Trucking through COVID-19: Water-chemical company driver keeps swimming possible for Floridians during pandemic

Trucking through COVID-19: Water-chemical company driver keeps swimming possible for Floridians during pandemic
Paul Calvo of Miami-based Transportation Services Unlimited delivers chemicals for to pool and spa supply stores as well as to municipal water- and wastewater-treatments.

MIAMI — With nonessential businesses shut down across the nation, it’s tempting to think that a company that delivers swimming pool chemicals wouldn’t have much to do.


Tempting, but wrong. The drivers at Miami-based Transportation Services Unlimited are staying busy.

“We’re super busy,” said TSU driver Paul Calvo. “During the pandemic, kids are home and using the swimming pools a lot. People are buying bleach to keep the pools safe, but a lot are buying it to use as disinfectant, too.”

One chain of pool and spa stores Calvo delivers to has more than 135 locations in Florida, many of which are regular stops, and he says they’re selling out fast.

“One of the stores I deliver to has two 1,800-gallon tanks,” he said. “I went back three days later and there was less than 200 gallons left in each tank.”

TSU also delivers chemicals to municipal water- and wastewater-treatment facilities, both of which are seeing an increase in “business” with everyone staying home.

Calvo works at the company’s Ft. Pierce, Florida location. About 40 of TSU’s approximately 100 drivers work from that location, according to Calvo. TSU drivers are required to have tanker and hazardous materials endorsement on their CDL. The company says its drivers, who are paid hourly, average $70,000 annually. More information is available at the TSU website.

Calvo drives an hour each way from his home in Palm Bay to get to his job, but he said he loves what he does.

“TSU is a great company. I’ve been here since 2008 and never regretted it a minute,” he said.

The bleach Calvo hauls isn’t the same as the product most people buy for home use.

“We’re hauling bleach, but it’s a 10.5% concentration,” he explained. “The bleach you buy at the grocery store is 5.5%, so it’s a lot more powerful.”

Because of this, drivers take extra precautions.

“We wear PPE (personal protective equipment) whenever we’re loading or delivering,” he said. “That includes apron, rubber boots, respirator, gloves, face mask, the whole list.”

The chemical Calvo hauls is listed as a corrosive material, and trailers are placarded as such.

“It’ll burn if you get it on your skin,” Calvo said. “You want to wash it off quickly or get to an eye-wash station if you get it in your eyes.”

Calvo stays within the boundaries of Florida and is home every night. He appreciates all that the company has done for its drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were on the ball from the start,” he said. “They provided us with masks and wipes, even bottled water and snacks. They gave us 110% plus of everything we needed. If they didn’t have it, all we have to do is ask.”

As shutdowns and social distancing became the norm due to COVID-19, a letter was sent to employees of TSU and associated companies Allied Universal Corporation and Chemical Formulators Inc. The letter reiterated that the service the company provides is essential and thanked employees for their dedication and hard work before detailing some of the measures taken to protect employees. These included implementing social-distancing rules that limited contact with others and increased cleaning and disinfecting of employee areas. Additionally, the company provided disinfecting wipes and bleach for cleaning trucks — and a free gallon for drivers’ home use, too.

Another measure taken was the elimination of the requirement to obtain a customer’s signature on delivery paperwork, limiting contact between drivers and customers. If a customer objects, the driver makes a note on the delivery ticket and initials it, leaving a copy for the customer.

The opening paragraph of the letter states “We understand that our employees are the backbone of all we do, and we would not be able to service our customers and communities without each of you.”

“I can’t say enough about TSU,” said Calvo, who also praised his supervisor.

“Walter is a plant manager,” he said. “Anything we need, he made sure we got it. If they didn’t have it, he’d get it. I don’t know how he’d do it, but there would be boxes and boxes of it at the terminal.”

Paul Calvo isn’t ambivalent about his feelings about TSU.

“They’re the best,” he said. “I’ll retire here.”

Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.
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