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Industry Issues: Avian flu: Is your company prepared?

Over the last few months, the spectre of an avian flu pandemic has raised its head a number of times in newspaper and broadcast reports. Interesting and perhaps scary, but what does this have to do wi...


David Bradley

David Bradley


Over the last few months, the spectre of an avian flu pandemic has raised its head a number of times in newspaper and broadcast reports. Interesting and perhaps scary, but what does this have to do with trucking?

The potential impact of a flu pandemic – if one occurs – on the economy in general and the trucking industry in particular, is difficult to forecast.

However, if a pandemic does take hold, it is safe to say that the effect on trade and the industry responsible for transporting the majority of it could be major.

There have been some reports (including a publicly available report by the Public Health Agency of Canada) in which the trucking industry has been cited as one of the industries which will figure prominently in emergency response efforts should a pandemic occur. (Health authorities say this is a case of when, not if.) Are you going to be ready? It’s time to start thinking the unthinkable and begin developing your Business Recovery Plan (BRP).

A vaccine has not yet been developed. Authorities estimate this could take a minimum of six months after people start getting sick. In the meantime, it is forecast that up to a third of the workforce may be lost at least temporarily due to illness, death or “turtling” – not going to work due to fear of contracting the flu from co-workers. How would the industry cope with a loss of 30 per cent of its drivers? Who would bring the medicine and food?

More grotesquely, how would corpse management be handled? OTA has already been contacted about the possibility of refrigerated trailers being used as temporary morgues.

These are all issues that could directly affect trucking companies, should (when?) a pandemic hit Canada. Never mind the risk of closing of the U.S. border, and subsequent shattering of the Canadian economy should the unthinkable actually occur.

The crux of the matter is that the trucking industry would be affected by the pandemic, in a variety of ways. That’s why it behooves carriers to take into account what they may have to face should the worst occur, and develop their own BRPs accordingly.

These may vary widely, according to what you haul and where you’re located. Your equipment may be commandeered. You may or may not be fully compensated for this. (You should know what your costs are). Your operations may be quarantined. You may be deemed a priority service. You may simply not have enough drivers to run your trucks.

In any of these scenarios, the bottom line is how do you weather the storm? Public health authorities at all levels of government are in the process of developing their plans. CTA and the provincial trucking associations will be following these developments closely and will attempt to provide you with some guidelines to follow or at least some information and suggestions to help you in developing your response plan and for coordinating with your local authority. But, be forewarned and forearmed.

– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.


Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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