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A look back at the top stories of 2020

Dec. 30, 2020
From the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on trucking to new federal rules for drivers and more interest in zero-emissions heavy-duty vehicles, here's a look back at the stories FleetOwner readers were most interested in during 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects and the potential of zero-emissions vehicles to transform the freight industry were among the most popular topics for FleetOwner readers during the rocky road that was 2020. Along with helping on the front lines of the coronavirus response, the trucking industry welcomed in new hours-of-service rules while working to keep supply chains connected. Here’s a look at the 10 most read stories on in 2020. (Also check out the most popular photo galleries of the year.)

1. Flooding in China could be latest disaster to disrupt U.S. trucking industry

The Three Gorges Dam, which is nearly 1.5 miles long and taller than the Washington Monument, was strategically placed on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province to control flooding and generate electricity to power the country’s rapid industrialization. Due to a record deluge of rainfall this summer, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, which has a volume of 39.3 billion cubic meters, is at risk of breaking, which would kill or displace millions, flood China’s cradle of manufacturing, and create massive disruptions in the global supply chain. Many highly populated cities have already seen historic flooding.

As an early indicator, the global supply of personal protective equipment, needed to contain a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, was delayed by weeks. Read the FleetOwner report from July

2. Nikola founder Milton steps aside amid controversy

The founder and executive chairman of Nikola Corp., Trevor Milton stepped down from the company less than 10 days after a damaging report from a short seller this summer accused him of intricate fraud and an unprecedented “level of deception” for a public company of Nikola’s size. Steven Girsky, the former General Motors executive who facilitated Nikola’s merging with VectoIQ to go public earlier this year, was appointed Chairman of the Board, effective immediately.

In June, the zero-emissions truck manufacture went public in the late spring of 2020, and Milton detailed his vision of its future in an extensive Q&A with FleetOwner. But just three months later, a lot changed for Nikola. Read the FleetOwner report from September

3. Hyliion to go public and go truck-to-truck with Tesla and Nikola

Hyliion, which provides Class 8 trucks with hybrid diesel and fully electric drivetrain architecture, announced plans in June to merge with Tortoise Acquisition Corp., a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company. The move brings an additional $560 million in funding to Austin-based Hyliion, which was valued at about $1.1 billion at the time. The influx of money would be used to expand and expedite product commercialization, product production, and operational growth, as well as for general corporate purposes. Read the FleetOwner report from June.

4. CARES Act: How the stimulus package could help your fleet stay afloat

Smaller fleets and businesses struggling to maintain payrolls and other business expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic could qualify for lending programs and tax credits set up in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress’s initial response to the pandemic-induced recession. 

The CARES Act also allowed states to issue special permits for overweight loads of emergency supplies as long as the president’s emergency declaration lasts. The $2 trillion economic recovery package — the largest in U.S. history — was signed into law on March 27 by President Trump. It included $350 billion in Small Business Administration loans for companies with fewer than 500 employees. This Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) is a good-faith, potentially forgivable loan that is supposed to be used to retain workers, maintain payroll, cover insurance premiums, and make mortgage, lease, rent and utility payments. Read the FleetOwner report from April.

5. FMCSA drills down on new HOS rules

In September, revised hours-of-service rules went into effect for commercial drivers across the country. The new rules created more flexibility for drivers while keeping a focus on highway safety, according to Joseph DeLorenzo, the acting associate administrator for enforcement at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The changes cover four main areas that loosen restrictions for the short-haul exception, adverse driving conditions, 30-minute break, and the sleeper berth provision. “All of those were provisions that we have heard about and had lots of discussions with the industry,” DeLorenzo said in August. “So this rule was really focused on the input that we received from everyone that's been involved in the process from the drivers to the carriers, (agricultural) groups and others.” Read the FleetOwner report from August.

6. CES 2020: Transportation tech that caught our eyes

Fleet Owner returned to CES, the annual mega technology show in Las Vegas, in search of potential transportation technology that could help fleets of the future. Here are some news and notes from the more than a million square feet of exhibit space. Among the big stories coming out of the event were from  the U.S. DOT, Peterbilt, Kenworth and Dana, Bosch and ZF, BlackBerry and more, as featured in this FleetOwner report from January.

7. Truck driver safety a top priority amid nationwide protests

Commercial truck drivers across America have ended up in the crosshairs of nationwide protests in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis this spring. Protests, as well as rioting and looting in some areas, temporarily shut down major roadways and interstates and created even greater safety concerns for truck drivers who are still trying to deliver essential goods amid the global pandemic. Read the FleetOwner report from June.

8. Transportation workers to be in second group of COVID-19 vaccine deployment

“Our nation’s ability to successfully confront the COVID-19 pandemic depends on the resilience and integrity of our transportation networks,” according to Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president of advisory. “The trucking industry is proud to play an outsized role in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and we ask that you consider the essential nature of the trucking workforce as you implement plans for vaccine distribution. As we saw at the outset of the pandemic, when supply lines are disrupted, consequences are fast to follow.” Read the FleetOwner report from December.

9. Coronavirus concerns cascade across industry and supply chains

As coronavirus worry spread across the globe in early March, the trucking industry and U.S. economy faced uncertainty from several angles. An oil war was brewing. The stock market saw its worst days since the 2008 financial crisis. Consumer spending was in jeopardy, which put freight rates in flux. And there was growing concerns about how to limit human contact, which could hurt supply chains.

And while some companies were starting to encourage employees to work from home — that wasn’t an option for truck drivers, technicians and others working in the industry. Read the FleetOwner report from March.

10. Putting hydrogen fuel cell trucks to work

Total Transportation Services (TTSI), a third-party logistics company that manages the import and export of ocean containers, began testing hydrogen fuel cell technology more than 10 years ago. In 2011, TTSI officially placed its first Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell truck into its drayage operation.

TTSI, which is based in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., operates in all major ports across the U.S., either directly or indirectly with partner companies. Its services consist of drayage, warehouse, on-highway specialized logistics for both long- and short-haul, and brokerage. Read the FleetOwner report from April

About the Author

FleetOwner Staff

Our Editorial Team

Kevin Jones, Editorial Director, Commercial Vehicle Group

Josh Fisher, Editor-in-Chief

Jade Brasher, Senior Editor

Jeremy Wolfe, Editor

Jenna Hume, Digital Editor

Eric Van Egeren, Art Director

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