Is your local grocery store out of toilet paper? You can blame your neighbors for hoarding it, not the supply chain for running low. Production facilities around America are still churning out product, and America’s truck drivers are driving full-time (and then some) to deliver the essentials from coast to coast … potentially risking their own health and certainly risking their own comfort in the process.
There are about 3.5 million truck drivers working around the country in 2020, according to the American Trucking Association, and they haul more than two thirds of our total freight tonnage annually (that’s more than 10 billion tons) to stock your shelves and so much more.
When things are good, most of us don’t really notice all they’re doing behind the scenes to keep our lives operating normally. But in a crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, truckers have joined healthcare professionals as workers on the front line of the battle.
After one of the industry’s worst years on record, truckers are now in high demand to keep up with the rush on supplies. This unprecedented pandemic has thrown a wrench in any trucking outlook for 2020, no matter how expertly-predicted.
Instead of the tough year we were prepared for, “the trucking industry could be key to keeping the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says one article.
“Without truck drivers, the millions of Americans who have been urged to stay at home would be without food and other essential goods. Healthcare workers would be even lower on personal protection equipment than they already are. Cities around the countries would be without sanitary supplies that allow us the chance to stay healthy,” says Andy Tuley, Vice President of Business Development at Agforce. “They are truly some of the unsung heroes of this crisis.”
At a time when record numbers of Americans are filing for unemployment, truck drivers are experiencing increased demand on their time. In response to COVID-19, the Department of Transportation loosened restrictions on how long drivers can be on the road each day, in order to deliver their shipments more quickly. But what toll does that take on them?
“Many truckers said they aren’t overly concerned about getting sick, although their jobs – which require touching shipments that could be contaminated, interacting with others, and going out in public at a time when many lawmakers are urging people to stay home – could put them at increased risk of contracting the virus,” according to a USA Today article.
Precautions are in place to keep drivers from working while sick, and to keep them from passing sickness onto consumers. Pamela Polyak, president of Polyak Trucking told FOX6 News that her drivers are often being screened upon arrival at their destinations to check for symptoms.
Beyond direct health implications, “there are now fewer options for truckers to eat when they take a break,” says WSPA. “Restaurants have allowed for more drive-thru and delivery options, but there are still limited choices for those driving a semi-truck. Gas stations and grocery stores are convenient, but most shelves are empty.” TravelCenters of America closing their Driver Lounges, meaning fewer places for drivers to stop and rest.
Still, the drivers keep on truckin’.
Agforce has long recognized that truck drivers are the behind-the-scenes heroes allowing our business to thrive. As the COVID-19 crisis looms, it becomes more and more apparent that they are the heroes helping all of America to thrive, as well.