt and overcome, survive, thrive and fear not!
    Talk to self creditors and skip some payments this month, purchase food instead for neighbors out of income.
    Please look out for neighbors, there all We have at Home !
    Government is not your neighbor.

  5. Our drivers are the best in the world. Our system is the best system in the world. Sadly, this virus came when our country was at is highest level in Manufacturing and business in history. However, a lot our companies were doing good in the profit margin in industry. The probably was a good benefit to a sad situation today.

    Freightwaves is doing a great job of providing the information of current events. Their use of people working in Transportation is a plus for them and us.

    We need to remember to plan for the unknown. Tomorrow is coming faster than you know. Be Prepared for it.

    The virus is sad for us all. We are Americans and we will live through this issue. Plan now for that day. I pray it is coming sooner than we know.

    Plants please take care of the drivers while they are there. They need a friendly reception for the road heroes they are today. Let them know that they are saving our country along with the medical and first responders. They need food, water, rest and a pat on their back. They have been saving us for decades.

    Reo Hatfield

    1. Quote :

      “Our drivers are the best in the world. Our system is the best system in the world. Sadly, this virus came when our country was at is highest level in Manufacturing and business in history.”

      ROTFLMAO ! OMG ! WOW ! LOL ! This guy is hilarious !

  6. March 30 2020

    quote :

    Hasidic Jewish community north of Montreal quarantined after COVID-19 outbreak

    MONTREAL — An Orthodox Jewish community north of Montreal is under lockdown after some of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

    Dr. Eric Goyer said he did not take the decision lightly to place the community under quarantine.

    “It’s maybe the most difficult decision of my life … but it’s really to protect the members of the community and the members of the (larger) community living around them,” Goyer said.

    “Restricting individual liberties is not something I like to do, but I want to provide the best protection to the members of the community, particularly the seniors.”

    So far about 15 Tosh members have tested positive for COVID-19, Goyer said, adding they likely picked up the virus while travelling to New York State two weeks ago to celebrate a religious holiday. The number of positive cases is expected to rise, he said.”

    REQUOTE :

    “they likely picked up the virus while travelling to New York State two weeks ago to celebrate a religious holiday.”

    Currently the epidemic center of the COVID-19 in the USA is NEW YORK CITY !
    Currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 in Canada is MONTREAL CITY !

    There is a huge link between these two cross border cities !

    THIS IS NOT MAKE BELIEF NOR FEAR MONGERING ! This is occurring for real right under our eyes and spread from the USA(among other places) in this particular case into CANADA !

    This is a time to be extremely vigilant and exercise prudence . Those that are allowed to cross boarders due to being exempt to quarantine due to servicing essential needs pose the greatest risk for catching & spreading COVID-19 across countries from one to another .

    Currently those exempt from isolating themselves when crossing boarders by road back and forth due to servicing essentials are TRUCK DRIVERS ! It is a shame to see that some truck drivers are not taking this matter as seriously and responsibly as any reasonable person should .

    Be extremely vigilant out there due to an unfortunate widespread issue that is much worse than the COVID-19 virus , IGNORANCE !

    Put these two together and you obtain pandemics etc. There is nothing more “fearful” than being obligated to deal with ignorant people.

    Be wise , be vigilant , stay safe , self isolate !

    In my humble opinion ……….

    1. If your that scared GO HOME is it possible to catch the virus YES but being scared makes you a coward use safe practices and keep going

      1. Among “safe practices” would be to completely close the boarders by land between the USA & Canada !

        “Fear” apart from fearing your ignorance has nothing to do with it compared to being preventive .

        I personally don’t fear COVID-19 for I have my own remedy if needed , however , I also understand the “mileu” within our biochemistry and what prevents any bacteria or virus from its capability to instill itself and develop within it .

        That being said I am not here to give you a course on such a subject . Easier to simply suggest that you be wise and isolate . Don’t think that you can , nor attempt to, outsmart what you don’t understand ,

        But it’s quite entertaining to see some comment upon such , LOL !

        By the way , those in the medical field on the front line are much better educated that you are on the general viral topic , though even some upon them have been infected even though they have applied what you suggest as ” safe practices and keep going” , LOL !

