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March 22, 2021 8:00 AM, EDT

A Year of Pandemic: Logistics Companies Adapted as Needed

Four pandemic imagesDriver 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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Logistics companies that diversified, were nimble and leveraged data-driven technologies had the best chance to continue operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Transportation Intermediaries Association President Anne Reinke stressed the changes were vital.

“Even if they themselves don’t necessarily have a diverse mix but they can figure out a way to flip [to a different type of load], have the resourcefulness and that kind of thing, they’ve been able to fare well,” Reinke said. “And some of our customers who can’t necessarily flip the switch have had a really tough time.”

She said there was a five-week period at the beginning of the pandemic when volumes collapsed. But afterward, some lanes did really well while others continued to struggle.

People were going out less because of the pandemic so the lanes that did well were associated with people staying home, such as grocery stores as opposed to restaurants.

“You’ve got to be nimble, fleet-footed and try to broadcast your horizon — to the extent you can,” Reinke said, adding that some members resolved: “We got to focus on culture, we’ve got to focus on what we can control.”

Logistics providers were also forced to use data-driven technologies to better predict needs and communicate them with partners.

“Those companies that have invested in technological solutions to make themselves a difference-maker, to make them more predictive in terms of their carrier arrival times and their carrier relationships,” Reinke said. “Those are the ones that recognize how important it is to make those investments.” 

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