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Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the focus on the supply chain has been greater than ever. Prior to this crisis, people drove to the grocery store confident that whatever they wanted would be on the shelf. Consumers didn’t need to think about the complex systems that enabled those products to be there — they just knew goods would be available.
That changed in March, when shoppers began seeing empty shelves where toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, cleaning supplies and basic food products once sat. Panic buying as well as a radical shift in food stockpiling as restaurants closed across the country led to increased demand at grocery stores, putting new and sudden pressure on the supply chain.
We also witnessed unprecedented demand for potentially life-saving medical supplies, including ventilators, hospital beds, COVID-19 test kits, pharmaceuticals, gowns, masks and more. On-time arrival for these shipments was and remains critical to the fight against this virus.
These experiences have not only highlighted the importance of our supply chain, but also the fragile nature of it. For the trucking industry, it created a tremendous challenge nearly overnight.
While the definition of what constitutes an “essential” business has been debated during this crisis, there was never a question that trucking belongs in the category. Our workers already knew it, and as the crisis evolved they stepped up. They have been performing their jobs admirably despite the health risks posed by COVID-19. Their employers are taking steps to ensure these workers are protected, and have access to care should they or a family member be affected by the virus.
While the supply chain may have bent at the beginning of this crisis, it did not break — and that wasn’t luck. Rather, it was due to the dedication, hard work and coordination of many trucking companies, truck drivers, mechanics, dockworkers, dispatchers, regulatory and other support personnel who met the challenge head-on and rose above the usual call of duty when the nation needed them the most.
The net result has been a realization among the general public of the value and necessity of the trucking industry, along with the importance of truck drivers and the other transportation professionals who propel the nation’s economic engine, and support the quality of life we enjoy. It is inspiring to see this new level of appreciation from everyday people.
Out of national tragedy there can rise a sense of pride, patriotism and shared experience that bonds those who endured the event together. When this is over, I hope that the general public remembers and continues to recognize the sacrifices made by those in trucking who in the past had been somewhat taken for granted. The same goes for workers in grocery stores, warehouses, gas stations and pharmacies, and those in the medical, custodial, construction, agricultural, energy, communication, power generation and municipal sectors — among others.
These individuals rise each day in the midst of this national health crisis, leave their families and go to work to benefit all of us. They are proud of their contributions, and we should all be proud of them.
Troy Hill is chairman of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. He also is president and CEO of Hill Petroleum, a family-owned petroleum marketing business whose main office is in Arvada, Colo.
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