The new century has proven to be a turbulent time for commercial trucking firms and professional drivers. New technologies, industry consolidations, Covid, new regulations, and other factors have required flexibility and adaptability. The remainder of 2022 will expect more of the same attention to changes, challenges, and opportunities.
Navigating the Supply Chain Tempests
As an integral component of the global supply chain, the ups and downs of international logistics issues play an important part in the trucker’s life. A recent article in Industry Week discusses how the past and new disruptions continue to disrupt the U.S. markets. To illustrate the complexity of these issues, the article discusses five current trends and issues that include:
- China reopening locations from the zero-tolerance Covid lockdowns.
- New pressures on the ongoing shipping crisis due to renewed Chinese manufacturing, the ongoing Ukraine crisis, and expected shipping cost increases driven by growing demand.
- The potential disaster-in-the-making because of the collapse of the FSO Safer oil rig off the coast of Yemen. Facing a possible $40 billion price tag and further chaos in the fuel supplies of the world, this situation is being closely watched by all nations.
- The ongoing uncertainties caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine. Beyond the human toll and tragedy, this war is creating major disruptions in manufacturing and food shipments that are rattling through the global shipping network.
- The fact that Ukraine was one of the largest neon gas producers before the war is also a major factor in the ongoing shifts in the semiconductor supply situation. This has already directly impacted truckers from a supply perspective, with a shortage of more than 100,000 new rigs reported by manufacturers.
From a shortage of shipping containers to massive congestion at ports, the supply chain issues will continue well into 2023 and each trucker must assess the direct impact on their expectations.
Ongoing Covid-19 Impacts
While it is tempting to relax and feel we are in a post-pandemic environment, the ongoing shift in variations of the virus and the increasing number of “hot spots” is of special concern to truckers. In addition to the impact on manufacturing and shipping, the issue of a Covid-19-driven “syndemic” affecting truckers is a growing concern.
As reported in Forbes this year, the possibility of a disease cluster, or syndemic, focused on commercial truckers is being closely watched by medical professionals. The factors creating this focus include the number of people with whom truckers interact, the varied geographic areas they travel to, and the challenges of keeping a clean and hygienic work environment in the many areas they operate, from warehouses to fuel depots.
Fuel Supplies, Prices & the R Word
Of course, at the top of mind of all trucking firms and drivers is the question of just how much higher fuel prices will go and how long they will stay at the record levels being reported. The costs of the extra fuel are a major concern, and even greater are the questions about supply.
The elephant in the room is the direction of the economy and the possibility of a recession. While inflation is having a significant impact, the possibility of a dramatic drop in demand and a stagnant or declining economy will immediately impact trucking firms and drivers with declining volume and rates.
Some Glimmers of Positives
One positive aspect of the current challenges is the new appreciation for the professional trucker. Firms are prioritizing the care and comfort of drivers with new efforts to provide cleaner working conditions, ensuring more efficient and profitable scheduling, and adding various incentives and bonuses.
The coming months will provide new surprises and opportunities. It is important for the individual driver to keep tapped into the latest news and trends to respond to those challenges and seize the opportunities.