TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling on governments to treat truck drivers like the “essential service” they are, as self-quarantine measures are established to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
“Self-quarantines for drivers leaving the country, who have not tested positive for the virus, would bring our economy to a grinding halt and jeopardize the public safety of Canadians. It is essential that distinctions are maintained between voluntary travel by the general public and those operating in vital international and domestic commerce,” the alliance says in its statement.
Trucks move about 70% of Canada’s trade with the U.S.
The call comes as the federal government is asking Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country. When asked if the government is considering closing the border over concerns about the virus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We are not closing the door to any further steps, but we will make those decisions based on what the science tells us,” the Globe and Mail reports.
“Trucking and transportation are vital to getting medical and sanitation supplies and other emergency items as well as food and water delivered every day, in every single community in our province. The supply chain is critical during this very stressful and trying time,” added Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.
“Trucking is an essential service and especially during times of a global epidemic. The government needs to exempt truck drivers from [14-day quarantines for those leaving and entering Canada] to ensure access to the essential supplies that keep us all alive.”
Late Friday, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued nationwide hours-of-service relief for truck drivers who are moving emergency supplies relating to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s the first time the agency has issued nationwide relief of this nature.
The virus is already expected to affect freight volumes beyond those needed to restock empty grocery store shelves.
“Starting in the second half of February, Covid-19 (coronavirus) went from a China containment story to one of spiraling pandemic,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst for ACT. “Being a supplier of intermediate and finished goods, there are major implications for a number of freight-intensive economic sectors, and we are just on the cusp of feeling that pinch.”
Canceled, postponed shows and conferences
Several trucking-related trade shows, conferences and events have been canceled or postponed in recent days.
Truck World, Newcom Media’s national trade show serving Canada’s trucking industry, has been rescheduled to June 4-6. A corresponding TruckTech fleet maintenance summit has been shifted to Friday, June 5. Both events had been scheduled for mid-April.
The Mid-America Trucking Show that had been scheduled for March 26-28 in Louisville, Ky., was canceled outright following consultations with exhibitors, the Kentucky Governor’s Office, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Families. That news came only hours after show managers issued a communique suggesting the show would go on.
The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is also postponing the Truck Safety Summit that was set for March 19.
Back on this side of the border, the Alberta Motor Transport Association postponed its upcoming leadership conference and annual general meeting, after the Alberta government advised against large gatherings of more than 250 people. A new date has yet to be confirmed.
The Manitoba Trucking Association has also announced that it will postpone its annual general meeting, which had been scheduled for April 3. No future date has been set.
Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive conference went on as scheduled in Toronto yesterday — complete with bottles of hand sanitizer on every table — but a reception that was planned for the end of the day was canceled, with organizers also citing Covid-19 concerns.
Truck OEMs rework strategies
Volvo Trucks had already shifted the launch of its newest European truck lineup online, canceling an international media event just days before it was to occur in Sweden. Both Volvo and Mack Trucks also pulled personnel out of booths at the ConExpo trade show in Las Vegas, although equipment was still displayed.
“While we are strong supporters of ConExpo, our first priority is the health and wellbeing of our employees, stakeholders, and their families,” said Mack president Martin Weissburg.
Daimler Trucks North America pulled out of that show on March 6 as well.
“This was not a decision we took lightly,” said David Carson, senior vice-president – vocational sales and marketing. “It is with an abundance of respect for the well-being of our employees and customers that we have decided not to participate in this year’s show.”
Navistar has established what it describes as a “cross-functional response team” to ensure continuity and preparedness plans are updated. Additional cleaning measures and procedures are underway at company facilities, and business travel to restricted areas have been banned.
“We do not expect our vendors or suppliers to travel to or visit Navistar offices during this time. We have encouraged teleconferences, video meetings and the use of other remote meeting technology when possible,” president and CEO Troy Clarke said in an issued statement.
-This is a developing story that is being updated as new information emerges
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