More than half of the fleets surveyed by HDT reported their level of business had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and 3% reported employees had tested positive for COVID-19.
In a survey conducted in late March/early April, 53% of survey respondents said their volume of business/the number of loads had decreased, and 15% said it had decreased by more than 50%. 21% said their business had increased, with the majority of those reporting an increase of 20% or less. Nearly one in five, 18%, said the pandemic had not affected the number of loads they were handling. Another 8% didn’t know or weren’t sure.
Asked if someone at their company had tested positive, only 3% answered yes. 7% said they couldn’t get tested to know for sure. 10% either didn’t know, preferred not to answer, or said the company does not publicize the information. 82% said they had not had anyone at their company test positive.
The survey was sent out by email to Heavy Duty Trucking’s subscriber base, as well as promoted in HDT’s e-newsletter and on social media. Responses were collected from March 27 through April 11. The results are based on 422 responses.
Protecting Employee Health
The most common steps companies have taken to protect the health of their employees were:
- Communication and training about best practices, 67%
- Sanitized surfaces throughout facilities, 65%
- Provided drivers tools to reduce chances of exposure, such as gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer, 57%
- Added hand sanitizer stations in facilities, 56%
- Sanitized all surfaces in trucks, 52%
- Allowed or required office staff to work from home, 47%
- Closed some or all facilities, 16%.
Some other tactics fleets mentioned included closing facilities to the public, no slip-seating at this time, daily screening questionnaires, using technology for communication to minimize in-person contacts. A number commented that they have taken steps to reduce contact between drivers and customers.
“We use tablets for delivery invoicing and have stopped allowing customers to sign,” one respondent said. “Our drivers now get receiver names and sign the invoices for them.”
“One company that we lease to has made it extremely easy for us to minimize risk and maximize social distancing by not requiring check-in procedures and BOL signatures at retail public locations,” said one respondent. “This is a great help to us.”
When asked about what type of COVID-19 training they had implemented with drivers, dispatchers, and other staff, many respondents said they were passing along all the information they could from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially social distancing and hygiene measures.
Educational efforts included holding classes, paper handouts and posters, regular e-mail updates, webinars, messages to drivers’ in-cab computers, informal discussions. Some, however, said they believed the general media had provided sufficient information. One fleet said it Initially sent out daily briefings via text and in cab messages, using county, state and CDC materials. As the pandemic has progressed, it said, “So as not to become white noise we have limited fleet-wide correspondence to when info becomes pertinent.”
About one-fourth of respondents said they have had drivers who refused to work or did not show up for work due to coronavirus concerns. 65% said they had not, and 9% didn’t know or weren’t sure. Among those fleets who had drivers not come to work, the fast majority, 88%, said those represented fewer than 25% of their driver workforce.
Although the federal government put into place an unprecedented national emergency relief declaration allowing trucks carrying a broad spectrum of freight defined as “relief,” only a small number of survey respondents are using it extensively – 5%. About a quarter, 27%, are using it on a limited basis, while another quarter are not using it at all. 42% said it was not applicable to their business.
When asked why they were not taking advantage of the relief, many explained that they didn’t really need it. Their deliveries were local or regional, or they were able to make the needed deliveries within the normal hours of service – one pointing out that the absence of congestion makes this more possible than ever.
Many cited safety, enforcement, and liability reasons. Others said they didn’t want to over-work drivers. Another said they didn’t want drivers to basically learn bad habits that would be hard to reverse once the exemption was over. Some examples:
- “We didn’t want to take advantage of the situation to ask drivers to do more than they’re already doing.”
- “We feel the drivers and the company still need the rest and the protection the HOS provide.”
- “Not taking the chance of messing up our CSA scores.
- “Don’t trust law enforcement not to cite us regardless, officers being uninformed.”
Although the federal government has offered only guidance for fleets to deal with any drug- and alcohol-testing delays, not any exemptions, 65% of respondents said they were having no problems maintaining their program. The most common problem, at 19%, was concern about health risks of drivers having to go to testing facilities, either on the part of drivers or companies. Some said drivers were not working, creating some logistics problems with having them come in for random testing. Only 9% said their usual testing facility was not available.
In the Shop
Two-thirds of fleets responding said they had taken steps to ensure they have the parts they need to keep trucks maintained and on the road. The most common response was that fleets were working closely with their vendors. Many were increasing their parts inventory, or at the least making sure it was stocked up to their standard levels. A number of fleets have set up procedures to follow social distancing in the parts departments as well as in the shops, including procedures for taking delivery of parts.
One fleet noted that they’ve changed their PM schedules to stretch out the work. “Making sure only necessary / required work to keep vehicles running without jeopardizing safety of the vehicles.”
“We have spent the past two months going over all vehicles in depth and replaced any worn-out parts,” said one respondent. “Our onsite mechanic has ordered in extra parts and we are working with our local parts departments to have specific parts on hand if need be. We also own our own tow company, so retrieving any stranded drivers …should not be an issue.”