Trucking lines feel pressure from COVID-19
Decker COO: ‘It’s been extremely stressful’
With the crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic leading to shortages in supplies and groceries on store shelves, the nation’s trucking industry is experiencing an industry-wide uptick in freight volumes.
While that increase in freight on the highways is good news for the truckers now, the industry is worried about a “bullwhip” reaction, said Ken Cromwell, chief operating officer for Decker Truck Line Inc. in Fort Dodge.
“Peoples’ buying habits have changed, so obviously the supply chain has to react to that, and that’s what they call the bullwhip,” he said.
When the crisis dies down and the need for supplies, groceries and products stabilize, the pressure on the trucking industry will decrease and it may see a decline in freight volumes.
At a time when much of the nation’s workforce has either been furloughed or sent to work from home, truckers are deemed “essential” to keeping America rolling.
“It has been extremely stressful,” Cromwell said. “Our team supports our 750 drivers — and that’s across all locations — across the board, everyone’s been coming to work and doing their part. Some are telecommuting, some are still coming into the office, because we have to support the drivers, we have to book the freight, we have to make sure they have all of their payrolls done.”
It’s also been stressful on the Decker driving force as many of its shippers and receivers have limited their exposure to the drivers, even to the point where they don’t want to exchange paperwork when a load is picked up or delivered.
“Driving is a very isolated, lonely lifestyle,” Cromwell said.
He said, so far, no Decker driver has tested positive for COVID-19, shown symptoms or knowingly come in contact with anyone with the virus.
“If the driver does his or her job correctly, they’re following the safety protocol all of our employees are doing – they’ve got the social distancing down because they spend a lot of time in their truck,” he said.
Decker has been giving its drivers cleaning supplies and encouraging them to follow hand washing protocols and avoid touching their faces, Cromwell added.
Decker Truck Line Inc. is also doing what it can to thank drivers for their work during this time.
“What we like to say around here is they’re the super heroes without capes,” Cromwell said. “If you bought it, it was probably on a truck at some point.”
So the Decker leadership felt the need to deliver a good meal and a thank you to its drivers.
Today, Wednesday and Thursday, Decker Truck Line Inc. will be providing meals for its drivers at several of its terminals. The pre-sacked meals will be available at the Fort Dodge terminal from 10 a.m. to midnight on all three days. The meals at the Davenport; Le Mars; Missoula, Montana.; Hammond, Indiana.; and Bessemer, Alabama; terminals will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on each day.
“We just felt like it was a nice way of saying thanks, because getting a good meal on the road right now is pretty rough,” Cromwell said. “Most of the truck stops and restaurants are trying to cater to the drivers if they can, but a lot of the facilities just don’t have the parking for a big truck.”
Oberg Freight Company was contacted for this article, but declined to participate. Phone calls to other area trucking companies were not returned on Monday.