Truckers keep goods moving despite coronavirus pandemic

Published 7:39 am Sunday, March 29, 2020

Driving a tractor-trailer rig across country is already a high-anxiety job, veteran trucker Cid Gardner said, but the coronavirus is making it a little more difficult in some respects.

While he’s always cautious, the Shoals resident said he’s a little more concerned about safety these days.

“It’s on my mind all the time,” he said. “It inhibits my rest sometimes.”

Food is readily available at truck stops, Gardner said, but it’s mostly fast food. A good “meat and three” style buffet can cost $16.99 if you can find it. Mom and pop truck stops, he said, are all but gone.

Fortunately, Gardner usually buys his own groceries for his cross-country run.

He and other truck drivers said diesel fuel is readily available as truck stops are remaining open.

Fuel is also less expensive than it was just a couple weeks ago.

Richard Bevis, a truck driver who lives on LaGrange Mountain, said he recently paid $2.14 a gallon for diesel that he paid $3.19 for a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, he’s having to pay $3.75 for a gallon of water that he used to buy for 98 cents.
Gardner said he’s seen that same gallon of water selling for $5.99 a gallon a some large corporate truck stops.

“I’ve seen price gouging on water,” he said.

Bevis said finding food is not a problem, but there is no inside dining. Ordering food from a fast food restaurant can be a challenge because big rigs cannot navigate a drive-thru, and they prohibit people from walking up to order food from the drive-thru window.

Police and individuals have been helping truck drivers get food from the drive-through, and Bevis said some restaurants will bring you a take-out order if you call it in.

Bevis said he is skeptical about the whole response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

David Woolston, a truck driver from St. Louis, Missouri, said he’s noticed a difference in attitudes from the southern U.S. to states like Missouri and Illinois.

“I’ve noticed that down South, everything is a little more open than it is up north,” Woolston said. “Everyone is staying at home in St. Louis. Everything down here seems to be pretty much open for the most part.”

He said rest stops in West Memphis, Arkansas, were open.

Woolston said a Krystal in West Memphis let him order food from a drive-thru window, but most restaurants are “grab and go.”

He said all the major truck stops are open.

Woolston said he’s being cautious on the road. He was wearing a pair of green plastic gloves.

“I’ve got my gloves when I go into the truck stop, and I’ve got my hand sanitizer,” he said.

Justin Arnold, of Arnold’s Truck Stop in Tuscumbia, said he was not having a problem getting fuel.

Business was brisk there Monday, and Arnold said trucks are continuing to run.

“Things are still kicking along as normal,” he said.

Local truck driver Scott Johns said from what he’s hearing, truck stops will remain open to provide fuel and food to drivers.