When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and most businesses in March, some trucking companies saw an initial slowdown.
That changed, due in large part to many consumers sheltering at home, according to some companies that operate locally. Other companies, such as Dunmore-based Road Scholar, remained busy because of delivering essential products.
Fallon McLoughlin, a spokeswoman for Greenwich, Connecticut-based XPOLogistics, said there was some impact initially during the shutdown, but then the surge of business came.
“Given the nature of our supply chain and our logistics business, we stepped up to meet demands of food and beverage,” McLoughlin said. “Right now we’re heading into the holiday peak season. We’ve seen peak levels, in some cases, since March.”
A big contributing factor, McLoughlin said, is the people who are home more now, whether sheltering at home, as they were for months, working from home or staying home more, spending more time online and ordering merchandise.
“More people buying online has resulted in an increase in the supply chain and trucking,” she said. “We’re the largest provider of last-mile deliveries.”
That means if an XPO truck does not deliver the goods to a customer’s home, a local contractor hired by XPO does.
“Given the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in fitness equipment, home furniture, home improvement (materials),” McLoughlin said. “It’s been a very busy time.”
XPO will close a distribution center in the CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park, in Jenkins Township, and eliminate all 111 jobs at the facility, though, after Kimberly-Clark, the sole tenant at the warehouse, decided to choose another logistics vendor.
XPO released a statement saying it will try to find jobs for the affected employees at other area locations. The layoffs are expected to begin on Nov. 23.
“The customer made a business decision to move to another location,” McLoughin said. “It wasn’t our decision.”
Kimberly-Clark did not respond to a request for comment about the change in vendors.
XPO, which operates in North America and Europe, is one of the largest supply chain transportation companies, the spokeswoman said.
Kane Logistics saw a similar decrease, then increase, in business.
“March, April, there was a significant volume downturn, which I think everybody experienced,” said Larry Cantanzaro, Kane’s vice president of transportation. “Everybody was shut down. May to the present, there is a total opposite reaction. Now there’s been a significant uptick. Retailers are keeping their shelves stocked. We don’t see that reversing.”
He said, though, it will be hard to tell in the next couple months if business is better because there’s normally a higher volume going into the holidays. June, July, August was a higher volume, too, he said.
He doesn’t know what to expect this winter, with threats of both COVID and the flu lingering.
Cantanzaro said Kane made significant investments to make sure their buildings, trucks and equipment are sanitized.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep our staff and drivers safe,” he said.
One example is the company uses thermal imaging that automatically takes employees’ temperatures when they go into the building.
Kane also has invested in masks, hand sanitizers, wipes for the trucks, even televisions with electronic messages to remind employees of what they can do to try to prevent infection from COVID-19.
The company also invested in computer equipment so people could work from home. Employees alternate working in the office and working at home so that there are fewer people in the office.
“We worked with our customers that we deliver to, minimize the times drivers have to go into the buildings. Signatures now are electronic,” Cantanzaro said. “We make a delivery, a lot of times we take backhauls (return load). We’ve really limited backhauls, especially from hot areas like New York and New Jersey.”
He said 70 percent of the company’s volume of business is delivered to New York and New Jersey.
He said Kane is fortunate, though.
“I think a lot of trucking companies may have been saved by CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds,” Cantanzaro said. “We’re blessed with a mix of customers. A lot of our customers are considered essential. 2019 one of highest bankruptcy years for trucking companies.”
He said company drivers, owner-operators, broker operators and part-time drivers haul about 150 loads per day for Kane.
With its corporate office in Atlanta, Kane operates a transportation terminal Scranton, its trucking operations out of Scranton, Allentown and Pottsville and owns warehouses and distribution centers throughout the country.
Road Scholar Transport also is blessed by the type of clientele it serves.
“We were declared essential,” said the company’s President and Chief Executive Office Jim Barrett, who founded the company in 1988 with his wife, Debra. “We move a lot pharmaceuticals, food products.”
The company has more than 120 tractors and 600 trailers and transports throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Road Scholar operates additional terminals in Worcester, Massachusetts; Jersey City; Philadelphia; and Mechanicsburg and Denver, Pennsylvania.
Barrett said that from the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, each month was progressively busier.
“There just aren’t enough trucks, drivers,” he said. “There just seems to be a short supply of everything. It continues to stay very, very busy.
“My heart goes out to all these hotels and hospitality businesses. Those businesses were destroyed.”