California intermodal carrier laid off 145 truck drivers amid Coronavirus slowdown

Cargo volumes fell 23% at the Port of Los Angeles in February.

A California-based trucking company recently laid off about half of their truck drivers as panic over the spreading Coronavirus has taken a toll on international shipping and caused a dramatic drop in cargo volumes at Los Angeles ports.

Carson, California-based intermodal carrier Shippers Transport Express recently laid off 145 truck drivers, according to a report from the L.A. Times.

“We are in a state of emergency,” said Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO….

Posted by Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO on Monday, March 9, 2020

The unionized drivers were reportedly informed by text message on February 25 that they would be laid off in two days.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website, Shippers Transport Express operates 231 trucks and employs 235 truck drivers.

On March 10, the Port of Los Angeles reported a 23% decrease in cargo volumes in February 2020 compared to February 2019. Officials said that tariffs and the Lunar New Year contributed to this decline, but that Coronavirus was the most significant factor.

“While cargo volumes are important, the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis that needs to be brought under control with the collaboration of governments and medical experts from around the world,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We are more interconnected than ever with our global partners so it’s no surprise that Trans-Pacific maritime trade has been significantly impacted.”

“As factory production in China remains at low levels, we expect soft volumes in March. Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering U.S. export boxes out swiftly,” Seroka said.

The Port of Long Beach also saw a decrease in cargo volume of 9.8% in February compared to the same month last year.

Officials predict a surge in cargo volume as Coronavirus is contained, but this is expected to take another four to six weeks.