Coronavirus prompts truckers to ask Trump for help as challenges mount, demand climbs

Slowing the movement of freight could damage the U.S. economy very quickly, experts warn

As the federal and state governments take drastic measures to stem the spread of coronavirus throughout the U.S., some essential industries – including trucking – are navigating a host of challenges as they continue to deliver necessary services.

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“Suddenly people realize that every single thing in every single store in Amazon and Walmart some time travels by truck, and if you slow that down you’re going to kill the economy very quickly,” John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems, told FOX Business.

And the industry has a number of concerns that it says are slowing it down.

In a letter sent to President Trump on Friday, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) – which represents 160,000 drivers – said its members were encountering “many challenges” while trying to keep freight moving during the “ongoing national emergency,” which is slowing the movement of goods.

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“Truckers are a vital component of the supply chain, hauling loads that help keep hospitals prepared, manufacturers productive and grocery stores stocked,” the letter read. “The federal government can take steps to immediately alleviate many of these problems, and coordination with state and local governments, as well as the business community, will help address many more.”

Among the concerns laid out in the letter were inadequate parking as states close rest areas, access to bathrooms and clarification regarding some new guidelines.

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“Managing the human aspect right now is a pretty big challenge,” Brian Fielkow, president of multimillion-dollar trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, told FOX Business. “If you want your grocery store stocked, [truck stops] have to be able to serve food, [allow access] to restrooms, showers, basic hygiene stuff.”

In a separate letter also sent out on Friday, the group asked restaurants to find ways to allow drivers to get food since they can’t fit in drive-thrus and many rest stops have closed.

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As previously reported by FOX Business, some companies in the trucking sector that serve particular niches of the economy stand to do well – even as the broader economy struggles during the coronavirus outbreak. Fielkow told FOX Business that nimble and financially strong companies in particular should do just fine.

On the flip side, however, companies that may still be reeling from 2019 – a tough year for the industry that led to at least 795 firm closures – could be in for a challenging period.

And that could pose problems to the broader economy when the situation abates – since capacity in the trucking industry could very well be declining at a time when consumer demand is rebounding.

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