COVID-19's (Coronavirus) 2 Major Impacts on the Trucking Industry

March 12, 2020

The trucking industry is feeling the impact of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 emerged in China and quickly spread around the globe. As supply chains and travel are affected by the virus, the trucking industry is feeling the impact.

Slowdowns in China

A lot of goods are manufactured in China, so when production slows down there, the effects ripple around the globe. This is what is happening now because of the novel coronavirus, which has caused massive quarantines and temporary factory closures in parts of China.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the resulting slowdowns in China have caused volumes to plummet at the Port of Los Angeles, which is the largest U.S. gateway for goods imported from China by sea. This in turn is impacting the demand for domestic trucking. The quarterly earnings estimates for FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Services Inc. have been reduced, and UBS Securities LCC cites the drop in Asian exports as a reason.

The Port of Los Angeles isn’t the only port feeling the impact of COVID-19. According to Heavy Duty Trucking, Sheri Call, the executive vice president of the Washington Trucking Association, said, “I’ve heard from several of our members that so far this year, the Port of Seattle is down by about 50 sailings. That’s the kind of decline we’d normally see over the course of an entire year.”

Illness in the United States

Goods imported from China are not likely to spread coronavirus. According to the CDC, “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”

Nevertheless, outbreaks within the United States may also have a significant impact on trucking and supply chains in the country. If drivers get sick, the trucking industry could be further impacted. According to Business Insider, Amazon sent an email about the coronavirus to its trucking network on March 3. The email instructed drivers to wash their hands and disinfect their steering wheels and to stay home for at least 24 hours if they feel feverish.

What if a driver files a workers’ compensation, claiming that he contracted the illness in the course of employment? According to Insurance Journal, an illness must be occupational and arise out of conditions peculiar to the work to be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

The novel coronavirus is unlikely to qualify. However, the compensability of the condition may vary depending on the state and the circumstances.

Employers in the trucking industry should refer to the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 for information on how to keep workers safe.

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