The first half of 2020 was one of the most challenging periods in modern history for communities and shippers. While planning for supply chain disruptions has always been a standard practice for shippers, it is fair to say that no one could have anticipated the dilemmas that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preparing for such a natural disaster on a national level, let alone a global stage, was essentially more of a science fiction myth than an emergency boardroom discussion.

In July, we surveyed more than 800 shippers in our 2020 Midyear Supply Chain Survey. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding the challenges they faced with various modes of transportation and links within their supply chain. The results from the survey illustrate the depth of disruptions that shippers experienced as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

Though transportation challenges had an impact on supply chains, it was ultimately the economic fallout from the pandemic that weighed most heavily on the minds of shippers. When we asked respondents what their biggest supply chain challenges were in the first half of the year, the top two issues were a decline in customer demand (42.34%) and mandated closures and stay-at-home orders (39.17%).

The third-highest-ranked challenge by shippers was shortages of supplies and materials (28.22%). Lending to this issue was the fact that many foreign origins of imports were temporarily shut down as nations tackled the pandemic.