COVID-19 (or the Coronavirus) is affecting every single one of us. We may not have the virus or know anybody that does, but it IS affecting us. Maybe the restaurant or bar you work in has shut down indefinitely. Maybe you are having to work from home while homeschooling your kids. Maybe you simply can’t find toilet paper. (I don’t get the raid on toilet paper, but now it’s caused me to want to go buy toilet paper.)
I have been in the transportation business my whole life. I literally grew up in this business. My grandfather drove a gravel truck. My uncle drove a truck until he suffered a stroke and couldn’t. My dad drove a truck and his closest friends were drivers.
When the rush for goods at the stores started to hit, the men and women who deliver goods across our great country were the first on my mind. These folks are very seldom ever home, if they even claim a home. Their friends are other truck drivers on the road, the ones they gather with at truck stops and other places across the country when they are taking their breaks. I wondered how this was affecting them.
Social Distancing and Truck Drivers
Truck drivers are probably the best at this thing called “Social Distancing”. They spend a lot of their time alone, but they still like to chat when they are together.
Today I stopped at a truck stop in Northwest Arkansas, hoping to be able to talk to a few drivers. What I found was very interesting. The dining room was closed and available for takeout only. There were literally NO drivers inside.
I walked outside where all the trucks were parked and there were NO drivers congregating and chatting. They were all inside their sleepers, probably resting or watching a show. I caught one driver who happened to be local and was prepping his truck for departure. I approached him and told him that I grew up in the industry and I was wondering how this was impacting his life.
This particular truck driver told me that for the most part, it had not affected his daily life. He has a fridge in his truck, and keeps it stocked so he can eat without depending on eating out. He told me the drivers are all practicing “social distancing”, a term I never thought I’d hear anyone say, much less a truck driver.
He also told me that a lot of companies who wouldn’t let them take their breaks on their parking lots are now letting them do that. He was very appreciative of a local Sam’s Club who put out sack lunches for the drivers, telling me that type of hospitality also saves the driver time. More time means more miles which equates to more money for the driver.
Hours of Service Regulations
After spending a little time chatting with this driver, he told me the best thing right now was the recent suspension of some of the HoS rules by the FMCSA. He said his normal run is around 600 miles and prior to this, he would have to break at 500 miles and then finish the next day. Now he can make that delivery in one day and then take his required break. Making this change might seem like a small thing for most of us, but that extra 100 miles in a day equates to a lot of money to these drivers.
Impacts to Truck Drivers
I talked to a friend of mine who runs a trucking company and asked him what impacts they are seeing on their drivers. Here are a few things he told me drivers are experiencing:
- A lack of cleaning supplies to keep their truck wipes down.
- Limited access to food on the road. Not just at restaurants, but as grocery stores are wiped out it is more challenging to stock their trucks.
- Some customers are scanning for temps, drivers are not allowed on the dock or near employees, and they have no access to restroom facilities.
- Parking is a bit more challenging in some areas due to certain businesses or parks being shut down.
Key Link in the Supply Chain
Most of us in the world have no idea how goods get from origin to our doorstep. I’ve been fortunate to have a career where I have been a part of nearly every link in the supply chain. Without going into a teaching session, which I’d gladly do someday, let’s just say that truck drivers are a key link in the supply chain. If there are no truck drivers, you not only are without TP, you are without anything that is in a store or anything that shows up at your doorstep.
If you see a truck driver, take a second to them know you appreciate them.
If you own a fast-food franchise, please allow them to walk through your drive through since their rig won’t fit.
Let’s help these amazing humans who have chosen a life on the road to deliver our goods and keep the commerce of our incredible United States of America moving forward.