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March 22, 2021 8:00 AM, EDT

A Year of Pandemic: Commercial Vehicle Suppliers Kept Customers, Workforce in Mind

Four pandemic images Driver with mask by andresr/Getty Images (clockwise from top left); vaccine vial by Liam McBurney/Pool via AP; COVID-19 virus by Getty Images; UPS truck carrying vaccine at Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo by Morry Gash/Pool/Associated Press

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The supply chain has come through severe trials since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization. Trucking and related organizations describe the challenges and their progress.

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It was crucial for commercial vehicle suppliers to be identified as essential while they tried to find their way through COVID-19 when it first spread a year ago and deepened afterward, an executive with a leading supplier trade group said.

Despite pandemic-related disruptions in production, the vehicle-supplier network continued manufacturing, said David Giroux, CEO of The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association.

“HDMA member companies have adjusted to the pandemic with a keen focus on their workforces,” he said, noting commercial vehicle and automotive suppliers employ some 900,000 workers in the United States.

“It was critically important that our manufacturing sector was deemed ‘essential’ at both the state and federal levels. The designation allowed production to continue primarily without pause.”

U.S. retail sales of Class 8 vehicles, for example, dropped to 191,900 in 2020 compared with 276,348 a year earlier, which marked the highest volume since 2006, according to WardsAutomotive.com.

Giroux said he did not have information on how many suppliers, if any, were driven out business due to the pandemic.

“However, we are now seeing the fragility of the supply chain as the shortages in the supply of goods from foreign ports and critically important components like semiconductors and resins continue to cause headwinds,” he said.

And there is no doubt suppliers’ marketing and administrative functions are going to be altered, Giroux said.

“Many trade shows, company events, and customer activities were dispatched to the virtual realm,” he said. “The return scenario is not yet in clear view.” 

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