The outbreak of Covid-19 has seen fleet managers having to adopt new operating procedures across the board.The crisis had created uncertainty across every industry and the introduction of new ways of operating had called for fast adoption, said Lee Robledo, vice president of safety, compliance, regulatory and investigations for US-based NFI Industries, an integrated international third-party supply chain solutions provider.
Employing more than 4000 drivers and operating a fleet of more than 3000 tractors and 12 500 trailers in unsteady times of economic upheaval and social distancing was not easy, he said.
“We had to move from a four-person uploading procedure to two-person operations while separate staging areas for unloading goods outside of the warehouse had to be created. At the same time we saw a 35% uptick in kilometres driven in a single week as we transport critical goods, including medical supplies.”
Speaking during a recent webinar, Robledo said the company had insisted that all employees – including drivers – wore masks as a safety precaution.“The most difficult facet of the business was to protect the warehouse, where close encounters are more common. We also had to introduce safety measures for our drivers going out to customers on a daily basis.”
This included minimising the handling of paperwork. “Many of our customers have accepted new procedures – such as drivers arriving at a consignee and documenting cargo delivery on their mobile communication devices as proof of delivery instead of having paper or signed documents exchanging hands.”
Robledo said as a result of the pandemic there had been increased communication between the terminal, driver and customer, leading to a significant uptick of hand-held device usage.“Customer-facing interactions are also changing. Many customers are choosing to unload cargo themselves, removing the need for close interactions,” he said. “Customers are also in some cases restricting driver access on unloading blocks where they are, for example, instructed to stay in the cab.”