Life as a truck driver is never easy. But it became even more challenging when the COVID-19 pandemic started. To help slow the spread of the virus, the authorities from all levels of the government enforced stay-at-home orders. Because of this, people relied on online shopping and the delivery of goods right at their doorstep. Plus, there was chaos in supply shortages of all things. Store shelves sat empty for days on end as people, in a fit of panic, hoarded food, and toiletries. Then, there was also the major problem of the shortage of medical supplies and equipment. Personal protective equipment (PPE), in particular, was in high demand, especially among healthcare workers.
All of these things led to the increased demand for truck drivers. More of them hit the road and delivered supplies and goods to homes and establishments. People realized the importance of a reliable logistics company because their lives could depend on it. These major events led to some changes in the lives of truck drivers across the United States. These are the ups and downs that they’ve been experiencing since the pandemic started.
The Demand for Truck Drivers
As mentioned before, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the demand for truck drivers. But this demand was fulfilled easily. In fact, at the start of the pandemic, the trucking industry struggled to stay afloat. During the early days of the pandemic, many factories shut down in response to the quarantine restrictions set by the U.S. government. Because of the travel restrictions, traffic in ports had also severely decreased.
These led to a cascading effect that reached the truck drivers. They experienced a decrease in salaries, benefits, and even job losses. Back in April 2020, over 88 thousand workers in the trucking industry lost their jobs. This contributed to the 20.5 million job losses across the country at the start of the pandemic.
It’s quite an ironic situation. We need more truck drivers on the road. But many of them lost their jobs because of the struggling industry. Moreover, the demand is set to increase even higher. This is because of the recent success of the COVID-19 vaccine. Numerous pharmaceutical companies around the world are now in the stage of adequately distributing the vaccine doses. Thus, more drivers will be needed on the road to deliver the vaccine doses to communities around the country.
Salaries and Benefits
One of the things we constantly asked ourselves during the pandemic is what constitutes a frontline worker. And much was debated about truck drivers being one of the frontline workers. Fortunately, the Center for Economic Policy Research set things straight. According to the experts, the more than three million workers in the trucking industry are classified as frontline workers.
But because of their classification as frontline workers, truck drivers struggled with inadequate pay at the start of the pandemic. During this time, the American Trucking Associations reported about this concern. They found that around 97 percent of trucking companies conducted their business with only about 20 trucks. Even more concerning, approximately 91 percent of them had six or fewer trucks on the road. Thus, some truck drivers were getting by with only 75 to 80 cents per mile. It’s not enough to cover the costs of gas, insurance, and other expenses incurred while on the road.
Fortunately, the pay for truck drivers improved in the last few months. According to the American Trucking Associations, the pay increased to around 15 to 20 percent. However, many have noted that this increase is not enough. Truck drivers strive to experience a 20 or more percent increase in pay in 2021. The good thing is that other companies and individuals are spending more on truck drivers. Business Insider reported that retail companies have been spending about 30 percent more than they did in the previous year for truck drivers. This is in response to the increase in online shopping.
Although the salaries of truck drivers are deemed inadequate, the bright side is that there has been an increase. With the continuously growing demand for their work in 2021, there’s hope that they’ll be compensated more.
Truck drivers experienced many hardships during this pandemic. And it seems that they’re set to face even more as the demand for their work continues to rise. But the good thing is that many people understand their importance and contribution to the success of businesses and the stability of communities. This will eventually lead to improvements in their salaries, benefits, and treatment.