Trucking, like many industries, has been shaken and deeply changed by the pandemic. Fleets of all sizes saw unpredictable fluctuations in demand, with those carrying items such as medical supplies, food, and other essentials recording massive increases. Meanwhile, certain other fleets’ loads diminished as supply chains were disrupted.
Many companies reported seeing their loads surge as much as 40 percent with a boom in e-commerce, while some others reported volume cut in half.1
However, one type of cargo has outranked all others in priority: The COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 96.2 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines delivered as of February 28,2 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker. Freight carriers have faced multiple logistical challenges, particularly ensuring timely deliveries of both vaccines to all manner of remote locations while maintaining the super-cold temperature requirements for some of these vaccines.
While demand for essential deliveries as a result of COVID-19 had the most staggering impact on the commercial fleet operators, many trucking companies and professional trucking associations are examining other industrywide issues affecting businesses and drivers. Chief among these is the driver shortage that has persisted for the better part of the past decade.
The reported shortage is projected to be as high as 160,000 drivers by 2028,3 with myriad causes, including changes in driver demographics and COVID-related bureaucratic backlogs in processing and training new drivers. This is likely to also be intensified by increases in demand as the pandemic has made shopping and consumption more delivery-based than ever, leading many owners and other industry leaders to look toward advances in technology to increasingly automate, optimize routes, and implement other safety and monitoring measures.
For more insight on the state of trucking at the beginning of 2021, view our on-demand webinar, Evolutions in Trucking and Transportation: Demand and Employment Insights for 2021.
- Seth Clevenger, “Trucking Rises to Meet Unprecedented Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic,” Transport Topics, June 22, 2020, < https://www.ttnews.com/articles/trucking-rises-meet-unprecedented-challenges-during-covid-19-pandemic >, accessed on February 23, 2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID Data Tracker – COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States, February 28, 2021, < https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations >, accessed on March 1, 2021.
- American Trucking Associations, ATA Releases Updated Driver Shortage Report and Forecast, July 23, 2019, < https://www.trucking.org/news-insights/ata-releases-updated-driver-shortage-report-and-forecast >, accessed on February 22, 2021.