As many Americans shelter in place at home to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, truckers are still committed to keeping store shelves stocked during this pandemic. The canned foods people are buying to stock up their pantry shelves; the hand sanitizer people covet; even electronic equipment people are purchasing to stay connected for work and school are all on store shelves because a trucker drove to a store with pallets full of goods.
And as truckers keep on trucking, they now find it hard to get a burger, use the restroom, stop to rest overnight or take a shower – all because many services vital to them are closed due to the shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the numbers of COVID-19 cases increase and reports of deaths from the virus make the news, Americans are naturally afraid. Thomas Gennarelli, Vice President of TP Trucking and Transportation, told KTVL in Medford, Oregon, “People are just fearful of contracting (the virus), and what they’re going to interact with. Not knowing where that driver has been is what we've commonly heard.”
But truckers do not have time to feel fearful. They must keep the store shelves stocked. “While other businesses are closing, we will not, because the trucking industry is essential to all of our lives and health. We will continue to be here to support you, your companies and employees,” Paul Enos, CEO of Nevada Trucking Association told Channel Four News of Reno.
The truckers delivering goods we all need now drive longer hours and desperately need rest stops. CNN in one news outlet that has spoken with truckers across the country. One of them from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ralph Garcia, said the traffic he experiences is “incredible.” Places where truckers usually park are packed, he said, and people “were lined up on the off-ramp, sleeping right there.” The reason, he added, is that they cannot gain access into that particular truck stop – a scene repeated across the U.S.
As truckers face the lack of things they need to keep going, their fellow Americans find ways to help them out. Garcia said that while at Burger King in Kingman, Arizona, he walked up to the drive-through window because his truck would not fit. Although the woman taking his order initially reminded him it was a drive-up, she took his order after he told her about his plight. “They didn't give me a hard time,” he said.
Ronda Aucoin drives a truck across the country. She told the same Reno television station that while she was in Nevada, people have brought her and her daughter a while when they were at truck stops. “Nevadans have been especially nice since a few places are closed and not allowing us to stay the night when we're done working,” she said.
More local businesses are stepping up to help truckers ensure they reach their final destinations during this ongoing pandemic. For example, TBS Factoring Service, a company in Oklahoma City, is currently providing truck drivers with bag lunches. The lunches contain submarine sandwiches, water, and chips. The company’s executives hold up signs near the highway to let truckers know about the free lunches.
CDL Life News, a trucking industry news service, featured social media posts about how the American public has been helping out truckers looking for a meal. Two stories in particular stand out. The police department in Eufaula, Alabama posted that it will help truckers find something to eat by either going and getting food or giving truckers “a ride to the nearest drive-through.” Lucky Steer Restaurant in Wapakoneta, Ohio has announced it will give truckers 40 percent off of their check total because “the country needs their help right now and we want to say thank you.”
The trucking industry has long been important to keep the American economy running. Or as the American Trucking Association (ATA) puts it, the country’s trucking industry “is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.” Almost 71 percent of all freight tonnage in the country moves on truck beds. In other words, we need truckers and the goods they deliver to eat, shampoo our hair, and complete many other daily tasks. What Americans who help out truckers grasp is what the ATA said: “Without our industry, the American economy would grind to a halt.”
Indeed, it would, particularly during a time when so many other sectors of the American economy are on hold indefinitely.
Image credit: Matthew T Rader/Unsplash
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.