In the Midst of the Pandemic, Truck Drivers are Seeking Hot Food and Clean Bathrooms
The global coronavirus pandemic has truck drivers working hard to keep up with empty shelves and food supply demands. However, this comes at a price, as many divers say they have struggled to find hot food and clean restrooms on the job.
One article from Bloomberg recounts the stories of ten drivers who have been barred from using public restrooms and cannot find warm meals. Federal regulators’ recently dropped limits on how long truckers can drive, in order to help restock coronavirus-barren store shelves. However, it’s affecting the drivers’ basic human needs.
The ten drivers, representing those who drive for themselves, small companies, and large carriers said in interview that over the last month, they have had difficulty finding food and clean bathrooms. Many have resorted to scrounging for snacks at rest stops and using unsanitary port-a-potties outside pickup and delivery spots whose staff will not let them use the indoor bathroom for fear of the bathroom.
“That to me, is just as bad as running through the fire with a pair of gasoline britches on,” said Ingrid Brown, a driver who has hauled produce through New York, New Jersey, Florida and California in the last few weeks.
The federal government has reminded states that truck drivers are considered essential workers and that rest stops should stay open. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao thanked drivers on the radio last week, saying the country was “cheering for American truck drivers.” Chairman from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) called truck drivers “heroes.”
Still, despite these federal praises for truck drivers and their work during the pandemic, the power ultimately rests in the hands of each state and individual sites. The government can’t easily force states to keep restaurants and truck-customer bathrooms open, clean and friendly to drivers. In the meantime, truck drivers’ health is taking a toll—making it difficult for them to deliver the essential items the country needs.
Normally, drivers can use the rest stops at privately owned truck stops and the customer’s site. However, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, drivers can no longer use the bathroom at a customer’s site—where they pick up and drop off items, even though they have to park there sometimes for hours.
This has pushed more drivers to use rest stop bathrooms, exposing them to more germs. And, some rest stop bathrooms will not let drivers use those, so many have to use nearby porta potties. Many drivers carefully plan their days around where he or she can park their rig and use facilities.
Marcia Faschingbauer, president of Houston-based carrier Excargo, said she has been sending drivers to work with rolls of toilet paper. But like many across the nation, she is finding trouble finding rolls at stores to replenish her supply.
“Like the old days, outside and under a tree, I think there’s a lot of that happening,” said Faschingbauer.
Hot meals are so scarce for truck drivers in parts of the U.S. right now that the Federal Highway Administration is encouraging states to allow food trucks to park at truck stops. Normally, drivers can go into any restaurant for a meal. Now, the only place to get food in some areas is a truck stop.
One driver who has been hauling produce in coronavirus hot spots said truck stops have sometimes been out of food by the time she gets there. On one night recently, she bought what was left at the stop she pulled into: peanut butter, grape jelly, Pop Tarts and bread. Because she drives produce overnight, she is not able to stop when most places with reduced hours are open.
Some fast food chains like McDonalds are offering carry-out for drivers who can’t pull their trucks through drive through lanes. Many drivers are also packing frozen meals and snacks in trucks because there’s only so much fast food someone can eat while on the road, some say.
When you’re in the store and trying to scrounge for what’s left on the shelves or cursing the last roll of toilet paper, remember the truck drivers working hard to keep up with demands. “We need all the help people can offer at this time,” drivers said.