TMC Survey Shows COVID-19 Impacts on Maintenance Operations

Robert Braswell speaks at a past industry event. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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A survey conducted by American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council in March and April found that the COVID-19 pandemic had little impact on the readiness of the technician labor force for fleets and service providers.

However, the survey showed respondents rated the impact on shop support supplies, such as personal protective equipment — masks and nitrile gloves, and disinfectants — as moderate concerns.

The survey asked fleet executives and service providers a series of questions regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on maintenance operations’ labor force, deliveries of fleet equipment and parts, as well as shop support supplies. The questions were posed for the 30-day time frame in March and April as well as projections for the next 30 days.

Robert Braswell, TMC’s executive director, said with other studies focused on COVID-19’s impacts on fleet operations and industry policy, the purpose of the TMC survey was to view perceptions of the pandemic’s impact on maintenance. He noted that actual conditions in April were not as bad as survey respondents’ expectations in the March survey for the next 30 days.

“It’s also interesting to note that all things considered, the COVID-19 pandemic has generally been, with perhaps one exception [shop support supplies], a rather minor event in terms of maintenance operations,” Braswell said.

“Parts was initially a little bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I think in the aftermarket, just anecdotally, they had a lot of capacity in the market to start with,” he added. “They were able to handle this sort of thing in the first quarter.”

Braswell said with truck production at OEMs halted, a lot of the parts that would ordinarily go to the assembly lines got redirected to the replacement market.

“Also, we’re hearing from our members in the service provider industry that the number of service incidences has not dropped from the March-April time frame,” he added. “It’s held fairly steady.”

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Braswell said a fleet or service provider’s location also impacts how busy its shops are.

“Obviously if you’re in New York, you’ve been hard hit,” he said. “We’ve heard stories where in New York, members have had mechanics and technicians who have passed on because of COVID-19. Those shops are dealing with that.”

What fleets haul also greatly impacts their maintenance operations, Braswell said. “Fuel hauling business, your trucks aren’t very busy. In the grocery business, you’re really, really busy. If you’re hauling toilet paper, you are really, really, really busy. If you’re hauling clothing for Macy’s and some of the other clothing stores, you’re shut down.”

Looking ahead, the question will shift to how the economic recovery will affect maintenance operations.

“It will be interesting to see what all this looks three or four months from now,” Braswell said.

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