By Josh Deakin
The trucking industry has met a wide variety of challenges during the past year with great thought and careful planning, ensuring the safety and health of both drivers and recipients of goods. Throughout the pandemic, the industry has continued to find creative solutions to keep the country’s supply chain moving.
One year ago, there was an excessive amount of panic from consumers concerned about shortages of daily household items, such as toilet paper and paper towels.
“As you might imagine, the trucking industry and our professional drivers face challenges every day,” said Brian Parke, president and CEO of the Maine Motor Transport Association. “Delivering essential goods during a pandemic has added to those challenges, but the trucking industry has risen to the occasion.”
“The professional drivers here in the state of Maine have been very dedicated, working long hours to keep the supply chains moving,” said Josh White, publicity officer for the Maine Professional Drivers Association. “Many shippers have had reduced staff leading to delays in the loading and unloading of shipments.”
“I believe the most difficult part of this for drivers has been limited access to restrooms and also to rest areas across the National Highway System, to be able to park to either eat or sleep,” said White. “As early on, many of these facilities were closed and prohibited drivers from parking. This environment requires drivers to plan their trips very carefully. Making sure they have places to shower, eat and use the restrooms.” Truck drivers have had to come up with creative solutions to these challenges to ensure that supply chains continue to move and goods are transported to their destinations in a timely manner.
Rest area access proved to be a major concern for the trucking industry to provide a safe location to park and rest during their long, multi-day trips.
“Initially, there were concerns about acquiring PPE, rest stop closures and limited facility access at shipper locations. Those concerns have subsided and now that we know more about how to protect ourselves from the virus, the normal freight delivery and supply chain has settled back in depending upon the commodity hauled,” explained Parke.
The state of Maine has been very supportive of the industry which has made the challenges easier to navigate.
“Fortunately, truck drivers in the state of Maine have always been ready to do what is necessary, regardless of the situation, to keep our economy moving,” said White. “We know the people of this state and the nation depend on us to keep a positive and determined attitude to keep essential freight rolling to the places it is needed most.”
To assist in the safety mandates for drivers, shippers have adjusted how they do their business. “Many shippers have gone to different forms of contactless or reduced contact when loading and unloading. For the most part though, this has been a fairly smooth change,” White said.
White keeps a positive spirit that things will eventually return to some form of normalcy. “I have to say we certainly are an optimistic bunch. The American Trucking Association used to have a motto, ‘Good Stuff, Trucks Bring It!’ I think as long as people need ‘stuff’ truck drivers will be looking forward to providing that service by any means necessary. As the industrial engine of the United States begins to fire back up, truck drivers will be matching it in lock step.”
With states across the nation gradually reducing restrictions and opening back up, Parke said the industry faces other challenges. “We expect freight volumes to pick up with states reopening, restaurant restrictions being eased and tourism showing signs of optimism. However, even before the pandemic started, our industry has been facing a workforce shortage that is growing at an alarming rate. Truck drivers and technicians in particular are retiring and we are actively looking for ways to attract the next generation of truckers to consider careers in our industry.”
In an effort to attract more drivers, the Maine Motor Transport Association has created a recruiting campaign entitled “Go YOUR Way.” The program, according to the formal announcement online, is “an emotional ‘upstream’ digital campaign that is designed to speak to younger people on their platforms.”
Go YOUR Way reaches out to younger people who aren’t looking to go to higher education after high school. “Think young mavericks and young people who may want to see the world, or at least want to control their own destiny, and work in an industry that will always keep them employed. When you choose a career in trucking in Maine, there is something for everyone,” the announcement states.
For more regarding the Go YOUR Way program, explore the website at GoYOURWay.com for information on the industry including information on how to earn your Commercial Driver’s License, educational videos that shine a light on the industry and may paint a more clear picture of an exciting career field, as well as endless resources to assist you in building your future.
As an additional event to increase awareness of tractor-trailer trucks, the Maine Professional Drivers Association is setting up a special blind-spot demonstration and touch-a-truck event at the Owls Head Transportation Museum’s Truck and Tractor Show on July 24-25.
“We will be using a tractor-trailer unit donated by one of our supporting members to show visitors at the show areas around a truck that can be difficult for a commercial vehicle driver to be able to see,” said White. “Helping the average motorist be more aware when on the road around the commercial motor vehicles.”
Trucks have remained on the road as a result of the hard work and dedication of those in the industry to push forward and persevere through speed bumps and roadblocks. They will continue to navigate through any future challenges with grace as they keep in mind the motto: “Good Stuff, Trucks Bring It!”
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