JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Truck drivers are working on the front lines now more than ever, mobilizing America during the coronavirus crisis.
Tractor-trailer drivers are crossing the country with vital supplies, such as masks, gloves, cleaning chemicals and food. But they have new challenges with COVID-19.
While traffic is down with typical commuters on the roads, people still need food and hospitals need supplies. It means truck drivers are working overtime to get essential items to people in every community across the country. They are essential workers that many people don’t think about.
“It’s nice,” said Columbus Flood, a Mississippi truck driver who was at a Baldwin truck stop. “Somebody’s got to do it.”
Truck drivers are working around the clock to keep up with demand.
“You’ve got to keep going,” said Brent Moore, an owner-operator from Central Florida. “You’ve got to keep doing what you’ve got to do.”
Moore showed masks his wife made out of their children’s old T-shirts.
Truck drivers are critical at keeping their country moving during this crisis, so the federal government is easing restrictions during this national emergency to make sure that essentials get as many places as quickly as possible.
The Department of Transportation no longer has an 11-hour consecutive cap for truck drivers on the road if they’re carrying medical or sanitation supplies or food. After the delivery, drivers will still have to take a mandatory 10-hour break.
The DOT is also allowing food trucks at rest stops because many restaurants are closed and drive-throughs don’t work for 18 wheelers, making the job more difficult for cross country operators like Craig Sorkness.
“I went through a drive-through in Georgia the other day and they wouldn’t let us go through, so I walked through, they wouldn’t take my order,” said Craig Sorkness, a Jacksonville-based truck driver who is delivering groceries in a refrigerated trailer. “Most of them won’t let us walk through there and a truck can’t fit through there.”
“It’s hard for us to eat out here on the road because there ain’t no place open to get a decent meal,” Flood added. “We walkthrough, we don’t do drive-through.”
Truck driver unions asking for more federal assistance, like loans, grants and hazard pay. But the road warriors who News4Jax interviewed said they’ll keep on moving as long as they’re needed.
“It’s a job,” Moore said. “I’m sure nurses don’t feel appreciated. But yeah, I feel like I’m doing my best. No one really thinks you too much but it’s all right, it’s part of the job.”
“I don’t mind doing it because I’m feeding America, helping this economy,” Flood noted. “It works out fine for me.”
While many think truck drivers are making good money right now, especially with lower gas prices, that’s not always the case. Some, like Moore, who transport things, such as construction equipment and nonessential items, said they’re struggling to find things to move. Otherwise, they, too, could be out of jobs.
Drivers also said they were staying very careful and clean at rest stops, making sure restrooms and showers have been sanitized. Though, they noted they are more confined to their trucks than they are used to.