Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the world. In a fast changing situation, the pandemic’s impacts on the daily life of people, businesses and governments grow by the hour.
The most immediate concern for the road transport sector is to maintain supply chains, especially for essentials such as food and medical items, in the safest way possible for transport workers and citizens and respecting the latest relevant government guidelines.
The industry is doing its best to cope in a difficult situation, with rules and restrictions changing rapidly and often in a haphazard or uncoordinated way. Yet the industry takes seriously its social responsibility to keep operating as best it can in the crisis.
IRU and its member network continue to monitor the situation in regions and across borders, advising transport companies on dealing with the pandemic and its impacts. IRU has implemented crisis and continuity plans, including preventive measures to protect staff.
Economic and social impacts
While the full scale of COVID-19 is not yet known, we can only assume that the outbreak will continue seriously impacting the global economy, trade and tourism in the coming weeks and months, and thus the road transport sector and the supply chains and mobility networks it supports.
Moving people and goods needs roads. The production and distribution of almost every good on the planet is dependent, at some point, on services provided by road transport operators.
On the basis of the significant fall in intercontinental container shipments, IRU estimates a decline in global road transport activity of up to 20% in 2020, depending on how long the situation continues. This could lead to a global loss in operator revenues of $800 billion1.
Nearly 6% of all people in employment worldwide work in road transport – largely in small and medium sized firms that, due to their size, cannot easily cope with external shocks such as the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The economic burden is high, and growing, on both workers and the owners of firms. They are doing their best to stay afloat, however functioning supply chains and the mobility of essential workers depend on them remaining in business.
To keep road transport networks functioning, IRU is calling on governments and authorities, as well as banks and financial institutions, to take various temporary actions to help ease the burden of the crisis on operators.
Short term actions to keep road networks safe and open
- Operating companies should implement higher driver health and safety standards for loading and unloading goods (particularly in quarantine areas) and concerning the carriage of documents to demonstrate compliance with health rules.
- Operating companies must ensure traceability in recording and maintaining driver and worker movements.
- Governments and authorities should clearly communicate enforcement procedures for vehicles, drivers and cargo or passengers, especially for quarantine areas.
- Governments and authorities should closely coordinate and publish measures to mitigate the impact of the restrictions they adopt on supply chains and related movements of goods and people.
- Ease driving and resting time rules to ensure efficient logistics for critical goods (food and medical supplies) and enable drivers to leave affected regions or quarantine zones as quickly as possible to return home.
- Lift delivery restrictions to ensure delivery can take place at safer times, in the night for example.
- Ease loan and mortgage repayment terms from financial institutions, especially for large vehicle loans, and VAT and tax payment deadlines.
- Remove or reduce tolls and road user charges for trucks and coaches.
- Set up support programmes for temporarily unemployed road transport workers.
- Avoid unilateral measures by the relevant authorities so that cross-border transport of goods is facilitated (especially essential items such as food and medical supplies).
- Provide emergency financial aid programmes for impacted businesses to prevent bankruptcies.
IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto, said: “Keeping road transport supply chains and mobility networks open is crucial to helping us all cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in the comings weeks and beyond.”
He added, “To do this, we need to protect the workers and companies who are the backbone of road transport, and to keep transport links open wherever and as long as possible in affected areas so that essential goods and people can get to where they need to be.”
1 This figure was revised from an earlier analysis published on 13 March. IRU is continuing to monitor the economic impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on road commercial transport operators and will publish further information as the situation progresses.