The most immediate concern for the road transport industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the International Road Transport Union (IRU), is to maintain supply chains, especially for food and medical items – in the safest way possible for transport workers and citizens while respecting relevant government guidelines.
IRU and its member network continue to monitor the situation in regions and across borders, advising transport companies on dealing with the pandemic and its impacts. IRU has implemented crisis and continuity plans, including preventive measures to protect staff.
“While the full scale of Covid-19 is not yet known, we can only assume that the outbreak will continue seriously impacting the global economy, trade and tourism in the coming weeks and months, and thus the road transport sector and the supply chains and mobility networks it supports,” IRU said in a statement. “Moving people and goods needs roads. The production and distribution of almost every good on the planet is dependent, at some point, on services provided by road transport operators.”
IRU has estimated, based on a fall in intercontinental container shipments, a decline in global transport activity of up to 20 per cent in 2020.
Nearly six per cent of people employed worldwide work in road transport, according to IRU, largely in small and medium sized firms that, due to their size, cannot easily cope with external shocks such as the economic impacts of Covid-19.
“The economic burden is high, and growing, on both workers and the owners of firms,” IRU said. “They are doing their best to stay afloat, however functioning supply chains and the mobility of essential workers depend on them remaining in business.”
IRU is calling on government and authorities, including banks and financial institutions, to take various temporary actions to help ease the burden of the crisis on operators.
IRU's safety recommendations include:
- Operating companies should implement higher driver health and safety standards for loading and unloading goods (particularly in quarantine areas) and concerning the carriage of documents to demonstrate compliance with health rules.
- Operating companies must ensure traceability in recording and maintaining driver and worker movements.
- Governments and authorities should clearly communicate enforcement procedures for vehicles, drivers and cargo or passengers, especially for quarantine areas.
- Governments and authorities should closely coordinate and publish measures to mitigate the impact of the restrictions they adopt on supply chains and related movements of goods and people.
IRU recommends governments should:
- Ease driving and resting time rules to ensure efficient logistics for critical goods (food and medical supplies) and enable drivers to leave affected regions or quarantine zones as quickly as possible to return home.
- Lift delivery restrictions to ensure delivery can take place at safer times, in the night for example.
- Ease loan and mortgage repayment terms from financial institutions, especially for large vehicle loans, and VAT and tax payment deadlines.
- Remove or reduce tolls and road user charges for trucks and coaches.
- Set up support programmes for temporarily unemployed road transport workers.
- Avoid unilateral measures by the relevant authorities so that cross-border transport of goods is facilitated (especially essential items such as food and medical supplies).
- Provide emergency financial aid programmes for impacted businesses to prevent bankruptcies.
“Keeping road transport supply chains and mobility networks open is crucial to helping us all cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in the comings weeks and beyond,” said IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto. “To do this, we need to protect the workers and companies who are the backbone of road transport, and to keep transport links open wherever and as long as possible in affected areas so that essential goods and people can get to where they need to be.”