Survey confirms how much trouble COVID-19 has caused for trucking

A new survey provides data on the problems that truckers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 5, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) Foundation released the results of a survey on the impact that the pandemic has had on trucking operations in the U.S.

“This research puts solid numbers to what we otherwise only suspected,” said Andrew King, Research Analyst for the OOIDA Foundation. “While we may be turning the corner on the COVID pandemic, we’re not out of the economic woods yet.”

Major takeaways from the survey can be viewed below.

  • Long-haul trips are down considerably as container imports at ports dried up. At the same time, local trips under 100 miles increased by more than 100 percent.
  • While certain segments of the industry, such as medical devices, perishable foods and paper products, saw solid COVID-19-related increases in truck traffic – nearly 50 percent of respondents described freight levels as “somewhat” to “much” lower due to COVID-19. 
  • Nearly 70 percent of specialized and tank truck operations were negatively impacted. In nearly every instance, smaller fleets reported greater negative impacts than larger fleets.
  • More than 40 percent of respondents said that truck parking was not any worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but by fleet size, the larger fleets did describe truck parking as more difficult to find during the pandemic.
  • The research confirmed that driver detention generally did not change due to COVID-19; however, owner-operators and small fleets experienced much worse detention delays relative to larger fleets.
  • In terms of disaster planning, almost 80 percent of owner-operators and small fleets do not have any plan in place for managing operations during natural disasters.
  • The trucking industry generally has a favorable attitude towards state and federal responses, policies and programs set up to address the pandemic, with the federal response viewed as more favorable than the state responses.
  • The trucking industry’s perceptions about the country’s economic situation over the next several months leans slightly pessimistic – both in terms of freight movement and consumer spending.

Researchers say that more than 5,000 people responded to the survey. More than 77% of respondents were truck drivers. Of the respondents who were truck drivers, more than 81% had 11 years of driving experience or more.

“The trucking industry has weathered national disasters in the past, and is doing so again through the current COVID crisis,” said ATRI President and COO Rebecca Brewster.“However, this latest data quantifies the challenges motor carriers and drivers are facing during this pandemic to keep essential goods moving.”

To access the full survey, please click here.