In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been hearing the term “essential workers” in the news and among our friends and families daily. When it comes to essential workers, we tend to think of medical professionals, food service workers, and hospitality workers. With all the news about those industries, few people remember that America’s freight needs shipment, pandemic or no pandemic. So, why are truck drivers, essential workers?
Let’s explore that question. Below, we discuss why truck drivers are essential workers, and we take a look at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the truck driving industry.
Why Are Truck Drivers Essential Workers?
Truck drivers are essential workers because they keep our nation afloat, in the most literal of senses. America runs on commerce, and without truck drivers to move goods, America would come to a halt in a matter of just a few days.
With no one to move goods, hospitals would run out of supplies and medications, gas stations would run dry, and super markets and big box stores would quickly empty. According to the American Trucker Association (ATA), we would see hoarding and panic buying on par with the worst natural disasters, a drastic uptick in vermin, rodents, bacteria, insects, trash mountains in urban areas, cashless ATMs, and a buildup of hazardous materials and waste. Additionally, it’s projected that our potable water supplies would dry up in a scant 14 days.
Our country runs on the transportation of goods, removal of waste, and a healthy supply chain. After all, around 11.8 billion tons of goods moved in 2019 alone, and that number appears to maintain a steady upward trend. Between 2018 and 2019, the truck driving industry saw a gain of almost $100 billion.
When you’re answering the question “Why are truck drivers essential workers?” the answer becomes quite clear, and the positive impact of the truck driving industry on our economy is massive. But how has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the truck driving industry?
COVID-19 Highlights Nationwide Need For Truck Drivers
The pandemic has put some stress on the truck driving industry. That’s because the industry as a whole was understaffed before the virus even hit. The ATA has a wealth of figures that illustrate that fact. For instance, the industry at large needs around 1.1 million new drivers within the next decade to keep up with the ever-increasing demand.
The coronavirus pandemic has made this driver shortage more than apparent, and it helps to answer the question as to why are truck drivers essential workers. Truck drivers are reporting the need to work longer hours in order to keep up with the demand for medical supplies, supermarket stock, and other essential goods. This increased demand translates to even more freight that needs moving for an industry that’s already spread pretty thin.
This trend dwindled a little bit when some stores and restaurants closed during the stay at home mandate. As a result, some carriers saw the need to furlough a portion of their employees. After this slowdown, things picked back up again with the gradual increase of e-commerce and consumer packaged goods when specific sectors began to reopen as others remained closed.
This volatile market has exposed some of the truck driving industry’s weak points, one of the largest being the lack of drivers.
The nation desperately needs more truck drivers on the front lines, and the nation’s leading carriers are offering high starting salaries and amazing benefits to incentivize growth.
That doesn’t detract from the substantial amount of support that truck drivers need to keep them happy and safe while doing one of the country’s most crucial jobs.
In light of this, the government and truck driving companies themselves have responded to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the financial security and safety of truck drivers in the U.S.
Carrier Safety Measures and Government Response
Now that we’ve addressed why truck drivers are essential workers, let’s look at how the industry and the government react to the pandemic.
A good number of carriers have implemented noteworthy changes that help office staff and the drivers on the road.
For example, U.S. Xpress has allowed 99% of their office workforce to work from home, and they’ve implemented new technologies in the cabs of their truck fleet. These technologies help drivers find trailer parking areas, grocery stores, and other places where drivers can find meals while some businesses remain closed. They’ve also taken measures to decrease contact when drivers are making deliveries and pickups.
Averitt and Lyden Inc are also making efforts to move towards less contact by holding virtual and outdoor meetings.
Additionally, many carriers around the nation have been providing drivers and other employees with PPE such as face masks and gloves. Some pick up and drop off points have also taken specific preventative measures like taking temperatures upon contact. The flow of paperwork has also undergone digitization.
From a government perspective, the CDC has released a detailed set of guidelines that help drivers stay safe.
Additionally, in recognition of the truck driving industry’s essential nature, drivers could take home up to $25K in hazard pay, thanks to the HEROES proposal. This money would be disbursed directly to employers to divvy out among the drivers and essential workers in other industries. The proposed fund’s total amount would total to around $200 billion, offered to frontline workers who earn less than $200,000 annually.
TDI Thanks Our Nation’s Truck Drivers
As the nation’s leading truck driving school, we at TDI understand the challenges that our frontline drivers experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With much respect to the drivers that make our industry so great, we sincerely thank you for keeping America prosperous and healthy during this time of great stress.
We also hope you now understand the answer to “Why are truck drivers essential workers?”
If you’re considering becoming a truck driver, the industry has never needed drivers as much as it does now. You can begin a new, exciting, and prosperous career with TDI by getting your CDL in only two weeks. Our job placement program also boasts a 90% success rate, meaning you could potentially get a job with one of the nation’s leading carriers before you even graduate.
Interested? Contact us today so we can begin working towards getting your CDL!