Daily dispatch, March 17: Truck stops to remain open amid COVID-19; Virus volatility looms for freight, DAT reports

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, March 17, 2020:

NATSO: Truck stops ‘committed’ to remaining open
NATSO, the association that represents truck stops and travel plazas, on Monday issued a statement saying its members are committed to remaining open amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak to provide food, fuel and showers to drivers. In states that have ordered the closure of sit-down restaurants, NATSO says truck stop members there are working to convert sit-down restaurants to offer take-out options.

“Truck drivers are depending on truck stops and travel centers as they deliver food and life-saving supplies. Our members are committed to doing their part during the nation’s response to this emergency,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “As the nation confronts the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s travel centers and truck stops are committed to remaining open and serving America’s drivers. Fuel retailers are ‘essential’ businesses that must remain open even if other ‘nonessential’ businesses are forced to close.”

DAT reports freight sag in Feb., forecasts volatility ahead
After what DAT says was a “relatively strong” January, the firm reported via its a dip in freight volume for the three major truckload segments in February in its monthly Truckload Freight Volume Index.

DAT attributes the declines to seasonality, but analyst Peggy Dorf also says the COVID-19 outbreak in China had an affect on ocean and air cargo freight — which will “certainly affect truckload freight later,” she says, “but for now carriers are busy helping retailers restock empty store shelves.”

The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will add another layer of volatility to truckload freight and rates in the coming months, says DAT analyst Keen ADamo, “as surges in consumer demand alternate with potential constraints on imports, exports, and industrial production.”