Never in the 30 years I’ve been covering trucking have there been so many stories in the mainstream media about trucking, truck drivers, and the vital role they play in keeping the store shelves stocked with the necessities we need.
At the same time, these articles are often highlighting the challenges they’re facing as they do their job, whether that’s procuring hand sanitizer or finding a restroom or a hot meal.
My Google news alerts are filled with dozens and dozens of these local and national stories, in newspapers and on TV. I’ve collected a sampling of some of the best of these stories from the past couple of weeks to share with you.
“For consumers used to being able to buy whatever they want whenever they want, the sight of bare shelves and lines out stores has been a wake-up call,” says NBC in this April 8 report, “Truckers brave personal and economic risks to replenish shelves.” It covers both driver challenges and the state of trucking business and the supply chain.
‘Rough for Truckers Out There’
“As critically needed supplies wind their way across the United States during what many experts believe could be the height of the novel coronavirus, the common denominator in that supply chain is the nation’s truck drivers,” begins this article at LimaOhio.com.
Josh Sargent, general manager of the family-owned TA Travel Center in Wapak, Ohio, told the paper, “It’s rough for truckers our there right now,” said Sargent. “We’re hearing that some of the smaller mom-and-pop truck stops are closing and that a good meal can be hard to find sometimes. That’s why we offer breakfast sandwiches every day starting at 6 a.m. and a full lunch selection — steak, pork chops, fried chicken, lasagna, cold meats and more — from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.”
Looking for Bathrooms
Bloomberg Government reported on April 9, “Food Lifeline Runs Via Truckers Who Can’t Find Bathrooms, Meals.”
Ten drivers, it reported, said “they’ve struggled over the last month to find hot meals and clean restrooms outside of truck stops throughout the continental U.S. A few long-haul drivers say they’ve resorted to scrounging for snacks at rest stops and using unsanitary port-a-potties outside pickup and delivery spots whose staff, afraid of the virus, won’t let them inside to use the bathroom.”
Driver Ingrid Brown told Bloomberg, “That to me, is just as bad as running through the fire with a pair of gasoline britches on.”
Brown also appeared on this report on ABC 11 news in Raleigh, North Carolina: “Comfortable while stuck at home? You can thank truck drivers.” After 40 years and more than 4 million miles behind the wheel, Brown said she's never seen anything like what COVID-19 has done to America. But the reporter notes, “Brown says she and her fellow drivers are grateful for the accolades and will keep on truckin' throughout the pandemic.”
“Everything just changed so drastically where we're showing up to facilities and they're checking our temperature,” truck driver Josh Rickards told Yahoo Finance in an April 8 story. Richards, who owns a small fleet of three trucks, said, “I've seen on the news people rushing to buy toilet paper. And in the area that I was in at the time, as I was watching that, I was watching load counts spike, and it was just, overnight, thousands and thousands and thousands of loads,” he said. “And the next morning my phone was getting phone calls off the hook from brokers. Can you cover this load? Can you cover this load? Can you cover this load?’”
In a radio story on Georgia public radio station WABE, owner-operator Jess Graham said, “It’s utter chaos, and we are just literally making it up as we go day by day, never knowing what to expect anywhere we go,” she said. Graham has decided to stay out on the road until the pandemic subsides because she doesn’t want to risk bringing the infection home to her grandmother and 17-year-old daughter.
“There's a select group of men and women behind the scenes, behind the wheel, helping to resupply empty store shelves,” said this report on “Truckers keep country running during COVID-19 pandemic” on WTVR TV in Virginia.
Alan Jones, President of Richmond-based Abilene Motor Express, commented, "We talk about first responders and in a situation like this, in my mind, truck drivers are first responders as well, today."
‘Alone on the Road’
In late March, the New York Times painted a vivid portrait in “Alone on the Road, a Trucker’s Long Haul as America Fights the Virus.” Owner-operator Darrell Woolsey, it said, does not know when he will go home to Wyoming and his wife and three children.
“Self-isolated in the cab of his 2016 Freightliner, a twin mattress behind him and the world out front, Mr. Woolsey moves from one load to the next, one truck stop to another, a game of dot-to-dot to keep business churning.”
Fox News has been doing a number of segments on trucking during this crisis. Here's one example:
Truck driver Bekah Koons, a driver for Cargo Transporters, appeared on a Fox News segment on April 4 highlighting some of the challenges drivers were facing, including difficulty accessing restrooms. Some weigh stations or rest areas have been set up with portable toilets, she pointed out, yet there's nowhere to wash their hands. "It's one of the things we face year round, it's just gotten so much worse lately, it's a real gamble to plan to park somewhwere and then get there and there's nothing there."
The anchor closed the segment with, "Thank you for what you and the other 3.5 million truckers across the country are doing out there today."