How has COVID-19 impacted local trucking companies? Small business case study

In this 6-minute read:

  • What did a normal day look like before COVID-19?
  • What challenges has COVID-19 brought up for a local trucking company?
  • How are drivers handling these new challenges?

While some businesses have had to shut down and find it hard to connect with customers during the COVID-19 crisis, other businesses are just as busy as ever as they are considered essential to help meet the needs of people across the country. But that doesn’t mean these businesses and their employees aren’t facing new and difficult challenges.

One industry that has received more recognition during the COVID-19 pandemic is transportation and trucking. As food and goods are transported to grocery stores and packages are being shipped to people’s homes at an unprecedented rate, people can continue to live with some sense of normalcy when many other aspects of their lives are disrupted. 

Let’s take a look at how COVID-19 has impacted a local trucking company. 

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Killpack Trucking, Inc, like most businesses, is experiencing the challenges of COVID-19. While business at this eastern Idaho company continues to flow, certain aspects of their work environment have been disrupted. Perhaps the largest disruption is how the workday has changed for their drivers. 

What did a normal work day look like for Killpack Trucking before COVID-19?

Prior to COVID-19, Killpack Trucking employees—administrative staff, management, and drivers—showed up to work at their office each day ready to make sure goods were transported to the right place and on time. 

Drivers would come into the office to communicate with the dispatch team and talk about their runs for the day, or for the week if they had a longer trip ahead of them. 

Regular meetings took place in person in their conference room among the owners of the business, and there was no concern over potentially taking a harmful disease home to their families. 

How has COVID-19 impacted work life for this local trucking company?

Fortunately, Killpack Trucking is considered an “essential business” during this time as they play a huge role in transporting goods and food to retail businesses across several states. But while business has not slowed down, other challenges have come up. 

Most of the administrative staff continues to show up to the office each day, but two employees are considered high risk or live with high-risk family members, and so Killpack Trucking’s owners helped them set up remote work stations in their homes for the duration of the pandemic. 

“Communication has changed,” says Blaine Killpack, one of the owners. “People could walk in and see each other face to face—it was easier to read people, drivers, co-workers. Now we’re talking more over the phone, still communicating as much, but some of the  non-verbals aren’t getting picked up like they used to.”

Where drivers would typically just come into the office to get their paperwork, learn about their next run, or talk about how their trip went, they now carry out most of their communication via phone.

At the end of 2018, the trucking industry as a whole was required to start using electronic logs for their trips, and Killpack Trucking had implemented this program earlier in the year. That has fortuitously helped them limit the potential spread of any pathogens via manual paperwork. 

Today, any paperwork or items that are still moved through the office from person to person are sanitized, and more frequent cleaning and sanitation of surfaces are performed in the office. 

While the owners and office staff have made communication adaptations and facilitate more frequent cleaning, the drivers at Killpack Trucking (and across the industry) have had to adapt the most. 

With closures of many public spaces, including truck lounges, rest stops, and restaurant dining rooms, truck drivers have had to change what a normal run might look like for them. Where before they might stop and take a much-needed break and shoot the breeze with other drivers and workers in a driver’s lounge, that’s something they aren’t able to do currently.

With rest stops and restaurants closed, and only drive-through options available in most places, getting a bite to eat is no longer as convenient as it was prior to COVID-19. Have you ever seen a big rig try to go through a drive-through lane, for example?

Long trips over the span of multiple days might involve drivers going to see a movie or getting out and site-seeing, but that doesn’t happen with the closures and social distancing requirements of this pandemic. 

How have truck drivers dealt with new challenges during COVID-19?

It can be difficult to maintain morale and keep a strong desire to work when the things that helped make the day worthwhile or enjoyable are no longer available. But the local community and trucking industry have a played a large role in helping truck drivers during this time. 

“The industry has played an integral part, and we’re seeing more appreciation from the community as people putting together care packages and weigh stations are handing out lunches,” Blaine says. 

For example, a local hospital put together safety kits for truck drivers to help them clean their space and stay healthy on their trips. 

An Idaho Falls woman started “Trucker Treats” and spends her own money to put together hundreds of care packages for local truck drivers. These packages include hand sanitizer, snacks, and more. And the community has jumped on the opportunity to help as local businesses donated to the cause. 

In McCammon, Idaho, the community held a free BBQ with enough food for about 200 truck drivers. 

The community has stepped up in a big way to help these drivers with the challenges they are facing. 

If you had one piece of advice for America’s struggling small businesses, what would it be?

Blaine has offered some sound advice for businesses that may be struggling during this pandemic. 

“Be conservative and you can ride the storms. If you’re running your business on the edge of success, something like this could run you out. Just be conservative in business and have a reserve for rainy days such as these. If you’re a marginal company and things go wrong for a while, you’re out of business.”

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