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Truckers Keep Right On Truckin' Through Coronavirus: 'If We Stop, The World Stops'

Ryan Ford 23 Mar 2020

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With COVID-19 basically putting a good chunk of the world at a standstill, it has been made clear just who can ever be fully at a standstill and who must keep moving all the same, and it's not all the people you might otherwise expect.

Healthcare workers obviously must stay in action, as they're on the front line of the fight, and cleaners and janitors are in charge of keeping sanitation in check. The power plants will keep humming, water treatment plants will keep treating water, and grocery stores and pharmacies aren't going anywhere. Maintaining a healthy stock on those shelves, however, all comes down to truckers.

Getting goods onto North America's store shelves has proven challenging in the early days of the coronavirus fight.

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As public health officials ask us all to stay indoors as much as possible to prevent the spread of the disease, shoppers jammed stores to stock up on supplies.

Where there's increased demand, supply will push to meet it, and that means truckers have been leaned on to get those supplies into the hands that need it.

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The U.S. is home to about 3.5 million truckers, and these days, they're pretty much all on the road.

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And they're not taking as many breaks as they're used to. "A lot of truck drivers are probably pushing their limits right now to try to keep supply and demand rolling," truck driving instructor Christopher Dittmar told KOAA.

He noted that federal regulators have eased the rest requirements on truckers during the national emergency, so they can spend more hours behind the wheel every day.

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"I haven't stopped since this all started," said Ron Applegate.

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The 57-year-old told USA Today that he's determined to keep right on truckin' throughout the pandemic.

"If the freight's there, it's got to move. If people are going to eat, the trucks are gonna move. If they need medical supplies, the trucks are gonna move. If we stop, the world stops."

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Many truckers don't worry much about getting sick themselves.

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It's an odd job, in that they do handle a large number of goods that pass through many stages and could be contaminated at any point, but it's already a largely isolated job as well.

With many of the rest stops along the way closed to anything but takeout, there are fewer people to interact with in a day. However, there are also fewer opportunities to shower, too.

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For many, there are bigger challenges than potentially getting sick.

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School closures, for one, and warehouses for another.

"If a school system closes down, our employees may not have child care," T.J. O'Connor of Kansas's YRC Worldwide told USA Today. "Or we have a driver go out there to make a pickup and there's a sign on the door that says one of the employees tested positive and they're closed. What do you do?"

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However, O'Connor has seen an uptick in the respect truck drivers are receiving.

"I like to challenge people," he said. "Look around the room and show me something that wasn't on a truck at one time. We are the lifeblood of the economy. We are the lifeblood of the supply chain of North America."

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And at least one young fan showed their appreciation for truck drivers.

In West Virginia, a teen whose dad drives a truck saved up his allowance to buy a trucker a meal. He and his mother visited the grocery store, spent his money, and made up some sack lunches to hand out at the local truck stop.

"When you see a 13-year-old boy take that amount of time to want to help, it’s very humbling," trucker Joseph Graham told MetroNews.

So at least these unsung heroes are starting to get the recognition they deserve.

h/t: USA Today

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