Trucks. We used to hate them, but now we love them.
We used to hate them when we thought they were clogging our over burdened highways, causing accidents and slowing our drive. We even seemed happy when tolling would affect trucks but not passenger cars.
Now we finally appreciate how truckers are crucial to resupplying our stores, keeping us well fed in this time of crisis.
As one national trucking official once said, “I wish all trucks were equipped with glass walls so people could see all the things we deliver.” Another trucking advocate told me “Now we have a chance for Americans to see how important trucking is, how good and decent the drivers are, and how they really love this country.”
They’re all working longer hours now as federal and state regulations limiting time on the road have been waived. Where their work days used to be limited to 14 hours, 11 of them on the road, now they’re literally going the extra mile to restock our shelves.
But Joe Scully, President of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut says some of his 500+ members are getting slammed, like those who used to deliver to restaurants. There he’s seeing his trucker members facing layoffs. But other companies are actually hiring, especially those in the home delivery business.
Scully reassures us that “I truly believe the [food] supply chain will be fine. This [virus] was totally unexpected. “
In the good old days grocery stores worked on a “just in time” stocking pattern. A supermarket knew it might sell 200 cartons of eggs each day, so that’s what they got delivered each day. But panic buying upended that equation.
Our eating patterns have also changed. In the pre-virus days Zagats said the average American ate out almost five times per week. Now we’re dining at home with only an occasional take-out. That means the food purveyors have to change everything from the restaurant-sized food orders to family-sized.
Let’s also remember that the men and women behind the wheels of those trucks are also human. Many of them are scared, unable to secure the gloves, wipes and sanitizers they need to stay healthy.
Scully is advising his members to minimize interactions during deliveries, like signing documents with their own pens, bringing their lunch and coffee from home and always keeping a safe distance.
“We don’t want them working if they are sick,” he says. But so far he’s heard no reports of any members catching the virus.
Highway service areas remain open, but sometimes the food drive-ins can’t accommodate big rigs. “If you see a trucker at a McDonalds, offer to do the drive thru in your car and hand him the food,” says Scully.
The big truck stops on I-95 and I-84 are still open, fueling big rigs and their drivers with take-out food. Their showers are still available, as truckers’ hygiene is important after spending so many hours on the road.
And the highways are almost empty, speeding deliveries even further. Meanwhile the CDOT is taking advantage of the lull to accelerate road repairs and winter cleanups with little or no traffic being affected. The virus aside, it’s a good time to be on the road.
So here’s to America’s truckers, keeping us supplied with everything we need to weather this storm. Thank you!
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media. Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting.