Truckers Face Isolation and Worry as They Keep America's Supply Chain Intact

Title

Truckers Face Isolation and Worry as They Keep America's Supply Chain Intact

Description

There are far fewer vehicles on the road these days, but the trucks are still rolling. From log trucks supplying manufacturers of toilet paper to trucks hauling components of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment to those keeping our grocer’s warehouses stocked, truck drivers are very essential workers.

Writer Sheila Grant profiles long-haul truck driver Thomas Moss.

Date

2020-04-03

Type

Publisher

The Gazette Inc. (Dexter, Me.)

Source

The Eastern Gazette, Vol. 168, No. 14

Rights

Creator retains copyright. Item may be used for noncommercial purposes under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Text

MAINE -- There are far fewer vehicles on the road these days, but the trucks are still rolling. From log trucks supplying manufacturers of toilet paper to trucks hauling components of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment to those keeping our grocer’s warehouses stocked, truck drivers are very essential workers.

Thomas Moss returned to long-haul trucking after a career as a PET/CT technologist. That medical background makes him all the more aware of how easily he could transport COVID-19 from one side of the nation to the other.

“I don’t have a regular route,” Moss explained. “I go wherever they tell me to go. My last run was from Pennsylvania to Lewiston. Before that, it was from Maryland to Pennsylvania.”

During his travels, Moss has noticed that there is no one set of safety protocols. “There’s no consistency,” he said. “It kind of makes me worried that the government isn’t making a consistent type of emergency plan. When I worked in the medical field, there was a standard set of protocols and most hospitals were pretty much the same.”

One state might have stringent safety rules in place during this pandemic, while another might be more lax, or lack any guidance at all. In response, Moss said, truckers need to develop their own safety standards.

“I wash my hands [with hand sanitizer] before I get out of my truck and again when I get back in,” he said. “That’s basically my way of making sure I don’t get it – but there’s no guarantee of that. It is constantly on your mind, because you see it everywhere. I’ve been mostly up in the northeast, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and back into Maine, and I’ve gone through New Hampshire and Connecticut. Sometimes you have to stop for fuel or a meal and you see different precautions in different places. But, I applaud that they are taking precautions.”

Most truckers don’t have a television on board, and may not catch the latest news via the radio. Moss has been observing a three-foot distance from other customers when he does stop, unaware until he arrived home on March 27 that the recommendation had been changed to six feet several days ago.

Every fuel pump or door handle Moss touches reminds him of the risk to himself, his family when he arrives home, and everyone else along his route, as well as a sense of responsibility to keep himself and everyone else safe.

“You don’t know who was pumping fuel last. And how do you know that person you’ve talked to [at shipping and receiving areas] isn’t positive? Truck drivers travel from state to state. I can be in California two days from now. And if even a quarter of truckers tested positive, they would have more than a pandemic on their hands because shelves would be empty. That is on my mind a lot.”

One saving grace is that truckers don’t really mingle like other coworkers, Moss said. They pull in for fuel, for food, and to sleep before hitting the road again. It was that way before the pandemic, too, but now, “I see truckers with masks and gloves. They don’t want to spread this. We are trying to do our part to prevent [spreading] it.”

Bringing the virus home to his family is a concern, and so is becoming ill out on the road. “Even if I don’t have symptoms, am I positive or negative,” he wonders. “I was listening to a podcast while coming home, talking about a testing facility for doctors and nurses. Why isn’t there a testing site for truck drivers? I could be positive here, not know it, and go out to wherever and touch a door handle and the virus has traveled across the country. I believe that’s on every trucker’s mind. I can see it in the truck stops. How do you know?”

Also a concern is the lack of a plan if a trucker does become ill on the road. Company guidance is usually to follow the advice of your physician, but if you’re in New Jersey and your physician is in Maine, and you’ll be contagious the entire way, or too ill to drive that far, then what?

“I am more concerned for him than I have been,” said wife Christi Moss. “I know he’s cautious, and he’s always been a hand washer, but he comes into contact with multiple people where he is picking up, delivering and trying to get meals. We continuously try to plan for should he get ill on the road. I don’t have an answer for that.”

Christi Moss said she’s not in a panic about either of them getting sick, even though they “crossed into the [60+] danger zone a couple of years ago,” but the uncertainty does bother her. “What’s the plan” she wonders.

She only began her job as administrative assistant for a large property management company at the beginning of March, so Christi Moss is juggling that new-job learning curve along with concerns about her husband on the road, a grown daughter with pre-existing conditions who works at a large grocery store; a grown son whose work hours and income have been impacted by COVID-19, and her youngest, a busy high school junior now cooped up at home instead of participating in the band and sports activities she loves.

Asked what she does to keep herself sane and healthy, Moss laughed. “I don’t think I’m doing that much different, not that I’m consciously aware of, anyway.” At work, they are taking every precaution possible. And with her husband away, a new job, a teenager, two very large dogs and one cat to keep track of, she said, “I think, because of starting the job at about the same time this broke loose, I can’t say if I am doing things differently because of one or the other!”

Thomas Moss said that while he doesn’t meditate, he does, “a lot of positive thinking. I am hoping we do get over this without more fatalities. Right now, from what I see at stops and on the road, truckers are trying to do our part.”
Another thing that helps Moss, and that he said would help other truckers, is some simple appreciation.

“I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything,” he said. “But in the last week and a half, I stopped at least once every day, and I had one person thank me out of at least 100 people.” And that one person, or the friendly wave or thumbs up to truckers as they pass by, makes all the difference, he said.

“When that young lady at the truck stop thanked me, it made me feel kind of appreciated,” Moss said. “I’m not asking to be glorified, but to be respected, and to get a ‘thank you.’ It does make us feel good. We are out there trying to do the best we can for you.”

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Grant, Sheila D., “Truckers Face Isolation and Worry as They Keep America's Supply Chain Intact,” Heart of Maine Community Stories, accessed July 27, 2021, https://heartofmaine.omeka.net/items/show/32.

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