Nurses. Doctors. Grocery store employees. First responders. Delivery drivers. Food bank volunteers. Many people have stood on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to help keep our communities safe and the world running. Not only have they been ​​ensuring we have essential care, supplies and services, but they are often doing it while interacting with members of the public who could potentially make them ill.

But there’s another group of essential frontline workers who’ve been working to keep the world moving from behind the scenes — the truck drivers.

While people quickly and easily recognize the contributions of frontline workers they can see, there’s an entire hidden infrastructure of drivers that keeps the economy running. And despite the fact that their line of work generally keeps them out of sight, they are more on the frontlines than many people know. 

Since the pandemic first reared its end at the beginning of 2020, it’s been a long haul for the 3.5 million truckers in America. While much of the rest of the world saw lockdowns and distancing, truckers continued to keep the country running and supplied with groceries, toilet paper, and essential medical items, along with supporting the boom in e-commerce sales – and the challenges are far from over.

A study from Adobe predicts that global e-commerce sales will reach $4.2 trillion this year, with U.S. consumers accounting for close to one-quarter of that spending, while a separate study revealed that an estimated 2.14 billion people are now shopping online in 2021 — accounting for nearly 30% of the world’s population. That growth has a very real human cost, and one that we don’t tend to think about or act on enough as a society, especially considering the fact that about 70% of America’s freight travels by truck. 

For the drivers who move this freight across the country, avoiding interaction with others has been a serious challenge. With many spending days on the road, finding safe places to eat, shower and sleep during their journeys have become harder to find, while each pickup and delivery brings its own risks from interactions with dockworkers and other personnel. And yet they have powered on.

Considering all the challenges they have faced over the course of the pandemic, combined with the ongoing driver shortage, this week of appreciation has greater meaning than ever before. The importance of keeping trucks moving has shifted toward the forefront of the nation’s mind, as has the concerns around the difficulty in getting new drivers behind the wheel. The responsibility to provide and maintain a resilient workforce of skilled truckers is a responsibility that falls on all of us as a society. 

And actions speak louder than words.

For example, many truckers spend hours every week unpaid, and studies show that the problem is only getting worse. Detention time — time spent waiting for a truck to be loaded or unloaded — has long been one of the most aggravating issues for truckers, with 36% of drivers now experiencing longer wait times at loading docks compared to one year ago, and 60% reporting detention times of 2 hours or more. By investing in technology that can better predict when a truck will arrive at the loading dock, schedules can be adjusted and communicated well in advance, giving receivers the opportunity to adapt and prepare for quicker loading or unloading, and ensuring that drivers can both avoid extended unpaid detention time and get back on the road faster.

Addressing issues directly related to the pandemic can also provide relief, not just now but moving forward out of the current situation as well. By taking steps to reduce the level of contact required at pickup and delivery locations by going paperless through a cloud-based system, it’s possible to reduce the risk of infection while simultaneously improving efficiency and time savings. Likewise, through route optimization software, shippers can help to ensure drivers are able to avoid COVID-19 hotspots and have adequate access to rest facilities – a top concern for 49% of truckers during the pandemic — while also reducing the amount of time they need to spend on the road by creating more efficient routes.

This year when thanking the truckers who have kept our economy moving, show your appreciation with more than words. While signs along the roadsides, social posts and shoutouts are all great showcases of appreciation, the most genuine way to show drivers they matter is with a commitment to investing in the tools and technology they need to make a difference in their lives and job performance.  

To learn how Shipwell can help you to better support your truckers both during the pandemic and in the years ahead, schedule a demo today.

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