MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Truck drivers are a critical component of the U.S. supply chain. They're the reason we have food on our tables, and products to clean our homes.
However, some major changes caused by the coronavirus outbreak have truckers working overtime, while facing road blocks that will impact us all.
Daryl Ward is a 27-year truck driver. “While you’re sleeping, we’re moving,” he told WMC Action News 5 from his couch, shortly before bedtime to be ready for his 3 a.m. alarm.
Ward says his workload has quadrupled, as truckers respond to the coronavirus crisis. He’s seeing a trend in what people are needing in the crisis. “All the sanitizer you’re rubbing on your hands, tissue, paper towels, food, meat, Clorox wipes,” he listed.
This week, the Department of Transportation issued a nationwide emergency declaration suspending the rule that drivers can only spend 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour workday.
Mark Colson with the AL Trucking Association says the American people need these relaxed rules. "So that we can do what we need to do to make sure that people have the supplies they need to care for individuals during this crisis," he explained.
Driving limits were originally implemented to reduce accidents caused by drowsy drivers. Now, as long as truckers are hauling critical crisis supplies, the rule does not apply. Some drivers are now facing different challenges.
With restaurants closing, there are fewer stops to eat or rest, and new coronavirus contagion fears keep them waiting in their cabs where they pick up and drop off.
“Like, they won’t let you into their facilities and when you get there, they have so much backlash on coronavirus,” Ward has observed.
Ward says trucking is more important now than ever, especially if recent talk of a nationwide shutdown becomes reality and you won't be able to move freely on the roads to get basic essentials. "Besides the doctors and nurses and hospitals, we're the next level," he pointed out.
Drivers must still rest at least 10 hours after a long haul, and the declaration does not apply to routine deliveries.