As the coronavirus drags on, unemployment skyrockets, and freight drops off. Trucking companies, faced with decreases in volume and margins, turn to layoffs to weather the storm.
While March demonstrated less impactful numbers, surveys conducted by Commercial Carrier Journal showed a harsher April. In March, 15 percent of carriers responding to their monthly survey said they reduced their non-driver workforce. On that same survey, 13 percent said they reduced their driving workforce.
In April, both figures rose. 19 percent of respondents said they cut non-driving workers, and 24 percent cut drivers from their payroll.
Fleets struggle from plummeting rates and decreased orders from their customers. Some drivers opt to remove themselves. Fears over contracting the virus compel them to remain at home. Nearly half of respondents from the CCJ survey said some of their drivers volunteered to come off the road.
One respondent said most were older drivers. “It is their choice. We do not force dispatch,” they said.
Unemployment in Other Industries Leads to Layoffs in Trucking
The unemployment figures for the country rose to an estimated tenth of the workforce in March. While some companies work from home, others furlough their staff for the duration of the pandemic. The resulting impact on trucking amounts to fewer orders. Furthermore, the public as a whole spends less when so many lose work.
“I have watched fleet of 20 drivers go from all working to three-quarters now sitting,” one for-hire carrier said in their response to the CCJ survey.
Nearly two thirds of respondents also predict continued drops in freight for the next 30 days. That may proceed beyond May, as well. State officials began discussing timetables to reopen their economies this week, but many, including those of the largest economies in California and New York, emphasized caution.
It may be some time before this crisis resolves, and truckers in the meantime continue to feel the pain.