Why Washington carriers aren’t panicking over first US coronavirus death

President Donald Trump discussing the coronavirus outbreak

Washington trucking companies aren’t panicking despite the first U.S. death from the coronavirus in the state Saturday and growing strains on intermodal carriers struggling with disruptions in shipments from China, an industry official said.

“We’re a highly resilient industry even in the face of a potential pandemic,” said Sheri Call, executive vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations.

Call spoke to FreightWaves shortly after Washington State health officials announced that a woman infected with the novel coronavirus had died in a hospital near Seattle.

President Donald Trump addressed the death in a news conference Saturday as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. reached 15. He announced new travel restrictions for Iran and wouldn’t rule out more restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Washington’s governor, meanwhile, declared a state of emergency but has yet to take more drastic steps to limit the movement of people or goods.

“It’s a state of emergency, but not for trucking,” Call said. 

Still, Washington carriers aren’t immune to the growing supply chain disruptions from the coronavirus. Intermodal carriers are getting hit by disruptions of Chinese shipping to West Coast ports, Call said.

“They’re starting to see a deeper impact,” Call said. “Large volumes of freight from China aren’t arriving.”

But Call is hoping the disruptions are short-lived. She noted that truckload carriers have yet to see a dip in volumes because of coronavirus and said she remains bullish on Washington trucking, fuelled by growing volumes of international trade.

“We’re preparing for a bright future for freight,” Call said.

But she agreed that the ultimate impact of coronavirus remains unknown and that her carriers are closely monitoring developments.

Call said carriers aren’t worried about the prospect of coronavirus sidelining drivers but acknowledged “there’s no contingency plan for that.”