        Apparently all you so called “experts” are missing a huge part of the puzzle in your attempt to tell us how we should conduct ourselves during this pandemic , apart from the simpler behavior we should adapt to which is to isolate .

        Therefore , ISOLATE ! Anyone else that suggests otherwise or attempts to manipulate you into doing otherwise is nothing less than an absolute clown !

        In my humble opinion ……….

        Be wise , be vigilant , stay safe , self isolate !

      2. Paul, call everyone you know. You earned a direct comment from from Noble1 aka Dr Shit For Brains. He knows everything. Ask him. If you’ve read any of his idiotic sarcastic and condescending comments which Freight Waves is filled with then you’d know he knows everything about trucking. He is a genius at organizing labor. He is a stock market wizard. He has a plan to corner the market on transportation. He knows all about “anonymous” trucks and now if I read this correctly, he even has a remedy for COVID-19 at the ready should he require it, which is highly unlikely because he is sitting in the basement of his Chateau Fraudville dreaming up stupid shit. If only he knew the difference between a border and a boarder. and the fact that he can create his own words. He understands the mileu within our biochemistry… I mean seriously…. what a blessing. I mean this dude is the trucking industry’s version of Dos Equis “the world’s most interesting man”… only he is uninteresting… but funny as hell! Oh and he is most likely Canadian, although not likely born and raised. He just has his citizenship… If you get a chance to further your conversation with him, pass along a Go Fuck Yourself from me please. Thank you

        1. , LOL ! If I’m so uninteresting then why would you keep on stocking me ? You only comment on my comments or reply to them on FreightWaves . I appear to have taken quite an important position in your life . You’re spending quite a bit of energy following me around on this site ,LOL !

          -Why so jealous about me calling the stock market and oil price collapse on this site ?
          -Why do you feel so threatened by AB5 ?
          -There’s quite a difference between uniting truck drivers and cutting out the middlemen in order to increase truck driver profits through a collective Alliance compared to “corning the trucking industry” ignoramus .
          -Why so jealous about certain understandings I have in regards to fending off bacteria and viruses ?
          -The word is “milieu” . Apologies for the typo .

          Thanks for the flattery though , LOL !

          However, you really need to get a life .

          In my humble opinion ………..

          1. Noble1 he feels threatened by you.That is why he is trying to discredit you.You have become famous on this site. Change your nickname and be done with him.

          2. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO says:

            Perhaps the clown “My Own Boss” should keep an eye on stocks such as Alpha Pro Teck & Lakeland Industries etc and speak to his financial advisor about them rather than wasting his time ranting like a deranged child on this thread .

            APT is breaking out nicely and increased by 42% today & Lakeland increased by 13% today .

            In my humble opinion …………

    1. What purpose would that lead to apart from increasing the cost on certain items and further causing a burden on consumers internationally ???

      Viewed differently , what if Asia were to boycott our North American hydrocarbons ? Do you realize what a major negative economic impact that would have on North America ?

      Before suggesting to boycott anything or anyone , one should thoroughly envisage the result to such an action .

      One must plan , envision , and anticipate before taking any sort of action in order to prevent any sort of “unanticipated” negative result that may cause a lot more harm than good . What have you planned to replace such international demand without negatively affecting the North American economy ?

      Example :

      When I had previously suggested that certain truck stops should be boycotted in an attempt to render more power to truck drivers , I had a well thought out plan that would serve them without causing them pain as they boycotted certain truck stops .

      However , truck drivers in general(the 99%) are simply followers . The 1% are the one’s that are the one’s that can influence and create change , though a little more difficult to attain .

      The 1% among truck drivers that I am referring to has nothing to do with their social status . It’s all about their mindset . That particular mentality is what is desired and in need to change the industry . As for the majority , just read their general comments on the COVID -19 !

      Are they the one’s that we would want to follow and lead ? LOL ! That same 99% mentality is what has rendered the industry to what it currently is , most slaving for peanuts and competing among one another for peanuts while catering to the middlemen .

      Listen and follow them right into hardship and demise leading to autonomous trucks .

      In my humble opinion ………..

Close