Dave Sweetman: Trucking in the time of COVID-19

April 9, 2020

Dave Sweetman


At the time of this writing, the whole nation and most of the world is being gripped by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The media frenzy of doom and gloom and proclamations of terrors yet to come have had an incredibly negative effect on our total economy. The pandemic has reduced most people’s lives to home confinement, social distancing and watching the daily tallies from news channels.

It is difficult to believe, in such a short period of time, our daily lives would become nonproductive. Some of that is due to government mandates. Some of it is out of fear of something we have never faced before.

As I am just another truck driver, I see and hear the same health warnings as everyone else. Because of what we do, it is impossible to hunker down at home as we try to keep America supplied with necessities.

I have seen firsthand the riot conditions in the aisles as people were first fighting over toilet paper. I witnessed empty supermarket shelves that were stripped of water, paper goods and hand cleaners. I have been personally refused from buying food when the only option was a drive-thru that would not allow a walk-up customer. I get it.

What I don’t get is the fact that some states had closed rest areas and service plazas, making a tough situation tougher because trucks have fewer places to safely park as well as a lack of bathroom and shower facilities.

It seems they forgot how those necessary items get to the stores, as if truck drivers don’t need the basics. I offer major kudos to OOIDA and the many drivers and their families who contacted their elected officials and FMCSA to press many states to reopen to truckers. It has made a major difference, and there is some relief.

On the other side of the reality of our trying times, I have seen the best of human behavior and the worst. Social media came alive with how much the “public” loves us. And through the goodness of some restaurant owners’ hearts, they have offered drive-up service, delivery to the truck and, in some cases, free meals.

Some fast food places have adopted phone apps for ordering from a big rig. It shows how creative they can be to keep many of us fed. Sit-down restaurants, as well as buffets at truck stops have been closed, for obvious reasons. If you are lucky, orders at local restaurants can be placed but for takeout only.

The negatives that I have seen and heard are distressing. Some drivers seem to think that now that they have become self-proclaimed heroes that it’s all about them. Some have demanded they be fed for free because they are braving the deadly bug. I have heard it over and over, with several drivers insulting the person behind the counter. Trust me, Bubba, you are no more special than the rest of us. Pay up and move on.

And then there a few who think now is a good time to go on “strike.” I have heard the argument more than I care to, that the public needs to be reminded how important “we” are and “we” can shut this country down.

I cannot think of a more lunatic idea. The country is already shut down, and people are suffering and afraid, so anything close to that idea would make truckers appear evil and heartless. We are neither. That is shown every day by the dedication and sacrifices of truck drivers everywhere in America.

And while we are waiting our turn in line, there is still the 6-foot rule. Don’t crowd the person in front or behind you. These are different times, and it needs to be addressed with all the same caution to protect yourself and others from the virus as any public place. I have seen a few ugly confrontations because someone didn’t get the memo and, while coughing and hacking, is right on the heels of the guy in front of him in the fuel line. Six feet, people!

And cover your cough! I am 68 years old and have been through a lot in my life. If I die because I got coughed on, I am going to be cranky and will come back to haunt you.

We can and will get through this. Self-discipline, a new respect for ourselves, and an inner satisfaction that we can and do make a positive difference is a good place to start.


J.J. Keller