Freight executives give feedback to White House on economic restart

Head shots of FedEx, UPS and United Airlines CEOs.

Several titans of freight transportation are part of the White House’s council of business leaders asked to provide advice on how to reopen parts of the economy after lockdowns aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus were put into place.

Several groups of business executives, including the transport chiefs, spoke Wednesday on a conference call with President Donald Trump, one day after he selected them. Some reportedly were surprised by the announcement, having never been privately asked to participate. The rushed meeting didn’t allow most people time to prepare. Some bank executives couldn’t participate on the calls because they had earnings to report, according to media accounts from Washington.

The transportation leaders on the economic council are: American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear; J.B. Hunt CEO and President John Roberts (trucking and intermodal); YRC Worldwide CEO Darren Hawkins (trucking); FedEx Corp. Chairman and CEO Fred Smith (parcel and logistics); UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney (parcel and logistics); United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz (airline);  Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Allegiant (budget airline); and Crowley Maritime Corp. Chairman and CEO Thomas B. Crowley, Jr. (ocean shipping and logistics). 

Ever since he declared a national emergency and announced social-distancing guidelines, President Trump has publicly itched to open up society and get the economy going. More than 22 million people have filed for unemployment insurance in the past four weeks and some estimate that unemployment could soon reach 20%. Governors and mayors have actually implemented quarantines, but Trump wants to send the signal that people can return to normal activity. 

The President has expressed interest in a phased economic restart by May 1 and was scheduled to release guidelines for doing so today.

Banking, sports, agriculture and healthcare leaders told the President that they want businesses and the economy to get going again, but cautioned that people won’t feel safe until a testing regime is much more widespread to ensure that people aren’t carrying the disease and infecting others, according to the Washington Post and other news outlets. They urged the White House not to rush and to also wait until there is clear evidence of a sustained reduction in new cases.