Courtesy of Reuters, May 20, 2020
Truckers Hit by Coronavirus Pandemic Face Rocky Road to Recovery
Bryan Hutchens in Oklahoma estimates he’s only used his two flat-bed trucks to shift oilfield equipment for a week out of the past month as the coronavirus crisis shutters businesses. In New York, trucking firm ERL Intermodal says its cargo volumes have halved as lockdowns sideline its business of moving everything from olive oil to garden hoses to truck parts.
At the world’s busiest border, trucks hauling food and consumer products north to the United States are returning empty to Mexico where mass job losses have hit demand, leaving cash-strapped truckers to log hundreds of costly, empty miles.
The pandemic has turned the global trucking industry on its head. As swathes of the world economy shut down and curbs on movement and gatherings disrupt supply chains, freight companies are hemorrhaging cash and sidelining thousands of truckers.
According to the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in Geneva, which represents operators in 80 countries, new freight contracts have declined by 60% to 90% since COVID-19 struck while empty runs have climbed by up to 40%.
Lockdown restrictions in India, the world’s second most populous country, have sidelined 80% of the 10 million trucks behind a $130 billion industry that hauls 60% of the country’s freight.
In Brazil, which relies on trucks to shift key exports such as soybeans, coffee and sugar to ports, shipments have also slumped. Carlos Litti, director for road transportation at the National Confederation of Transport Workers, said firms were now delaying critical maintenance work such as tire retreading, as government support for the sector had been insufficient. “At the moment, there is no way to pressure the government,” Litti said. “The economy just has to turn around.”
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