Joint research by ATRI, OOIDA, identifies COVID-19 impact on trucking, offers recommendations

Unloading truck at warehouse
Unloading truck at warehouse

ATLANTA — The nation’s truckers provide vital resources during COVID-19 pandemic but the crisis has still had a negative impact on the industry as a whole, according to a report released today (May 5) by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

According to the report, the global crisis has affected all aspects of trucking operations, including deliveries, travel times, detention and truck parking. The report also provides recommendations and guidance on future strategies should another national disaster strike.

“The trucking industry has weathered national disasters in the past and is doing so again through the current COVID crisis,” said Rebecca Brewster, ATRI president and COO. “However, this latest data quantifies the challenges motor carriers and drivers are facing during this pandemic to keep essential goods moving.”

Key findings of the joint research effort include:

  • Long-haul trips are down considerably as container imports at ports dried up. At the same time, local trips under 100 miles increased by more than 100%.
  • While certain segments of the industry, such as medical devices, perishable foods and paper products, saw solid COVID-19-related increases in truck traffic, nearly 50% of respondents described freight levels as “somewhat” to “much” lower due to COVID-19.
  • Nearly 70% of specialized and tank truck operations were negatively impacted. In nearly every instance, smaller fleets reported greater negative impacts than larger fleets.
  • More than 40% of respondents said truck parking was not any worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but categorized by fleet size, the larger fleets did describe truck parking as more difficult to find during the pandemic.
  • The research confirmed that driver detention generally did not change due to COVID-19; however, owner-operators and small fleets experienced much worse detention delays relative to larger fleets.
  • In terms of disaster planning, almost 80% of owner-operators and small fleets do not have any plan in place for managing operations during natural disasters.
  • The trucking industry generally has a favorable attitude towards state and federal responses, policies and programs set up to address the pandemic, with the federal response viewed as more favorable than the state responses.

“This research puts solid numbers to what we otherwise only suspected,” said Andrew King, research analyst for OOIDA. “While we may be turning the corner on the COVID pandemic, we’re not out of the economic woods yet.”

To download the full report, click here.

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