It’s no secret that the nation is in turmoil because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rises daily, the streets – and grocery-store shelves – are emptying. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning products are in short supply (did no one wipe their bottoms, wash their hands or clean their houses before all this?) and many are worried that soon the basic necessities of life will be unavailable.
A quick trip made by this reporter to the grocery store over the weekend revealed frighteningly empty shelves. The meat cases were completely bare, there was no bread (even the flour was gone, except for the gluten-free varieties), eggs and butter were unavailable, and, of course, there was not a roll of toilet paper, box of facial tissues or bottle of household cleaner to be found.
Enter a new breed of heroes, both men and women, who don’t wear capes or leap over tall buildings with a single bound. Instead, they wear jeans and comfy shoes, and they expertly handle huge rigs up and down the highways, through narrow city streets and up to loading docks, delivering precious cargo, from medical supplies to food, bottled water and – thankfully – toilet paper, along with a host of other items.
These “knights of the highway,” as truckers were called in years past, are finally receiving long-deserved status as “essential,” and the public is taking notice. A scroll through social-media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and others, will turn up post after post of corporations, communities, professional organizations and individuals offering thanks and praise to America’s truckers.
Despite this outpouring of gratitude, truck drivers have reported difficulty in gaining access to basic necessities themselves, including prepared food, restroom facilities and showers. Many drivers have reported that even truck stops have limited access to facilities, citing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
In response to this growing problem, travel plazas and truck stops across the nation are pledging to provide these much-needed services to truckers.
Some of the larger travel-plaza chains, such as TA and Petro, Love’s and Pilot/Flying J, have provided resource links on their websites, noting available amenities at locations around the country as well as necessary restrictions. Other companies, including Kwik Trip, Ambest and others, are also letting drivers know that facilities are open and available. Because retail employees, like truck drivers, do not have the luxury of working from home, some companies, such as Love’s, are offering bonuses to their staffs.
While self-serve food options may be limited because of safe-handling concerns (the same restrictions are being implemented in fast-food restaurants around the country), customers still have access to the products, which are prepared and served by employees wearing gloves and following safety precautions. In addition, carry-out is available from restaurants within the travel plazas.
Driver lounges, fitness centers and game rooms may be closed due to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit personal interaction, but other amenities, including restrooms, showers and laundry facilities, remain open in businesses that are equipped to offer these services.
In addition, numerous businesses, organizations, law-enforcement agencies and individuals are offering assistance in the form of “grab-and-go” meal events and rides from truck-parking areas to amenities such as restaurants and laundry facilities. Some individuals have even posted to industry pages on social media, offering parking and showers at their homes.
A Facebook group, Helping Truckers Help America, is a social-media gathering place of the outpouring of help that has recently come about for truck drivers. The group is open to the public. With more than 4,000 members, there are daily posts of opportunities for free meals and services to keep truckers rolling.
A recent Facebook post by a trucker friend mentioned stopping at a rest area and seeing a couple of young girls holding up gaily decorated posters reading, “Thank you truckers!” Before pulling out, the driver said, the girls’ parents handed over carefully packaged goodie bags filled with bottled water, snacks and other treats for the road. “I was crying as I pulled back onto the expressway,” my friend said.
Because this reporter is not a truck driver (be thankful that I can safely maneuver my economy-size Nissan), I can’t say that I know what you are going through. But know that I, and the nation as a whole, stands behind you and appreciate your service.