By Kim McDonnell, RoadPro Family of Brands
Whew! If you are like me, you are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and look forward to better days in 2021.
This past year was very trying in so many ways, especially for truck drivers both physically and financially. At the beginning of the shutdown, there was no access to the everyday essentials truckers needed, like a hot meal, safe places to park, access to clean showers and bathrooms, and PPE.
Many truckers were also financially impacted when the shutdown occurred, as manufacturers slowed production or shut down completely. In the early months of the pandemic, the spot rates became critically low but have seen a steady rebound as production ramped back up and businesses and manufacturing reopened.
With the start of the new year, forecasters predict that this will be a very transitional year for the trucking industry. Truck driver demand is expected to continue, and keep in mind that truckers will be the ones called upon to get the new vaccines to medical facilities throughout the year. There will be a higher demand by manufacturing to get goods to the shelves, which means 2021 could be far more profitable for truck drivers. There will be an increase in driver salaries, and spot rates will continue to climb. Drivers with more experience will probably be able to call for higher pay and increased benefits as demand continues. E-commerce and online shopping will continue to increase, and America will need more drivers to handle all that additional freight. According to the FTR Transportation Intelligence predictions, truck freight will grow 6% in 2021, which is a very healthy growth rate compared to previous years.
Increased freight means there will be an increased demand for more drivers. So the bad news is we will continue to experience a driver shortage. Still, the good news is that anyone who wants to get into the industry will have many career options to choose from, and the drivers that are already up and running will also have more and better opportunities.
While the Great American Truck Show has already been canceled for 2021, the Mid-American Trucking Show may still try to go on with the show in 2021, but if they do, it will be delayed until the fall. There have been mixed reactions, but most truck drivers are eager to attend truck shows, see new products, new and classic trucks, and just be together. If MATS decides to wait till 2022, there will be other opportunities throughout the year geared towards truck drivers. Currently, a brand new show will be making its inaugural appearance in July called the Outrageous American Truck Show that promises four days of activities, including a truck pull, concerts, bull riding, and fireworks.
It seems that travel centers and truck stops are also stepping up their game, and lessons learned throughout the pandemic may continue to prove beneficial for the trucker. New stores are opening for Love’s and Travel Centers of America, and they continue to build better facilities with more parking and services.
While 2021 will still have its challenges, here is to a fresh start and new beginnings with the hope that the pandemic will soon be behind us and we can truck on into better days!