RUTHER GLEN, Va. -- Truck drivers across the country and in Virginia are logging thousands of extra miles, as freight demand for grocery, cleaning, and medical supplies booms during the coronavirus pandemic.
Local employees of a national truck supplier wanted to send a simple salute to the men and women they said are sometimes forgotten as essential personnel.
Herbie Williams, regional sales manager for Rush Trucking Centers in Central Virginia, said some of the stories he’s heard from truckers during the pandemic show the immense pressure and stress of the job.
“Some of the stories we’ve heard are just heart wrenching: being hungry, needing showers, a place to park the truck. Because they’re huge, you can’t take it through a drive-thru. It’s a struggle for those guys, a lot more now than ever,” he said. “Some of these fellas and ladies aren’t home for weeks at a time. It’s got to be tough on them mentally and physically as well.”
As a way of saying thanks, Williams and two of his sales colleagues, Caroline Lyons and Heath Parish, passed out 200 “goodie bags” to truckers fueling their vehicles at the Flying J Travel Center just off exit 104 on Interstate 95.
“Bottle water, chips, and cookies and candies. Just loaded them up with a bunch of snacks and stuff and a thank you to let them know we appreciate what they’re doing for us out here on the road every day,” Williams said. “A lot of drivers have left here blowing the horn, thumbs up. That stuff is so cool. We appreciate it, and we just wanted to share some joy with them to let them know how much we appreciate it.”
Gary Willis was on a run from Delaware to Raleigh, NC, hauling fertilizer to farm suppliers.
“Means a lot. People appreciate what you do, you know. You got to keep it going. If you don’t keep it open, you aren’t going to eat, and everybody has got to eat,” Willis said.
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While freight runs have increased, according to industry experts, Williams has been told the number of passenger cars of the road has decreased from stay-at-home orders, creating an odd kind of safety hazard for truckers.
“A lot of people are speeding and driving recklessly, so they got to be on their game to stay on top of that as well,” Williams said.
While the heat on American supply chains remains high, Williams said he hoped their small salute made the day a little easier on the truckers they encountered.
“They’re a huge part, sometimes a forgotten part, of the people we really need and depend on to survive,” he said. “Everybody likes to see those packages arrive at the front door. These truck drivers are the ones making it happen and getting that stuff to us so we can survive each day.”