Enlarge /. Truck stops in the U.S. are still busy.
While cities and states have tried to close shops to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, the streets have become quieter. Typically, deadlocked cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have seen much faster traffic speeds during rush hour – 53 percent and 70 percent, respectively – as residents squat and hope social distance does its job.
However, it is more difficult to carry out on-site orders if your office moves 100 km / h, travels hundreds of kilometers a day and helps to carry the emergency supplies that the country is experiencing during an unprecedented public health crisis Keep running. "We're still in America," said Steve Fields, a Kansas City-based truck driver at YRC Freight.
"COVID-19 is the mother of all supply chain disruptions," wrote Peggy Dorf, an analyst with the cargo market DAT Solutions, this week on the company's blog. Emergency medical supplies such as masks, respirators, and soap must be transported from manufacturers to medical centers, and the raw materials that help manufacturers build these things – paper, plastic, alcohol – must go to the factory. Food shelves need to be refilled quickly, while customers and schools no longer need their regular deliveries. Americans everywhere are screaming for more toilet paper.
Data from DAT show that "spot prices" – that is, the cost of renting a last-minute truck on the open market – have risen by 6.1 percent since the end of February and that prices for 63 of the 100 largest-volume trucks Routes in the country have risen. The ratio of cargo to truck, the shortcut for the demand for trucks on the road, rose significantly above the level of 2019 in mid-February. "This is not normal for March," wrote Dorf. In some distribution centers where drivers unload their trucks with household goods and groceries, truck drivers have gone to Facebook to complain about long lines and traffic.
In response to the crisis, the Department of Transportation overturned some regulations last week that require drivers to take breaks off-road during delivery. Normally, drivers are only allowed to work 14-hour days and only spend 11 of the people actually driving. However, these “hours of operation” regulations no longer apply to drivers who transport a large number of emergency supplies, such as: B. Medical equipment related to COVID-19, masks and gloves, food, fuel and equipment for building emergency shelters or quarantine rooms. Drivers must take a break of at least 10 hours after stopping their emergency load and stop driving if they feel sleepy at any time.
A point of contention is the essential feature in the life of the truckers: the truck stop. Even if public health officials close restaurants and bars because they fear the spread of the novel corona virus, truckers hope that states will make an exception for their travel centers. In Pennsylvania, closure of Interstate and Turnpike public stops on Tuesday led to a revolt by two national lobby groups, the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The groups say that truckers need these places to sleep because parking lots are often the safest places for drivers to pass their eyes. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania DOT announced that it would reopen parking and bathrooms in 13 of the 30 state-run stops.
However, corona virus has changed drivers' lives. TA-Petro, one of the country's largest tour operators, has closed its driver lounges and fitness center, and to the disappointment of many, has closed its buffets, soup and salad bars in states where officials have closed restaurants. Drivers can still pick up takeaway food and showers at the company's facilities. A competitor, the Pilot Company, was forced to close its margins in Illinois, Louisiana and Nevada. Some truckers use refillable cups at truck stops. Don't do that anymore, the companies say. (You are still eligible for the refillable cup discount.)
Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA-Petro, says the company's diesel sales have increased “in the high single digits” compared to last year and gasoline sales have decreased. This is in line with the idea that trucks have taken to the streets to carry supplies and that "people – football mothers and football fathers – crouch at home".
Dan Horvath, usually the vice president of the American Trucking Association for Security Policy, but now the organization's COVID-19 Tsar, says the group is looking for "stressful" restrictions for drivers – for example, to get a driver's temperature up beforehand measure you hand in a load to a facility, ask where you have traveled in the past few days, or deny drivers the use of bathrooms. "Treat drivers like people," says Horvath.
A recent survey by transport logistics software company Transplace among carriers found that some companies stepped up truck cleaning, provided drivers with hand disinfectants, and asked drivers to stay in their cabins whenever they could.
Truck drivers who spoke to Wired this week said they weren't afraid of getting sick yet. "I'm vigilant," says Fields, the Kansas City truck driver who runs a different vehicle every day. "I haven't really changed my daily routine. I wash my hands a lot anyway and wipe every truck. I learned a long time ago that illness occurs so easily when you work with other people. "
This story originally appeared on wired.com.