Drivers brave COVID-19 risk to deliver goods; professional truck driver Russell Simpson speaks out.
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Our nation’s truckers are doing what they do best even during the coronavirus pandemic — they keep on trucking.
They are the backbone of the country’s supply chain, traversing our nation’s highways and byways to deliver goods like food, fuel and other vital supplies. And while daily life has slowed to crawl, this workforce keeps delivering the goods and ensuring that that the public’s vital needs are met.
“I think we're just as busy now as we are through the summertime," Nate McCarty, a freight driver from Denver, Colo., told Fox News. “That's usually our busy period and it's just kind of all hands on deck right now because we're seeing freight that we don't normally see. Some of the truckload carriers, they're running at capacity,” he noted.
McCarty normally makes his runs six days a week, so while his drive time hasn't increased, the payloads have, in particular for groceries. He said shipments to Amazon warehouses have also increased.
“We’re seeing a lot more stuff,” he said. “All of our drivers are working right now. Everyone is just super busy. That puts a lot of trucks on the road right now.”
“Some of these [drivers] have been out and away from home for over a month. They are really feeling the need to stay out and help other companies and help out our country right now.”
Nate McCarty, a freight driver from Denver, says that he and his fellow drivers have been as busy as they normally are during their busy season in the summer.
McCarty said none of his co-workers have gotten sick yet but that they have been asked to work extra hours for anyone who might fall ill. He’s been taking precautions while he’s out on the road.
“It's made me a lot more aware of the places that I go on my trip and everything that I'm touching,” he said. I've always used antibacterial wipes on the truck and the hotel that I stay in, I wipe everything down on the room and now I'm wearing rubber gloves.”
“But it's gotten a lot more difficult trying to find places to eat because a lot of places are carryout only.”
While there’s always been a brotherhood among truckers as they traverse the county, McCarty said that these days they are depending upon one another more than ever, as they share stories of the road.
“One driver said that he was at one of the stores and he had a gentleman come up to him and asked if he could pray for him,” he said. “It’s really heartwarming to hear that.”
“We all have been just getting a lot more kudos from the motoring public,” McCarty added. “People holding up signs and passing us cards, thank us and people waving to us more on the road than they ever have before.”
Driver Tony Spero of Connecticut said he's had similar experiences as he drives his haul through the Nutmeg State and neighboring Westchester County, N.Y.
Tony Spero of Connecticut says he has been hauling lab equipment to pharmaceutical companies and research labs during the pandemic.
“Professional drivers are doing what we do every day,” he told Fox News. “Day in and day out. We’ve done it before COVID-19 and we will do it after COVID-19. But right now, we are being recognized. I mean, people are thanking me for what I do. There are billboards on the highway with a picture of a truck saying, ‘Thank you Truckers.’”
Spero added that many of the places he delivers to on his run have set up extra precautions, such as making drivers wait in their cab while other workers unload the items from the back of his truck.
He also said he has seen an increase of tractor-trailers on the road.
Despite the added safety measures, Spero said he’s happy to keep going on his runs in which he mostly delivers lab equipment to various pharmaceutical research companies in the region.
“We’re doing what we got to do to keep this country supplied,” he said. “And we are going to keep on doing it and we’re going to do it a safe as possible.”
According to the American Trucking Association, there are about 3.5 million truckers across the country and over another 5 million employed in various support positions. Despite a robust workforce, there has been a bit of a shortage for the past couple of years. That, coupled with the need for more trucks on road as measures of shelter-in-place continue in the U.S., is making the demand for new drivers to rise to its highest level.
Wisconsin-based hauling company PDL Drivers recently made a call for more drivers to meet delivery demands, according to WDJT.
"Without the trucks, nothing happens. Everything moves by truck in this country so in order to keep the economy rolling, to keep people being fed and everything else, the trucks need to move," said Chris Schmus, president and CEO and PDL Drivers, Inc., adding that his company is looking for "as many Class A drivers as possible.”
And as the country’s supply chain faces threats by the effects of the pandemic has had on daily life, truckers are a vital part of keeping the flow of goods delivered on time.
“There's still enough for demand, even though demand is added at a volatile level,” John John Impellizzeri, a professor of supply chain management at Rutgers-Newark’s business school, said to Fox News. “So I think there's good news around this. Companies have prepared themselves.”
“And I think that will continue to get better even. When the demand starts ramping up supply, the supply chains can ramp up,” he said.