Jeff’s Truck.  -  Photo: Jeff Clark

Jeff’s Truck.

Photo: Jeff Clark

As a professional driver, I am thankful to be needed. There are over 30 million people who have filed for unemployment since the virus. Working at this point is a blessing. Without work, I think I would be going nuts. My income is only down about 4% weekly. That I can live with, it is good to be out here driving.

There are so many people to be thankful for. I think that I had always been taking them for granted. Yes, there are people in the office or working from home who keep the wheels greased. They are the ones who make sure that when I go to use my company credit card at the fuel pumps, it works. Every week money appears in our checking account. Someone is making that happen. The trucking industry currently support more than 7.7 million jobs – 3.5 of whom are truckers like me. All of those people help keep us moving.

The people who I am most grateful for are the ones who I see on the road. The woman who makes my sandwich at Subway – she is out here working for a lot less money than I am. She is also in contact with a lot more people than I am. Funny, over the last few weeks, I have been talking with these people. I never really did that before. That guy behind the counter I never gave much thought to is rebuilding a 79 Ford pick-up truck. I showed him pictures of my 98 Mustang GT convertible. He loved it. He isn't so sure how my 76 Jaguar XJS will turn out – neither am I.

One of my cousins tagged me in a post from NPR. I responded and started going back and forth with a guy. He seemed to know a lot about truck tires. Turns out, he is the tire shop manager at a truck stop along my route. I stopped there and met him. When this is over, we will have coffee. How cool is it that we met on NPR's Facebook page?

The truck stops where I fuel at have about eight showers each. When I buy fuel, I earn a shower. Since I buy all of my fuel at the same truck stop chain, I have "unlimited" showers at any one of their truck stops. Each one is what a realtor used to refer to as a ‘¾ bath.’ They have a sink, a toilet, and a shower. They are nicer than you may think. As you might imagine, each one of these showers gets used several times per day. In between, someone cleans them. They do a really good job. I never used to give the people who clean showers much thought. Now, I am thankful for them.

These are stressful times for everybody.  They can be frustrating for a trucker. About once a month, I get a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese. Only the drive-thru was open, but my truck doesn't fit so I stood in line between the cars. When I got up to the window, the lady in front of me had paid for it. I am thankful for her.

The people who load and unload my trailer are still out here working. A lot of them work in buildings that I am no longer allowed into. It isn't their choice, so there is no point in me getting upset about it.  At this point, I usually don't even ask. This week, I delivered to a customer that I had never been to before. Their name is Penzeys Spices. My son and daughter-in-law are fans of their product, and they had even gifted me some. When I arrived, Penzeys backed me in right away and got me unloaded on time. To show their thanks, a guy gave me a small bottle of their spice. I was thankful for that.

My wife Roxanne is a retired EMT who sews. She met someone on Facebook who has been sewing face masks for local EMTs and other facilities. They made a design and created a couple of hundred face masks. Before then, she was volunteering at a local thrift shop that provided clothing and supplies to families in need. Now, she has hooked up with others who formed Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors. The Green Bay Packers donated $10,000 to the group, and now have over 6,300 members that have handmade over 246,000 masks. Not only are these masks well designed and highly functional, but they also show love and support for our healthcare workers on the front line. I’m thankful for her, too.

We have a Facebook group of nearly 1,000 people from the trucking industry called "Truckin' Runners." Someone posted that they were going to run 2.23 miles for Ahmaud Arbery. We had a pretty loud debate among the members, but we got through it, and no one quit the group. I’ve decided that I am going to run 2.23 miles as well. I’m thankful.

Despite everything that is going on, this is a great country. We are going to get through this. There are many smart people around the globe working on treatments, cures, and vaccines. I have faith they will figure it out. I am doing what I can by keeping the supply line going. I am thankful that I can do my part.

Jeff Clark, a professional driver for 31 years, has been both a company driver and an owner-operator. He previously wrote for Freightliner's Team Run Smart and now drives as a company driver for Paper Transport as he tries to ease into retirement. Along the way he helped start the Truckin’ Runners Facebook group, which has grown to almost 1,000 members.

Originally published on Used with permission of Smerconish and the author.

Guest Voices features contributed posts from members of the trucking and transportation industry on a variety of current issues. (Opinions of the authors are their own and may not reflect those of HDT.)