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Coronavirus COVID-19 has made a significant impact on the American economy as it continues to spread throughout the country. It has disrupted the global supply of goods with factory shutdowns, panic-buying, and shortages of essential products.
During these troubling times, there are groups of individuals like health care workers that have been rightfully recognized as heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their work has saved thousands of lives!
However, we cannot forget about the many unsung heroes that are also putting their safety and wellbeing at risk every day. And that would be our nation's truck drivers who are keeping our nation's supply chains moving by transporting the food, medical supplies, and products we need. Here are just a few of the dangers and hurdles that carriers are facing out on the frontlines.
Before the coronavirus crisis, the freight industry was already running at a tight capacity. This capacity continues to constrict as demand has surged from retailers and manufacturers who need to replenish stores and distribution centers with depleted stock.
Demand continues to grow as uncertainty remains as to when everything will be back to normal throughout the country.
It has not been too long since the Department of Transportation's hours of service rules went into effect. Under these new regulations, truckers were limited to 11 hours of drive time within a 14-hour window and requiring a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving.
Carriers hauling critical cargo like medical supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, paper products, and food are now exempt from standard HOS rules.
With this exemption, there is always the risk that truckers find themselves under pressure to drive longer without taking a rest. To help maintain their safety, truckers must have at least 10 hours off duty after completing their deliveries.
Truckers are facing restrictions they've never run into before when picking up or delivering loads. Some have reported having to:
Others had to stay in their trucks while cargo is loaded or unloaded. Some have even been refused access to a restroom.
Some states, like Pennsylvania, have closed their state-run rest stops. This new reality has resulted in limited numbers of parking spaces where truckers can park their rigs to take their rest breaks.
Fortunately, some, but not all, have been reopened, but with limited facilities available.
Pilot Flying and Travel Centers of America rest stops are staying open 24-hours a day. To comply with state-mandated health regulations, many have had to shut down their sitdown dining areas.
However, take-out and pick-up services are still available for meals. Many of these rest stops are still providing access to showers and are taking extra precautions with sanitizing their facilities. Truckers can still park and take their required rest breaks at these facilities.
Most rigs are just too big to drive through a restaurant's drive-thru lane to order and pick up food. This fact limits the availability of meal options for some truckers. Their ability to enjoy a meal break outside of their cab is now much more difficult.
Some drivers have resorted to walking through drive-thru lines to get their meals or buying grab and go options at some truck stops.
Many people are staying at home and practicing social distancing to avoid catching COVID-19. But truckers are considered essential workers and continuing with their work. Traveling and coming in contact with others puts them at risk of contracting the coronavirus and possibly exposing their families. However, their sense of duty keeps them on the job. Some even stay away from home, living in their rigs to protect their loved ones from exposure.
Many truckers are reporting that with fewer vehicles on the road, they are finding less traffic to contend with. This new reality has helped in making quicker deliveries. Some are even reporting that they are seeing signs of gratitude from the public and their customers who recognize them as heroes for delivering much-needed supplies.
The inland freight industry has always faced challenges before. Dealing with the fallout from COVID-19 will be a new challenge for carriers.
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