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Rolling with the changes brought about by COVID-19

Dec. 23, 2020
Adaptation to pandemic hardships, both personal and professional, reminds us how crucial change management is.

Back in 2019 as part of a collective New Year’s Resolution, my family established a nightly dinner ritual where we went around the table — or sometimes a video call from whatever city I was in at the time due to work travel — and shared one thing from the day we were thankful for.

It helped us to stay connected and spur conversation about our day, and it allowed us to shift our mindset to think of something positive. Sometimes, especially on trying days, even the small things were a success to share.

We wrote down each of those “thankfuls” on small pieces of paper and placed them in a jar to read the next year.

Well, 2020 turned out to be a year unlike any other.  

As someone who was frequently on the road for trade shows, industry events and fleet visits, all of a sudden being grounded for nine months  — and working from my home office, no less — has been quite the change. I’ve become fairly adept at attending webcast press conferences and planning out virtual trade show schedules. Still, nothing beats the face-to-face connection with others.

There are things that will return to some semblance of normal once we can safely gather in person again. But in the meantime, adjustments to processes have evolved.

Fleets have implemented safety measures and adopted contactless workflows. Suppliers ramped up additional remote training options. Manufacturers have continued to research, develop, and launch products. Life has gone on, and business has continued.

Unexpected changes

The industry anticipated a softening going into this year after a slowdown in 2019, coming off of record equipment orders and builds. While a slight downturn was anticipated, a complete shutdown was not.

Instead, vast parts of the U.S. closed down completely in an attempt to “flatten the curve” and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. A shock to the economy, the abrupt recession and subsequent shift in day-to-day life this year ultimately highlighted the necessity of our industry.  

Essential operations that included the movement of goods needed to continue. Manufacturers like Ford and Mack shifted manufacturing operations from vehicles to create personal protective equipment. Fleets shifted operations to deliver groceries, medical supplies, and coveted toilet paper. Commercial drivers dedicated countless hours behind the wheel to get loads where they needed to go. In short, our industry — as it often does — stepped up to get the job done.

Once we determined we were in this for the long haul, everyone started acknowledging the “new normal.” This has meant a messy mix of balancing personal and professional responsibilities, adjusting to different processes, finding new ways to connect with friends and colleagues, anticipating sudden changes on a moment’s notice, and generally accepting things won’t be the same. But, a drastic shift can also be the catalyst to make lasting and meaningful changes.

After all, according to Charles Darwin, it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.

At dinner this year, my family will have has gone through and read those “thankfuls” from 2019 as we reminisce and think back to life before a pandemic. But, it’s also a great reminder that change starts first with your own mindset.  

As we reflect on this year, which has truly been like none other, it’s important to acknowledge and evaluate the challenges and set up a game plan for the future.

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Editorial Director | Commercial Vehicle Group

Erica Schueller is the Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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