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BC’s Essential Freight & Passenger Services Hard Hit by COVID-19 Economy

The BC Trucking Association (BCTA) says that results of a second COVID-19 Impact Survey of its members, focusing on operational challenges for April 2020, indicate that trucking and motor coach companies and the suppliers who support them in providing critical services to British Columbians are severely strained by the ongoing effect of the pandemic, including significant revenue losses and staff layoffs that continue to increase.

“Our members have been incredibly heartened by the public’s growing awareness of the essential role that our industry plays in their lives – in the comfort and care that they experience as families and communities, during ordinary and extraordinary times,” says Dave Earle, BCTA President & CEO. “But in these extraordinary times, we’re hard hit. The viability of the road transportation industry and the economy always go hand in hand.”

BCTA has been carrying out monthly COVID-19 surveys of all its members. Following implementation in March, the association surveyed members a second time for operations in April 2020 and will continue to trace the trajectory of the pandemic’s effect.

Results of the second COVID-19 Impact Survey indicate that:

  • Trucking companies have, on average, experienced a 29.8 percent drop in revenue, a further drop of 9.3 percent following our first survey in March;
  • Motor coach companies continue to be hardest hit by COVID-19 measures, with an average 96.1 percent drop in revenue, a further 4 percent reduction from March; and
  • Industry suppliers, BCTA’s associate members, realized a 35.9 percent drop in revenue, a further 7.7 percent drop compared to March.

Trucking companies, though providing essential supplies like food, fuel and medical equipment, are struggling with severe decreases in demand for transporting other types of cargo, including cross border and in support of Asia-Pacific trade. As well, too many return trips are empty.

“None of these numbers are good, but we’re especially concerned about motor coach companies,” says Earle. “BC’s motor coach businesses have been devastated by the shutdown of tourism, the cruise ship industry, ski hills and parks, and headline concerts and entertainment events.”

Large numbers of commercial vehicles are parked, whether heavy trucks or buses, and, relatedly, the businesses that supply new vehicles, parts, insurance, and other services are similarly strained.

As employers, BCTA members are also struggling to keep staff working, and layoffs increased from March to April, in spite of government wage subsidy and other programs:

  • For trucking companies, 37 percent of survey respondents had to temporarily lay off an average of 5 employees in March. By April, 53 percent of businesses responding reported an average 22 temporary layoffs, and 24 percent reported an average of 2 permanent layoffs.
  • For motor coach companies, 77 percent responding temporarily laid off an average of 25 employees in March. In April, 92 percent of respondents reported an average of 41 temporary layoffs, with 15 percent reporting an average of 17 permanent layoffs.
  • For associate members, 42 percent of respondents had to temporarily lay off an average of 24 employees in March. In April, 40 percent of respondents reported laying off an average of 34 employees. Among these businesses, 10 percent of respondents had to permanently lay off an average of 7 employees; in April, 7 percent of respondents reported permanent layoffs of an average of 11 employees.

Overall, 85 percent of motor coach respondents indicated they were concerned about the survival of their business if current conditions continue for at least the next three months, compared to 37 percent of motor carrier respondents, and 18 percent of associate member respondents.

Despite the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the commercial road transportation industry in BC, about 90 percent of BCTA’s members support government measures to “flatten the curve” and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our industry appreciates current federal and provincial government relief measures,” Earle confirmed, “but further action is required to ensure the protection of BC’s supply chain in response to COVID-19 and its aftermath. We recommend strategies like expanding provincial sales tax exemptions for equipment and continued support for investment in clean technology. For motor coach companies, an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy could help motor coach companies providing seasonal transportation survive, while we all adapt to the ‘new normal’ in BC.”

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