Knight-Swift CEO discusses company’s challenges, response to COVID-19 (with video)

Heading into April, the United States braces itself for another month of battling COVID-19. The pandemic, which has disrupted commerce and trade around the world, presents unique challenges for the transportation industry as it juggles to keep America’s stores stocked while maneuvering around the invisible threat.

As the nation’s largest full truckload company, Knight-Swift Transportation has monitored the COVID-19 outbreak closely and has taken steps to ensure its employees are protected and its operations run smoothly.

FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller discussed the motor carrier’s response to the coronavirus outbreak via teleconference with Knight-Swift President and CEO David Jackson on the FreightWavesTV show, “Fuller Speed Ahead.”

Jackson said that Knight-Swift has prepared for times of economic disruptions. For instance, each of the company’s terminals has decentralized operations that allow its staff to work remotely if necessary. He said the contingency plan was created mainly for inclement weather such as hurricanes, but has since proved to be the perfect solution for this unprecedented pandemic.

Although Jackson said that the transportation sector hasn’t felt the negative effects that other businesses have, he noted that only carriers that are well-capitalized and can endure the bottom of the “U curve” will fare well during the outbreak.

Jackson explained that Knight-Swift is pleased to see spikes in demand for consumer goods as the majority of its truckloads consist of consumer staples. The flexibility of the carrier’s irregular route line-haul business has also proved to be of benefit for Knight-Swift as it finds new ways to navigate the ever-changing market.

“Our recruiting classes are still pretty decent and we’re continuing to recruit drivers and put them into trucks this week,” Jackson said. “It’s very encouraging; maybe it’s a sign that there are so many that don’t have those opportunities and are attracted to the fact that we provide gainful employment right away.”

He continued, “As long as we can stock communities with products, it keeps the panic down and helps those who are most in need.

The COVID-19 pandemic that continues to roadblock most industries in the United States has presented drivers with unique opportunities as consumers anxiously await the arrival of each truckload.

Medical professionals and truck drivers have emerged as heroes of the coronavirus outbreak as their services carry the nation through these tough times.

“I have never seen the level of respect for drivers and well-deserved credit that many of them are receiving reach this high,” said Jackson.

Jackson expressed gratitude for the resilience that Knight-Swift’s drivers have shown. In response, the company has offered its drivers the opportunity to earn bonuses up to around $1,000 per month. Knight-Swift has additionally allocated around $1 million in food provisions to 17 of its terminals for the benefit of its drivers.

Jackson also acknowledged the kind actions from some of Knight-Swift’s customers who’ve served its drivers meals upon arrival at their facilities.

“We’re grateful for the cooperation and the collaboration from our customers and the respect that everybody seems to be giving our drivers,” Jackson said.

To combat the spread of the coronavirus, most of Knight-Swift’s employees are working from home, according to Jackson, and the company has implemented extensive sanitation policies at its maintenance facilities to protect both its mechanics and drivers from contracting the illness. Each vehicle is sterilized with anti-bacterial wipes and air disinfectant devices upon each maintenance visit.

Jackson said that Knight-Swift still recommends its drivers to use the restrooms and showers at its facilities, but advises against congregating in large groups during rest periods.

Tackling the coronavirus has required a company-wide effort for Knight-Swift, but Jackson believes the motor carrier has taken the proper steps to adjust as America braces for another month of quarantine.

“The business continues to work and we’re adjusting to this new way of talking to people via our computers and working with our drivers one-on-one,” Jackson said.