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It happened again: Another month flew by while I wasn’t looking. That means we’re firmly into the summer season (and triple-digit heat here in Arizona). The country continues to march toward recovery, but we have to be careful as we go.

It’s been a busy month as businesses reopen and learn how to balance safety with restarting the economy. I’ve rounded up a few pieces of news related to the recovery and some of the changes it’s brought that may directly impact the heavy-duty industry.

Ready? Let’s go.

Paycheck Protection Program

We’re starting to see results of the CARES Act, which was designed to help businesses keep people on payroll and provide additional unemployment insurance to those who still found themselves out of work. According to this USA Today piece, over 2 million people returned to work thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program, and some of the repayment terms were loosened to make it more beneficial to small businesses.

The period to apply for this program has ended, although there are discussions of another aid package that may come down the pipes later in the summer.

EIDL Loans Reopening

You may not be able to apply for the PPP, but you can see if you qualify for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). This program includes grants and loans for individuals and small businesses, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. There is about $60 billion available in funding (possibly less as of this writing) and it’s open until the end of December 2020. If you were in business as of January 31, 2020, you can apply for the EIDL.

AB5 Law Paused For Truckers – For Now

We covered AB5 and its potentially disastrous implications for truck owner-operators earlier in the year. There’s a lot of ongoing legislation (and a few lawsuits) aiming to either strip harmful measures out of the law or add in amendments to assist those it has harmed instead of helped. Back in January, the California Trucking Association won an injunction, effectively suspending enforcement of the law.

That suspension has been extended through the end of the year. I have to wonder if the urgent need to get supplies to people – coupled with the general slowdown in all forms of government due to COVID-19 – influenced that decision.

California Wants Electric Trucks

California made the headlines in trucking news again: They want electric trucks, and they want them now. Well…they want an increasing number of them sold in 2024. From there, truck manufacturers are to sell increasingly efficient electrical vehicles. By 2035, they want three-quarters of Class 8 trucks to be zero-emission. Companies like Tesla and Nikola Motors are naturally excited by the prospect, while other manufacturers are perhaps nervously eyeing their more traditional vehicles.

Think about that for a minute. The year 2035 is only fifteen years away.

Fifteen years ago, the cloud wasn’t really a thing.

A lot can happen in that kind of timeframe.

PM Work Is Still Important

This wouldn’t be a Fullbay article without some mention of how preventive maintenance is critical to any operation. But I wanted to pass on this Vehicle Service Pros article, which goes into detail about Michigan-based Gordon Food Service. This company ended up putting its fleet out to pasture while the schools and other avenues of business shut down. But rather than leave the trucks to collect dust, they continued getting PM work done as it came up.

The result is their fleet is ready to go as Michigan emerges from lockdown. Other fleets who put off PM work due to lack of funds may find themselves between a rock and a hard place if they suddenly have a bunch of expensive repairs to make.

(I’ll point out that catching up on that kind of work can be big business for repair shops as the economy opens back up.)

New Safety Measures Are Here To Stay

Recovery has begun. But as a society, the types of changes we made in our efforts to flatten the curve will largely continue. That means face masks and maintaining at least six feet of distance from each other, as well as stringent requirements for handwashing and disinfecting equipment.

Businesses that could shift to remote operations did so. Repair shops and some fleets followed suit, as much as they could; yes, techs had to be at work to make the repairs, or had to be able to get to the trucks on their own. Certain members of office staff have been able to work remotely and videocall in when necessary.

It’s also an interesting time to be a tech. I recently sat down with Fullbay COO Chris O’Brien and Find A Wrench’s Founder & President, Jay Goninen, for a webinar about hiring and retaining techs. A lot came out of it, but check out this number: About 70% of techs are always looking for a new opportunity. These techs aren’t always downright unhappy, or angry, or even disillusioned with their job; they’re just aware there is probably something better out there.

The way shop owners and managers reacted to COVID-19, and what safety measures they implemented (or didn’t implement) may well influence what those techs do in the next few months. The bottom line is that yes, they can be lured away by better pay, but they’re often looking for more than that – more understanding managers, for example, or better overall working conditions.

That brings me to my next point, and something anyone in a leadership role needs to consider going forward: What kind of leader are you?

Times of crisis tend to bring out people’s true colors. Most of us hope we’ll be the cool-headed leader who looks after our people, giving them the time off they need, or coming to their assistance if they need it. If shop owners haven’t been compassionate and magnanimous…well, this crisis may be all the more reason for some people to jump ship. Now is the time to listen to your staff, to look after their needs as well as your own. Your shop is built on your techs. If you can’t keep them around, you don’t have a shop.

We’re Still In This Together

Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

She may have said those words almost a century ago, but she’s still right. The only way for us to move forward as a country, both economically and health-wise, is if we all pitch in and work together.

We’re doing our part here by continuing to offer a helping hand for smaller shops when possible and looking into other portions of the industry that we can help with our new program, Fullbay Cares. We’ve recently rolled out our much-anticipated MOTOR integration, along with even more exciting updates coming in the next few months. And of course, we’re always here for our customers.

Keep fighting the good fight, everyone. We’re getting through this.

Jacob Findlay

Jacob Findlay is the CEO and co-founder of Fullbay. Five years ago, he made the leap from healthcare to truck repair. He wanted to take the best ideas from the electronic medical records world and apply them to heavy-duty repair. In other words, build a medical record for trucks. Today Fullbay is the number one fleet repair platform in North America. Jacob is a CPA, has a Master's degree in Finance, a cellist, a so-so surfer, and the father of eight children.