Trucking through COVID-19: New Jersey driver thankful for employer’s support in midst of pandemic

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Jay Rivera
Jenaro “Jay” Rivera of Jersey City, New Jersey, drives a Kenworth T880 and hauls tanker trailers for Indiana-based AG Trucking.

KEARNEY, N.J. — When Jenaro “Jay” Rivera of Jersey City, New Jersey, describes his job as a trucker for Indiana-based AG Trucking, there is no question that he loves his work and his company.

“It’s unbelievable. In all these 23 years as a driver, I’ve never seen a company like AG Trucking, how they work with the drivers,” he said. “They care so much about them, and they listen to the drivers. They don’t push you to the side. If you have a comment or an idea or whatever, they’re all ears.”

Rivera earned his commercial driver’s license in 1997 and spent several years as an over-the-road driver, hauling dry vans, reefers and tanker trailers, working for Swift Transportation and LCL Bulk before making the move to AG Trucking nearly four years ago. Today, he drives a Kenworth T880 and delivers tankers filled with food-grade liquids, such as canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, vinegar, coconut fatty acid, glycerin and other materials.

“We call (hauling a tanker) the ‘big leagues,’” he said with a laugh. “It’s smaller than other trailers, but it’s more difficult. You have to have more experience and knowledge about the product you’re hauling, including the surge.”

Surge is a result of the movement of liquid in a tanker, and the shifting weight can make it more difficult for a driver to maneuver curves or brake the tractor.

“It’s different, because when you’re hauling liquid you get that surge. It’ll smack the inside of the tanker, and you’ll think you’ve been rear-ended,” he explained. “That surge can push the truck like 2 or 3 feet forward. You’ve got to be aware of all those little situations. The more you get into it, the more experience you get … the better you can control the surge.”

When Rivera joined the AG Trucking team he started out as an over-the-road driver, but when a position became available at the company’s Kearney, New Jersey, Yard, he said he transitioned into a local route. His primary duties include picking up tankers from plants, pre-checking the trailers and then passing them off to over-the-road drivers to be delivered all over the country.

While Rivera loves his work, he admits that he worries about exposure to the coronavirus.

“With this pandemic, I have added concerns for my health,” he said. “In spite of going to work now equipped with a face mask, latex gloves, a face shield, hand sanitizer and other safety equipment, I am still in a high-risk situation.”

At the end of the day, when he goes home to his family, Rivera said the first thing he does is shower. In addition, he said, he wears a mask and gloves throughout the workday to help prevent exposure.

“Never in my life did I think I was going to go through something like this pandemic,” he said. “The only way I saw (something like this) was when I was in school, in history, reading about it. It’s scary. I watch what I touch and who I talk to.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Rivera said his workload has dropped dramatically.

“I was doing between 25 and 30 trailers a day, and now I’m probably doing four or five a week,” he said. “But at least I’m still working, and the paycheck is still coming in. It’s not that much, but I know it’s not going to be like this forever.”

Rivera said he is especially grateful for the support AG Trucking has provided for him and the company’s other drivers, providing masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment to help ensure employees’ safety.

“Overall, I’m grateful that I’m still providing for my family and the people of our country,” he said. “I want to thank AG Trucking for the support and effort in providing all the supplies necessary to keep all of its drivers safe.”

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