Trucks continue moving products amid COVID-19 despite challenges

Posted 4/3/20

BEAR CREEK — As the state of North Carolina begins to “stay at home” as ordered by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper last week, trucks and truck drivers are continuing their work to keep the supply chains …

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Trucks continue moving products amid COVID-19 despite challenges

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Posted

BEAR CREEK — As the state of North Carolina begins to “stay at home” as ordered by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper last week, trucks and truck drivers are continuing their work to keep the supply chains moving — even as they face their own unique set of challenges.

Jeff Wilson, president of Wilson Brothers Trucking in Bear Creek, said that his business is continuing its work, with more demand to cover expanding needs of shippers.

Wilson Brothers Trucking, which has been serving transportation needs for more than 70 years, handles mostly animal agriculture such as poultry, livestock, swine and dairy delivered locally and regionally. About 15 percent of the business’ work is freight.

As more businesses are either closing or changing practices in the face of COVID-19, truck drivers are having difficulty in accessing food and restrooms while traveling while still dealing with the struggles each North Carolina family is facing at this time.

With restaurants serving only by way of drive-thru and take-out only options, truckers are sometimes left out — commercial vehicles cannot go through drive-thrus and many truck stops are closing their restaurants as well, according to Wilson.

“Parking a commercial vehicle is always a struggle,” Wilson said. “But it’s more challenging now.”

Truck drivers are required to take 10-hour breaks when on the road. Often they will use rest areas to park, sleep and use the restrooms. But Wilson said because many rest stops are being closed, truck drivers are having a harder time finding a place to do that.

“Even locally, at markets where you can purchase fuel, you can go inside, but a lot of the restrooms are closed,” Wilson said. “I understand why, but it’s making it hard on our drivers.”

According to the North Carolina Trucking Association, 85.6 percent of North Carolina communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods. With a workforce vital for the supply chain, Wilson said that the “health and well-being” of his employees is a “number one priority.”

“They are out and with the public,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of customers that are minimizing contract with the drivers, allowing them to stay in their trucks while things are loaded or unloaded.”

Wilson noted his drivers, in addition to the work challenges, are also facing the stresses most of us are familiar with at home.

“Kids are at home, doing schoolwork,” Wilson said. “We’ve had to be flexible to let them work different times around childcare. And getting supplies is hard for everyone; you can’t just make one trip. We’re all facing that. [Our drivers] have additional rigors compounded.”

Wilson said he was grateful to have work for his employees and continues to seek out additional qualified drivers to help meet the demands.

“Transportation is a vital part of everything we touch or use,” Wilson said. “When we feed our families, clothe our families, those physical pieces or some part are transported on a truck at some time. Without that part of our infrastructure, we don’t have that flexibility. It’s part of our day to day economy.”

As the more and more people are staying at home, Wilson’s team will be on the roads.

“We look at our employees as our most important asset,” Wilson said. “I expect my workforce to respect each other and the public. I hope the public understands the challenges and is courteous on the road. None of us are perfect. We all have room to improve and that’s something we should strive for every day.”

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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