GREELEY, Colo. — “The worst of times can bring about the best of changes.”
That may sound like a line from a Charles Dickens book, but it’s actually an observation from longtime driver Mark Salcedo. Delivering food in a time of crisis, he has witnessed an attitude change for the better toward truckers as the nation realizes just how essential they are.
“It reminds me of the old days,” said Salcedo. “My grandpa started a truck line in the ’60s, and growing up, I spent a lot of summers on the road with my dad. Back then, people had enormous respect for drivers, but much of that’s been lost. These days, people see us as more of an annoyance, but this situation has helped open their eyes.”
Salcedo described the outpouring of support he’s seen through acts of kindness coming from complete strangers, such as those giving out care packages at rest stops.
However, even more support has come from the people Salcedo regularly interacts with — those at truck stops and restaurants, docks and receiving departments, and especially, his own company, JBS Carriers.
“JBS is great. I originally planned to work here just one year. Now, I’m about to start my fifth, and I even mentor trainees,” he laughed.
“This company takes care of its own — always, but even more right now,” Salcedo continued. “They’re paying for cleaning supplies, providing masks and gloves, and doing lots of things that make their jobs harder, but keep us safer.”
That’s not to say that driving during a pandemic has been a cruise down Easy Street. Along with extra health precautions and risks, there have been logistical challenges.
“Traffic is down on the road, but up at distribution centers,” Salcedo said. “They’re working hard, but some are pretty jammed.”
Basic things such as parking, getting meals and taking a shower have also been harder as closures or restrictions reduce access. But the most difficult part for Salcedo has been the isolation.
“I usually stop at home on every trip to visit my dad and son, but I’ve had to keep my distance. Not getting to be with them has been tough,” he said.
That’s why the support Salcedo has received on the road is so critical, and why he’s hopeful it’ll be a turning point in how drivers are viewed and treated.
“Our work automatically puts us at social distance from family and friends, but that’s what it takes to provide for them and for everyone,” he said. “I think that’s a good lesson that’s come out of a bad time. One that will be remembered long after this is past.”
Story by Dave Ballew.