Truckers brave coronavirus: “If we stop, the world stops”

Sitting in the cab of his blue Volvo big rig, trucker Lee Robertson leafs through the sheaf of papers listing what’s stacked inside the refrigerated trailer hooked up behind him.

“Eggs. Cream cheese. Vegetables. Chicken,” he shouts over the rumble of engines from semi-trailers parked at this truck stop between Denver and Cheyenne. “Soy milk.”

Robertson, 56, of Kansas City, is hauling a load destined for small shops and convenience stores across the country. He’s not alone.

Across the United States, the nation’s 3.5 million professional truckers are working flat-out to keep stores and businesses stocked as consumers worry about riding out home quarantines prompted by the coronavirus outbreak and try to snap up enough toilet paper, rice, beans, tuna and other staples to get through this period of uncertainty.

Many truckers said they aren’t overly concerned about getting sick, although their jobs — which require touching shipments that could be contaminated, interacting with others, and going out in public at a time when many lawmakers are urging people to stay home — could put them at increased risk of contracting the virus.
A sign at the Johnson’s Corner truck stop says the driver lounge is closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Drivers can normally relax and watch tv on lounge chairs during mandatory rest periods.

Restrictions on which businesses can remain open have also made their jobs more difficult, forcing some truck drivers to cook for themselves in their trucks as restaurants across the nation shutdown. In other cases, it has left them without a place to wash their hands or to park and sleep at night. Dozens of rest stops were closed, for example, in Pennsylvania, Texas, Nebraska and Michigan this week because of efforts to slow down the coronavirus closures.

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