A CLOSER LOOK: truckers keep trucking during COVID-19 crisis

Coronavirus

Truck stops and travel centers are open for business

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Truck drivers rarely get a break from the job and now with the novel coronavirus there is even less downtime.

A regular day has an 11-hour driving limit, but there could be unloading and loading once a driver is at an assigned destination and that adds on work hours, too.

Veteran truck driver Patrick has never experienced anything like the current state of affairs in his 30-years as a trucker.

“Astonished” is one word he used to describe what he’s seeing at the various states he’s recently gone through in connection with the coronavirus.

He makes his way to Arkansas, via Interstate 40 and 49, several times a year. And since the coronavirus has swept the nation he has driven through about a dozen states including California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Stopping for food has been a challenge. “So far, the northern part of Seattle has been the scariest stop,” he said, “It took me two hours to find a convenience store truck stop and when I got there it was roped off.” He said he kept driving.

Even when he does find a place to stop he’s concerned about cleanliness. “I use my elbows or my foot to open or close doors, paper towels when I turn faucets on or off.”

Patrick’s guesstimate is that there are about 1.5 million truckers at any given time doing long-haul interstate (versus intrastate). He said it’s important to consider trucks from Mexico or Canada because those countries may not have the same measures in place in an effort to mitigate the disease.

The U.S. has curbed nonessential trucker travel between the U.S. and Mexico, and between the U.S. and Canada, according to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made on March 18. The agreement is in place for 30 days. So, there are fewer international trucks on U.S. highways as only food, fuel, and life-saving medicines are allowed to be transported.

In all, there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the country, according to the American Trucking Association.

Following the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization’s recommended precautions is tops for Patrick. “I’m diligent with following the guidelines such as hand-washing,” he said.

Also, he listens to the radio while driving to get updated information about the disease. He does this because of his concern with the spread of COVID-19 once he gets to an assigned destination. “The shippers and the receivers, and dealing with them one-on-one. That worries me,” said Patrick.

He said he thinks about the product, where it was produced, where it’s picked up and where it’s going.

“It’s a difficult lifestyle and for me, hygiene is important, said Patrick. While I have my hand sanitizers, at least a gallon of water, and paper towels with me at all times, I don’t know what to expect at the receiving end.”

Truck driver Christopher is based in Tennessee and was delivering supplies to a retailer in Rogers, Arkansas. He wanted to stop and get a bite to eat, but the drive-thru where he was didn’t accept walk-ups.

“Some nice people asked me what I wanted and I told them … they gave me what I requested and said it was free that, ‘it was on them!'”

He said he’s been on the road delivering products for three weeks and sacrificing home time but the reality is, “there are more loads than drivers right now.”

TRUCK STOPS AND SERVICE AVAILABILITY

Love’s: All locations are open for gas and diesel fuel. The restaurants, with showers and truck care, are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The full-service deli opens at 7 a.m. (local time). ” proper safety glove procedures while operating the full-service stations. In addition, approximately every 30 minutes, we will trade out grill tongs and fountain nozzles with clean, sanitized replacements,” according to a company statement. Game room operations have been suspended in Montana, Nevada, Illinois, and Louisiana.

Pilot FLYINGJ: Travel Centers will remain open to serve drivers at the pump, store or restaurant. Fuel shortages are not expected. All showers and laundry are open. Foodservice is available for carry-out at all locations, but dining room seating and quick-service restaurants remain closed. All driver lounges are closed. Game rooms in Illinois, Nevada, and Louisiana are closed. Sanitation processes for cleaning all areas of the travel centers will be done at least every four hours.

TA and Petro Stopping Centers: “We are open and ready to serve you,” reads a dedicated COVID-19 Response page on its website. All fuel lanes are open with no fuel rationing. Truck service centers are open and RoadSquad 24-Hour Roadside Assistance is available. Showers are available. Iron Skillets and Country Prides eateries are closed, but carry-out is available. The Fitness Centers and Driver Lounges are closed. They are requesting customers to use disposable cups and not TA/Petro refillable mugs. The same prices apply.

TruckerNation photo

State-by-state temporary changes made in the trucking industry as a result of the coronavirus. The list was compiled by TruckerNation.org (3/23).

ARKANSAS TRUCKER FUN FACT: According to TruckerNation’s website, one location has built a drive-thru specifically for heavy-duty trucks and that is Sonic in Fordyce, Arkansas.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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