COVID-19 has changed the routines of truck drivers in a myriad of ways and will likely continue in the coming weeks and months.
As the demand for medical equipment and consumer goods like canned food and cleaning supplies continues to ramp up, truckers are experiencing increased challenges in keeping supply chains running smoothly. Along key logistics corridors, some of the truck-stop restaurant dining rooms are now only offering take-out. As for state-run rest stops, many have either closed completely (first in Pennsylvania followed by Michigan, Nebraska and Texas most recently), or are only providing limited access. For the average American paying a quick visit during a road trip, this could be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. It’s a much larger issue for truckers who depend on hot, nourishing meals and a place where they can safely park their rigs, use the restrooms, and get some much-needed sleep.
Truckers have been facing additional challenges when dropping off or picking up freight shipments. In addition to risking their own health when touching items that may have been contaminated, they’re being requested by some customers to remain in their vehicles (again, no restroom access!) and document their business electronically rather than on paper. Some are even being asked to sign affidavits stating they are healthy (not at risk for having or carrying coronavirus). Loading and receiving docks have also been putting restrictions in place, particularly for those trucks that have traveled through states considered “hot zones.”
Fortunately, truckers have the American Trucking Associations advocating for them. On 3/17/20, they requested that the Trump administration exempt those truckers delivering essential goods from travel and other pandemic restrictions, and for rest stops to stay open. They also requested driver health guidance and possible COVID-19 testing. These requests were partially granted as hours of service (HOS) restrictions were lifted–for the first time ever, allowing truckers delivering emergency goods to drive over 11 hours daily and work over 14 hours when necessary.
With the story changing daily and the landscape continuing to evolve for all of us, it’s impossible to say what the “new normal” across the transportation logistics industry will be. However, it’s good to see that more of the true heroes of our country are starting to get the recognition–and appreciation–they deserve. We’re thankful for all the men and women who are braving these new challenges and continuing to transport the necessary supplies hospitals, businesses, and residents require during this time. They are the unsung heroes of the road, and we appreciate them!