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EDITORIAL: COVID-19 and The Important Role of Trucking in Uncertain Times

By Greg Munden, Munden Ventures:

As people, ironically, begin to worry about where their next roll of toilet paper is going to come from, it’s interesting to see the importance of trucking to consumers and governments percolate to the top. “Sold out, you’re kidding? Well, when is the next truck arriving?”

This is certainly not to make light about the seriousness of COVID-19 or the impact on people’s lives. While some of the reactions seem a little irrational (I hear there was a fist fight in our local grocery store), the fact is, people are scared. Understandable, given that this experience is unprecedented and there remain more questions than answers.

Those of us in the trucking industry who are involved in working on trying to find ways to attract and retain drivers have long been trying to find a way to elevate the status and perception of trucking and professional drivers within society. After all, trucking is the lifeblood of the economy around the world and it is only times like these that it becomes evident. People have become very used to stores stocked and shelves full of everything they need in their daily lives – a testament to the efficiency of the supply chain and reliability of both the trucking companies and the professional drivers that make it all happen in a world of just-in-time deliveries.

Like we always remind people, “if you got it, it came by truck”. Whether it’s end to end shipping from manufacturer to the store of the products we enjoy, or the first mile (manufacturer to railway or shipyard) and last mile (railway or shipyard to the store),or the UPS truck that is more and more often delivering your shop-online products directly to your house, a truck and professional truck driver has touched your shipment along its way.

So, as grocery stores and Costco’s across the nation start developing empty shelves and people start concerning themselves with their next meal, their medication, and, okay, their toilet paper, the importance of trucking and the people who make it tick really starts to matter…to everyone.

Government’s Response to the Supply Chain

In an unprecedented move, governments have requested anyone travelling from out of country to self-impose a 14-day quarantine period upon arriving back in the country (at the time of this writing the Canada and US borders remain open, however this appears to be subject to change on short notice). The unintended consequences of such a directive quickly identified themselves with respect to trucking. A high percentage of goods manufactured and consumed by North Americans cross the Canada/US and US/Mexican borders. Imposing a 14-day quarantine period on professional drivers crossing borders would quickly bring the North American economies to a halt.

Demonstrating the importance of trucking, and professional truck drivers, the Canadian and US governments quickly revised this quarantine directive to exclude cross-border professional truck drivers because they are deemed an “essential service”. At a time when the countries are dependent on the delivery of medical and food supplies, restricting the availability of resources that are already in short supply would compromise the ability of our countries to deal with the pandemic.

Even further, the US government has provided an exemption for professional drivers transporting goods or people essential to the containment and treatment of COVID-19. I am not aware of any other cross-sector exemptions similar to this at this point.

Wow, a definite indication of the importance of the trucking industry generally, and the professional drivers specifically.

The Future of Trucking

Undoubtedly, we will look back on this pandemic in a number of months and have learned some very valuable lessons, as governments, as companies, as leaders and as humans. I hope that one of those lessons that have been learned by society is the important role that trucking plays in their daily lives, and not just in times of disaster, but everyday.

We enjoy the security and certainty of a 1st world society because, in large part, of the sophistication and reliability of our modern supply chain. We expect the shelves to be full, we expect toilet paper to be readily available. And, when we drill this supply chain reliability to its most important fundamental element, it is the professional driver that ultimately makes it happen. Through dark of night, freezing rain, snowstorms or the heat of summer, or concerns over personal health during times of a pandemic, it is the professional driver that society should appreciate and respect for the important, and highly skilled job that they do to keep us safe and comfortable.

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