- COVID-19 has caused many fleets to postpone and prioritize plans, but it has not altered the long-term strategic plans of companies, according to several trucking leaders who spoke Tuesday during a presentation held by GLT Logistics.
- Rob Estes, president and CEO of Estes Express Lines, said during the webinar that COVID-19 caused a change in how to approach the strategic plan, without canceling the long-term plan. "Very quickly, we had to learn to work from home," said Estes. And there was a drastic uptick in last-mile deliveries in the space that Estes Express focuses on, which is heavier and bulkier freight deliveries to homes and offices. The pace of change came faster than expected because of COVID-19, Estes said, working as a catalyst.
- But as fleets looked to the future, they had to deal with problems caused by COVID-19. In-person marketing plans for Houston and expansion of business in Mexican regions were postponed in the short term, said Federico Restrepo, CEO at GLT Logistics.
While COVID-19 has not radically changed the need or the methods of trucking, trucking executives discussed being ready for the "new normal" of post-COVID-19 operations, especially with no vaccine or therapeutic treatment approved yet. During the webinar, they discussed changes to how workers interact, but also opportunities to grow business in the post-pandemic world.
One challenge was to make the workplaces safe from COVID-19. It meant spacing workers six feet apart, at least, which was a "tall task," according to Drew Wilkerson, president of XPO's North American Transport business. And it means communicating with fleet and terminal workers that managers are enhancing their safety.
"It is a scary time for people," said Wilkerson. "We need to have our folks who are on the front lines, our essential workers, understand they are protected on a day-to-day basis."
Wilkerson said technology has also helped XPO map out where employees can walk within the terminals and warehouses, in ways that will help them avoid coming within six feet of other workers.
Restrepo said in the beginning of the pandemic, communication was vital. He wrote to employees every two weeks, assuring them their jobs were safe.
"We started to see a different energy in our company," said Restrepo. "People working without fear started delivering a lot more for us."
Estes said the new normal is providing opportunities for fleets, and made it easier to deliver bulkier goods for the Estes Express last-mile program. Estes said the COVID-19 crisis has worked out the kinks in what was a "clunky" process. Now customers, along with technology, make it easier for drivers to leave unattended items, and to set up delivery windows.
As for customers and shippers, Estes said the pandemic has changed their behaviors, including his own.
"I had never ordered from Amazon, ever," said Estes. "And now I have."