For years, truck drivers have been flocking to I-30 in Indianapolis to make their deliveries. But with the pandemic restrictions, are they still going to be making those same trips to the city? Let’s take a look.
I-30 used to be known as the ‘Gallivan Trail’, and it was originally built in 1918 to serve as a refuge during World War I. The highway was originally 16 lanes, and at one point boasted a 70 mph speed limit. It was later reduced to 45 in the 1950s to accommodate increasing traffic. In the 1980s, the speed limit was again lowered to 35 as part of a plan to reduce car accidents. In recent years, I-30 has only had a 30 mph speed limit, which was implemented in an effort to reduce accidents from speeding and distracted driving. These days, I-30 is mainly used as a connector between the northern and southern parts of the city.
This year, as the pandemic continues to loom over society and the economy, all kinds of changes have occurred on I-30, as well as other roads across the country. In line with the Federal Highway Administration’s recommendations, all state and local governments have closed their offices, banned gatherings, and limited travel to essential tasks. This has affected everything from truck drivers’ schedules to consumer habits. For instance, the demand for trucks has dipped, and many trucking companies have laid off dozens of employees. According to the American Association of Motor Truck Drivers, the truck driver shortage is projected to reach 1.5 million by next year.
Since the majority of I-30’s truck drivers work for major trucking companies, they have not been affected as severely by the pandemic as independent contractors and owner-operators. Many trucking companies have adapted to the new normal by rehiring previous employees and adding additional shifts. However, not all drivers have been able to find work, and that’s caused some to question whether or not I-30 is still a worthwhile route.
I-30’s Future, and The Effect on Trucking Companies
Since the start of this year, I-30 has been designated as a Historic Road, and it now has the ‘protected’ status assigned to National Historic Trails. According to the Federal Highway Administration, this means that it is a road “that is important to the American heritage, and it should be preserved for posterity.” The preservation of these sorts of roads was made possible by the federal government under the Trump administration, which has encouraged state and local governments to adopt a more pro-active approach to historic preservation.
In general, most major roads across the country have seen a decline in traffic and commerce due to the pandemic. According to an April 2020 report from the American Association of Motor Truck Drivers, only 27% of truck drivers feel that I-30 is currently important to their livelihoods. That’s compared to 48% who feel that the highway is not important and 33% who are unsure. Furthermore, the report found that only 16% of truckers believe that they will be able to find work after the pandemic. That’s compared to 24% who feel they will be unable to find work and 48% who are unsure. Even before the pandemic, I-30 had seen traffic levels decline as commercial trucks have shifted to other routes.
How Has The Effect Been On Trucking Companies?
The pandemic has undoubtedly put a significant strain on trucking companies, especially those that operate across state lines. Since truckers represent a key constituency for many trucking companies, their ability to grow has been impeded as they are unable to meet the demands of drivers and customers. In fact, many trucking companies have laid off employees or reduced working hours as a result of the pandemic. One such company is YRC, a global freight company with operations across the country. The company has seen its traffic decline by 26% as a result of the pandemic. YRC is also one of the largest trucking companies in North America, and it employs 15,000 drivers across the country. The company attributed its traffic decline to the fact that consumers are hesitant to make large purchases as they are scared of getting stuck with a lot of unnecessary items due to restrictions on shipping.
The Road To Recovery
Although the road to recovery will look different for different industries, in general, most businesses have had to adapt to the new normal. As a result of the pandemic, the trucking industry has faced considerable upheaval, and it will take time for businesses to get back on their feet. The good news is that the economy, and therefore the need for trucks, will eventually return. The American Association of Motor Truck Drivers projects that by next year, 75% of truck drivers will believe that I-30 is important to their livelihoods, and that 79% will be able to find work. That’s compared to the 16% who feel the highway is not important and the 5% who are unsure.
I-30 has been important to the American trucking industry for many years, and it continues to play a crucial role in keeping our economy afloat during this pandemic. Although traffic has declined due to government guidelines limiting travel, commercial trucks continue to rely on this key route to get their goods to market. A lot can happen in the next six months, but for now, it appears that I-30 will remain as vital as ever to the freight community, and it will continue to serve as a lifeline for truck drivers who need to get their goods to market.