COVID-19 Disrupts Freight, Shifts Driver Demand

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, it disrupted freight demand, forcing some carriers to furlough drivers while others were quick to hire those drivers as a way to swiftly onboard experienced commercial vehicle operators.

At the same time, COVID-19 changed hiring and employment practices at fleets and compelled carriers to rethink recruiting and onboarding.

Kendra Patton, director of recruiting at U.S. Xpress, said the fleet was able to hire and continues to hire drivers that have been furloughed, specifically within its over-the-road and dedicated divisions, to meet increased demand in the grocery, retail and consumer goods sectors.

This situation is similar to the 2008-2009 recession, said Jeremy Reymer with DriverReach, a recruiting company.

“In many cases, there were a lot of really good drivers available as a result of that. Through no fault of their own, they were out of work,” he said, adding that it was the same earlier this year.

Many fleets have experienced improved driver retention throughout the pandemic. Dave Osiecki, CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said that is a natural outcome when the job market is uncertain.

Tim Chrulski, operations director for Garner Trucking, based in Ohio, said the carrier didn’t have to furlough any drivers. Still, the company relaxed its recruiting.

“From April through mid-May, we just wanted to make sure we kept everyone whole and busy and maintain our current employment,” he said.
While COVID has created challenges, Chrulski said the pandemic has made picking up and delivering freight easier.

“Drivers are picking things up, and the paperwork is already in the back of the trailer, and they’re not waiting in line,” he said. “As a result of this, we figured out a way to keep the driver as safe as we possibly can and, at the same time, make their life more efficient.”

Source: Transportation Topics