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Trucking right along

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Truck drivers brave uncertainty to deliver goods

By Gerard Flanagan

They’re about as essential as it gets.

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They’re the lifeblood of our nation.

They drive long hours, through rain or shine, sleet or snow, to deliver the goods we need.

They’re truck drivers.

No matter what, they do what they need to keep our nation running.

Now, more than ever before in recent memory, truck drivers are proving that they, indeed, are essential, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hits our nation and world.

Delmer Hammond has been a truck driver for 21 years, and he said he’s never seen anything like this.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said.

Currently, Hammond runs a route that takes him from Kentucky all the way to Maine. His route often takes him through several busy cities—including Cincinnati, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; and around Boston, Massachusetts. He’s used to bumper-to-bumper clogging up the roads and slowing him down.

That hasn’t been the case lately, as more people are staying home and cutting back their traveling.

“It’s very odd not seeing the cars out here,” Hammond said. “You go through these big cities, and you see where all these cars are usually parked, it’s empty. It’s weird seeing that.”

According to Hammond, every single thing that people own — from a pen to food to a computer — has been on a truck.

“I hope people realize the importance of what we’re doing,” he said. “Trucks supply everybody with everything they need. Without trucks, people are doing without.”

In regards to the coronavirus, Hammond wishes people could understand the seriousness of it and take the necessary precautions — like social distancing — to slow its spread.

“Usually older people, they don’t even think this virus is serious,” Hammond said. “My question to them, with this number of deaths, what would the numbers be if we hadn’t quarantined and did what we did?”

Truck stops, which allow truck drivers to grab a bite to eat or shower, are being hit by the virus, Hammond said.

“Pennsylvania closed all their rest areas down, but then they opened about every one of them back up,” he said. “They didn’t open the buildings up. They put porta potties out in front for the drivers. The restaurants are closed. You can’t sit in them. You can go in and order and eat it in the truck.”

David Harris is another veteran truck driver, having driven commercially since 1993. He said he has noticed that most people are avoiding contact due to the virus.

“In Wisconsin, I delivered to a customer,” he said. “It was a truck sales place. They were open, but the doors were locked. They had a phone number on the door to call. I called them and told them I was there. I had to unload the truck myself. A lot of them are not wanting to deal with us.”

Harris also said weight stations, which are used to weigh semi-trucks, are now being used to screen travelers coming into states across the nation. He has seen the practices used in Florida on I-10 and Georgia in I-95, for example.

“All cars had to go through weigh stations, and the trucks bypassed them,” Harris said. “I guess they were interviewing them, seeing where they’ve been and what their business was. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s crazy.”

Harris hit the road in early March, right when the coronavirus began to bring havoc on American life. Since then, he has noticed the highways are much emptier as a result of social distancing measures and the shutdown of restaurants and other public spaces to in-person traffic.

“It’s actually a pleasure to drive through some of these cities,” Harris said.

Harris said he misses the opportunity to sit down at a table and eat, something he had taken for granted before the coronavirus struck.

“It’s made me realize, it’s little stuff I enjoy,” he said. “Being able to sit down and talk to a waitress and not just sitting in my truck. It’s the biggest thing I’m missing right now.”

Harris said he’s taking precautions to keep himself safe during the coronavirus, such as wiping down the cab of his truck and washing his hands frequently.

“I’m just trying to keep my hands washed,” he said. “I got sanitizing wipes, and I wipe my truck down every time I get in it.”

Like all truck drivers, Harris wants people to understand the importance of truck drivers.

“Imagine what stores looked like if we stopped for a week or two,” he said. “The shelves would be totally empty. Gas stations would run out. We have to keep running.”

Harris would really like to go back home to his wife. However, he hasn’t, for fear he might bring the virus home.

“I don’t want to risk bringing something home,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it settling down and me going home. I just want to sit down at a table and eat a meal with somebody there to talk to. I do want to go home, but as long as I can keep working, that’s what I’m going to do.”

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