By Riley Morningstar
SENECA — The president of the South Carolina Trucking Association said he’s uncertain of what could happen to the trucking industry as freightliners are filling increased demands.
Though trucks are out in force, association president Rick Todd said there are many unknowns for what’s to come in weeks and months.
“The demand is not going to be there like it normally would be across a period of time,” Todd said. “It could exhaust itself, and then you don’t have that demand or need for a period of time. When you have that drop-off, then you do worry about fleets not having enough business to stay open and keep people employed. That’s what we worry about is — the economic stall that might be coming right after this super-busy period. That’s the great unknown, and it’ll be sector by sector.”
Like grocery store officials have said, Todd agreed the current stocking spree is an entirely different animal from a natural disaster.
“I’ve been doing this for 41 years, and I have never seen anything quite like it,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s the opposite from a trucking standpoint, because we’re not clearing out debris and destruction and building materials to rebuild. We’re not screaming for the lack of ability to deliver fuel, and roads are not closed or flooded.”
Todd encouraged the public to show support for truckers by using the social media hashtag #ThankATrucker.
“We’re at the precipice, and after we fall off this cliff, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Todd said. “That’s the scary part. I think our truckers and the people who keep them loaded and unloaded are courageous right now.”
Other side effects
Trucks typically haul loads at 15 mph in peak congestion of Atlanta traffic on Interstates 85 and 285, according to Todd. Today, it’s closer to 50-plus mph.
“Congestion is not a cost to us right now,” Todd said. “Usually, congestion is like a tax to truckers because it slows them down and makes them less productive and eats away at their driving hours. We are so much more efficient right now.”
Other side effects from the declared national emergency have allowed federal officials to suspend driving hours — truckers still have to pass safety inspections — and alcohol and drug testing regulations have been relaxed. License expiration periods have also been extended due to state motor vehicle departments being closed.
Todd said he believed South Carolina would exempt truckers from any potential curfews implemented.
Americans are benefiting because of a feud betwen Saudi Arabia and Russia, resulting in lower prices at the pump, he said.
It hasn’t been really enjoyable for Americans, Todd said, because they aren’t out driving as much.
“We’ve got plenty of gasoline right now, and that’s why that’s cheap,” he said. “It’ll gradually pick back up to normal when people stop being conservative and they start getting back into traveling and commuting and going on vacations at some point. It’s impacting our pocketbooks in the opposite way — it’s cheap. … We’re not really enjoying the cheap price.”
The South Carolina Trucking Association, formed in 1933, is a nonprofit trade association that has a membership of about 600 today, ranging from family-owned businesses to national companies with facilities in the state.
“Our association is really an alliance of businesses that use trucks, because trucking is really just an eclectic mix of industries,” president Rick Todd said. “It’s a very, very diverse industry.”
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