HAZLET, N.J. — As shoppers were lined up around the building at a New Jersey Costco, a white Freightliner Cascadia pulled up to the loading dock carrying a one of today’s most valuable consumer products — toilet paper.
Chuck Small of Wareham, Massachusetts has been a truck driver for more than 30 years. In all of that time, he said, he’s never seen such appreciation for a truck driver carrying a basic commodity — but this was different.
He hopped out of the truck and announced, “I’ve got your toilet paper!” and the shoppers and employees all applauded him as if he was a celebrity.
“What a feeling that was to have everybody clap. That must be what a celebrity goes through,” Small said. “It is usually, ‘Park over there and we’ll call you when we’re ready for you.’ It could be hours upon hours.”
Small said the experience was a strange one, noting that he drives for Napa Transportation out of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Procter & Gamble is one of the company’s biggest clients and he has frequently hauled household goods.
“I felt kind of wanted, and like I’m doing something,” Small said. “Truck drivers over the years have gotten a bad name for themselves, but this kind of felt like I was wanted.”
Small said he has never quite seen anything like the current precautions being taken against the threat of COVID-19. For him, though, there haven’t been any major disruptions on the road, except for limited ability to dine in at restaurants.
“It’s a little crazy out here,” Small said. “Everywhere I go, I can only get take-out food. I’ve been doing Denny’s. You have to go up to the counter and get your food and then go to your truck to eat it. I have a refrigerator in my truck, but I like to sit down to a meal. I guess we can’t do that now.”
With that adjustment being the one that affects Small’s daily activities the most, he said other adjustments include signing waivers at shippers’ docks and social distancing being practiced at truck stops.
“You stand in line at a truck stop and you don’t even know who is next because everyone is standing so far away from each other,” Small said.
Toilet paper isn’t the only necessity Small has hauled recently. Within the last week, Small has also hauled a load of Pellegrino water, which is produced in Italy.
Some of his friends cautioned him about the product being imported from one of the countries most infected with the novel coronavirus. Other truckers, however, noted that the water could have been stored in a warehouse for months therefore presenting no threat. Either way, Small said he wasn’t concerned and carried on with business as usual.
“I’m just doing Day 1 to Day 2, and I’m really not worried,” he said. “I feel healthy. I look at the statistics for how many are dying in each state, and it really isn’t that many. The big cities are most affected.”