The summer of 2021 presented enormous challenges for the aviation industry. Summer demand exceeded capacity, labor shortages – especially truck drivers, topped with a busy fire season presented difficulties on several fronts concurrently.
“We’ve been doing our best to proactively meet challenges, but there has been a degree of unpredictability that has hit the whole industry,” said Kyle O’Leary, Vice President of Operations, “We’ve had to think outside the box and change how we do things.”
For example, as delays in delivery times rose, EPIC has taken to proactively calling customers to prompt orders, reach out to new carriers and rethink supply lines. Ordering ahead can now mean a week in advance versus days.
Labor shortages have hit EPIC and carriers hard. There has been an increase in pay rates for drivers as the industry competes with other categories. “Whereas in years past, we’ve looked at second or third options. This year has required 4th and 5th options,” said O’Leary. “We’ve had to stay relentlessly focused on solutions versus getting bogged down in the issues.”
The fire season is always unpredictable. And though the EPIC team always holds planning sessions, the size and scope of the fires have compounded issues. The radius of the fires has gotten bigger and has caused supply issues hundreds of miles away, whether it’s in the direct path of the fire or not.
“A hotspot can consume assets and strain supply very quickly, so we have had to make anticipatory moves to try and stay ahead,” said O’Leary.
The team does expect to catch up a bit in the fall before the holidays. “We’ve been heads down trying to make sure customers have what they need,” said O’Leary. “We are working to improve communication and meet challenges as they arrive.”
“While we are very proud of our track record at EPIC, there is no doubt that the last two years have challenged us in unexpected ways. Our plan is to continue to adapt and meet these challenges, continuing to put customers first,” said Marius Ronge, President of EPIC Fuels