STATEWIDE — The trucking industry in Florida has taken a toll from COVID-19, at a time when demand for consumer goods has dropped.

In April, average demand went down by more than 10 percent from early February, according to the Florida Trucking Association (FTA). Activity had spiked the week of March 8 from increased demand for food and paper products, when many people were buying in bulk.

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The decline, according to FTA Vice President Alix Miller, is due to two key factors: consumer demand leveling off as people adjusted to staying home; and significant decreases in freight movement in other sectors of the industry, such as fuel and construction, as well as freight going to hotels and stadiums.

There are approximately 38,000 trucking companies based in Florida, according to FTA. Most of them are smaller companies having to compete for bids with larger companies offering cheaper rates. 

In the midst of a pandemic, that bidding process can make or break small trucking businesses. 

Dan Piela, who operates a single truck LLC trucking company in Central Florida, says he often works at a net loss after fuel, maintenance and taxes are taken into account. It is been a problem for him since before the pandemic, but now he says there are more trucks than loads available.

Piela is hoping to receive a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program to help him get through it.

Meanwhile Ricky Taylor of Titusville says his bottom line has not been impacted because he transports cargo for a larger company. He is an independent contractor for Arnold Transportation and has been shipping supplies for Amazon. 

But Taylor is still seeing impacts from the coronavirus. The CDC has issued sanitary guidelines for truckers and their cargo. Plus many distribution sites, where deliveries are loaded and unloaded, are screening drivers for COVID-19 symptoms.

“It’s ramped up to the point where we have to be a little bit more aggressive in everything that we do,” he explained. “We have to be more precise.”

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