From time to time during the past 25 years I have cursed my fate of having to make that midlife career change and going into truck driving (don’t get me wrong, some days I love it). But now I thank my lucky stars. At least for the moment I seem to have all the work I want and then some, while so many people are suddenly out of a job (at least temporarily and who knows how long that temporary will be?).
The Covid-19 pandemic is still in its infancy, so I don’t know how this will shake out for me. But I am home for not much more than 34 hours, which allows me to get what is called a “restart” on my allotment of 70 hours per seven days, the regulation for most over-the-road truckers. I guess there are now some emergency exemptions to the hours of service rules for critical goods, but in my job I have not been made aware of them yet. And before all of this I was happy that with the new electronic logs I would not be made to work over the 70 hours (owner operators might not like that, but for me, I can only work so much and then I need to rest).
So, what is the effect of this pandemic on trucking as far as I can see (and I am only talking now about me — I cannot see the big picture yet)? Well right off the bat the plus is LIGHT TRAFFIC! I drove into LA the other day during rush hour. Never have seen such light traffic. I drove out in rush hour. Amazing! Never got out of LA that fast.
Am I hauling critical goods? Well I haul just about anything and everything that can be put in a box that I call my van-type refrigerated (does not have to be on when hauling dry loads) trailer. About 50 to 80 percent of the time (just estimating) I haul produce. Since this pandemic was named as such I have indeed hauled produce. But I also hauled a shipment of bottled water. The outfit where it was bottled said they had not had so much business ever (even in the heat of summer). And I hauled it to a Costco store in the LA area. Even without the pandemic and its panic buying I know Costco shoppers love their bottled water. Once I hauled a load into a Costco store in the San Francisco Bay area that had run out. People were offering to buy it off my truck before I could get to the dock. It was not mine to sell of course.
But I also in the past many days have hauled a lot of beer. Well people need beer. Most of the bars are closed but the supermarkets are open.
The sit-down restaurants at the truck stops are only offering take-out now. The drivers’ lounges are closed (but I never have time to lounge anyway, or if I do, as in waiting for a load or waiting for unload, I lounge in my truck anyway).
Have not been affected by the toilet paper shortage — yet. The trucks stops so far have it in the restrooms. I even have some at home (and since I only get home briefly, no problem — yet). Hand sanitizer? I have almost run out and cannot find any at the stores. My youngest daughter has offered me a pack of alcohol wipes — I might have to drive my truck near her place to get them.
Right now I am wondering how this stay-at-home and closed-border policy is going to affect the fruit and vegetable harvests. Not sure if there will be a shortage of labor in both the fields and packing houses. And much of my income comes from that production. I mean my company (the one I work for) hauls all kinds of stuff, but produce has been our mainstay.
Been mentioning this a lot lately, that is the fact that I am 70 and still working pretty much full time (I have been taking like two-month vacations — to Spain, which looks iffy this year, to say the least). But here it is. Because I was foolish and did not start my retirement savings till relatively late in the game, I find it necessary to work. But I think it has turned out to be a blessing for me. It keeps me healthy (possibility of infection with Covid-19 notwithstanding) and self-sufficient.
Life on the road can be very good and it can be very bad. It changes from moment to moment is seems. Yeah, the love/hate thing.
But for now I am counting my blessings.