Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

It has been five months since the coronavirus took center stage — here’s where the U.S. trucking industry stands today


There has been much talk around the second wave of the coronavirus in the U.S., but John Hopkins Medicine wants you to remember one crucial point: Despite the 19 million global cases and 4.8 million diagnosed cases in the U.S., we’re still very much in the first wave.

As we’ve previously covered, many in the supply chain sector have witnessed both positive and negative fluctuations within their business. From food supply to puzzle distributors, the concept of supply and demand — and how the two relate to trucking — continues to look very different for different companies each different day.

New hope on the horizon

With numbers at unprecedented levels in the U.S., where the country continues to witness over 1,000 deaths per day, many are wondering what a looming second wave, which could hit the U.S. this fall, would mean across the country. Several silver linings are looming, however. This past week, the U.S. has seen a 9% decrease in new COVID-19 cases in comparison to the previous week.

Also, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci recently stated he remains “cautiously optimistic” that a coronavirus vaccine could be available in the U.S. by late fall or early winter.

A closer look at the country’s economy

In addition to the impact on our lives, the plethora of cases in the U.S. also poses a detrimental risk to economic stability. Bob Costello, the chief economist at the American Trucking Associations, recently emphasized that while the economy was initially and quickly snapping back, the number of current COVID-19 cases pose a significant threat to this seemingly promising recovery.

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard also stated that people should not be so quick to take permanent solace in the rapid recovery spike that came in May and June, as the Federal Reserve has tracked indicators that suggest the spike in these months will likely be unsustainable in the months we’re finding ourselves in now.

Connecting the dots to freight

Truckload freight market numbers are fluctuating month by month. Given the rapid emergence and subsequent effect of the pandemic, the spring months were quite sporadic. FTR Transportation Intelligence showcased their recent truck freight forecast in July, and they found a decline in loadings of up about 5.7%. One silver lining is that this number is about a percent higher than their June forecast, likely signifying that improvements are coming slowly, but surely.

Overall, many sub-sectors in the supply chain industry seem to be doing relatively well. In his briefing, Costello also emphasized that the sectors that are most negatively impacted fall on the service side. While this may not appear as an industry correlation at first glance, it is. The trucking industry still relies on service-oriented businesses, like restaurants. With states like California imposing second lockdowns in July on bars and restaurants, lockdowns in other states may not be far behind, and those lockdowns could harm freight.

While much remains tentative, the perseverance that truck freight professionals, from truckers to dock workers to fleet managers, have exhibited has been inspiring. It is this perseverance and commitment that has continued to keep truckload freight above water.

Keep checking in to our Omnitracs Road Ahead Blog for more monthly COVID-19 updates. In the meantime, catch up on your coronavirus reading with our recent blog post on COVID-19 as it relates to last mile and over-the-road sectors, fleet operations, and driver satisfaction.