Grenerth spoke at a webinar hosted by the Federal Highway Administration on July 21, reports Transport Topics.
Grenerth pointed to the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to emphasize the importance of communicating to truckers. When the pandemic caused stores and travel centers to limit services or shut down completely, truckers had difficulty finding so much as a cup of coffee.
In surveying over-the-road truckers, Grenerth found that, in many cases, truckers weren’t notified about a food truck’s presence with enough time to exit the interstate. He suggested ramped up efforts to raise truckers’ awareness of what is being offered to them, through tools such as overhead variable message signs or signs that can be hauled behind a truck.
Grenerth noted this sort of extraordinary response in the future likely would hinge on emergencies linked to hurricanes, severe flooding and large wildfires.
“We definitely just need to make sure that whatever comes up like this kind of response, truckers know where they can get the help that they’re going to be seeking,” Grenerth said. “We just need to make sure they know about that.”
Jason Miller, associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University, discussed effects of the pandemic on the trucking industry that have lingered after travel centers and truck stops reopened.
Miller said the pandemic has resulted in a change to the mix of freight getting moved, noting retail truck tonnage in 2021 is higher than levels recorded in 2018 and 2019.
“It ties into the challenges of [upsetting] the apple cart, and then we start to have a different mixture of freight taking place,” Miller said. “We have a mixture that is less manufacturing and substantially more retail. That creates a lot of disruptions.”