LILBURN, Ga. | Initially, when the word of this coronavirus hit the media, as many others, I did not know quite what to make of it. I remember hearing remarks about it being related to Corona beer and being just an anomaly in some remote region in China- perhaps from eating things that most westerners could not fathom eating.
In short it was once again somebody else’s problem. I was amazed at how the financial markets continued to dismiss any threat of this virus from Wuhan having any potential to impact our finances much less our life as we know it. I recall hearing a gentleman at the Gwinnett Rotary speaking about companies being proactive in terms of ensuring that they have the ability to work remotely.
It was certainly food for thought, but I must admit that it wasn’t on top of the list of my priorities. I’m ashamed to admit that my peers and I downplayed the threat and chalked it up as just another irrational fear that runs through the mainstream media until everything changed.
Then a man from Washington state contracted the virus and passed away. Suddenly, our American fishbowl was broken. Now it was our problem, right here on American soil!
We weren’t as immune as we thought we were. The detractors started to fade. A light switch was turned on.
My first impulse was to ask myself how it was going to affect my logistics company, our employees and quite frankly, the company finances. It dawned on me that Comet National was listed with FEMA after Hurricane Katrina and had not given it a second thought since after the tragedy.
During Katrina, FEMA coordinated water and toiletries transported to the affected areas. Production was backed up, so truckers had to be prepared to pick up items from distant facilities that had the product available on a just-in-time basis.
This will no doubt happen in the COVID-19 crisis. For example, an idled Tesla plant in Buffalo, N.Y. is now manufacturing ventilators that will be shipped to New York City. Trailers will need to be spotted at the facility, so that at the moment the trailer is filled, a driver must hightail it to the hospital in need, probably within New York City.
Meanwhile, recently the Federal Government relaxed its policy until April 12 on the recently-mandated restrictions on service hours allowed by drivers via the electronic log systems. That policy had restricted the time a driver is allowed to spend on the road without shutting down for rest.
Unfortunately, FEMA is an organization that receives little attention until it receives loads of it.
Our company has now taken measures to mobilize the limited but valuable resources we have to be a part of the effort to assist the world in fighting this pandemic. Through utilization of information technology and valued partnership, our goal is simple.
It is going to be a balancing act of deploying trucks pick up from companies that have equipment and/or any resources to aid the areas (hot spots) that are in dire need to receive help. These lanes will change from day to day, week to week and month to month.
This is the task at hand for Comet National and countless other transportation companies throughout the United States and the world, to balance the need to assist in whatever small way we can while ensuring that our own employees are safe.
I could not wrap my mind around the thought of trying to accomplish this without the technology we have today and most importantly, the spirit that we have as people with a common enemy. We will get through this and we will be better off for it. Perhaps this may boost global trade relations after we have moved passed through this pandemic, put safety measures in place and above all, realize that we were all in this together.