The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting transportation and logistic systems across the U.S as companies scramble to keep supply chains moving.
Roadmaster Group CEO John Wilbur told Yahoo Finance the outbreak hit the $800 billion trucking industry “like a brick wall” and a shift in consumer behavior is “accelerating industry changes.”
“It’s been quite a run over the last couple of weeks because normally we either slide into or climb out of a dip, but this one hit everyone like a brick wall,” said Wilbur. “It has accelerated the trend towards e-commerce, final mile and home delivery of everything from groceries to toiletries….We’ve got people ordering online that weren’t before. I think there’s permanent change here.”
As consumers change their behavior, supply chains are working overtime to keep up. Recent data compiled by project44 found trucking shipments to grocery and discount retailers surged 82% last week compared to a year ago.
But it’s a tricky balancing act. As some businesses scramble to restock their shelves fast enough, other businesses remain closed due to state stay-at-home orders.
“We’ve had some supply chains that have just had a surge in demand well over capacity [while] others have fallen to zero. It’s been a real struggle for the management teams out there to redeploy capacity to the supply chains that really needed it, which are food, supplies, and medical PPE.”
Truckers on the front lines
The increase in traffic shows just how important the trucking industry is to keeping the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent data compiled by Amarsys and GoodData, the number of online orders for web-only retailers skyrocketed 52% in the U.S. and Canada from March 22 through April 4.
“From our standpoint, [the coronavirus has] really put a focus on all truckers in America and how important they are to the supply chain,” said Wilbur. “They’re first responders. Truckers have continued to go into and out of [the country’s coronavirus] hotspots even though everything has been shut down.”
The need for truckers to deliver goods in some of the nation’s hardest-hit cities could deter drivers from wanting to work, but Roadmaster Group says it hasn’t gotten pushback from drivers just yet. In fact, the company is having an easier time recruiting drivers than in the past.
“The driver environment has been pretty solid lately,” said Wilbur. “I have to say it’s been a very patriotic response.”
Seana Smith is the anchor for The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith