With retail stores emptied of necessary supplies, the value of those who keep the supply chain moving is painfully apparent.
As “essential personnel,” truckers don't get to close and self-quarantine until COVID-19 is corralled. Restocking food, medicines, or the recently hard-to-find toilet paper comes courtesy of those driving 18-wheelers.
“If an item is in the store, a trucker has touched it.” truck owner/operator Douglas Berkowitz told the Herald-Press Monday. “If you shut down the trucking industry, the country won't recover.”
Berkowitz, 50, who half-jokingly called the national state of emergency “guaranteed job security” for truckers, said truckers typically spend a lot of time in isolation due to the nature of their job; the threat of exposure, however, is very real.
Having to touch gas pumps or shower in public truck stops is more dangerous today.
“I can't stop living my life,” Berkowitz said. “The truck-stops are also doing their part, keeping the facilities clean and sterile. Remember, the people there are risking their health, as well.”
Dan Locke, spokesman for Dallas-based Summit Trucking, agreed.
With more than 20 years in the trucking industry, Locke said he has never seen anything like the COVID-19 crisis.
“The federal government has lifted restrictions on drivers' hours, if they're carrying specific items, like medical supplies,” he said. “That should tell you something.”
With drivers making deliveries across the nation, Summit Trucking continually updates safety protocols for drivers, limiting their face-to-face interactions with customers, Locke said.
“Not just our crew but everyone with a commercial driver's license are the unsung heroes of this crisis,” he said.
Adam Harding, general manager of Palestine's Walmart, said everyone in the store appreciates the drivers, and their hard work.
“Sam Walton built our company with a deep respect for drivers,” Harding told the Herald-Press. “We can do nothing without our drivers; it all starts on the road.
“I'd like to personally thank all of them for the commitment they make every day.”