Random acts of kindness toward truckers abundant during Covid-19 response
what it's like to haul critical supplies during a pandemic
Washington, DC (CNN)The US is counting on truck drivers to help ensure shelves remain stocked as Americans load up on things like toilet paper and canned goods amid the coronavirus pandemic.
CNN Business spoke with several truck drivers about their recent experiences. Many said they're working under trying circumstances that include longer hours, crowded truck stops, difficulties finding food, as well as health and safety concerns. Still, they said they're energized by the challenge and thankful for the gratitude they are receiving from their fellow Americans.
Here's what they had to say:
(The following has been edited for clarity)
The 41 years I've driven, I've never seen the truck traffic, it's incredible. Places at night, trying to get parked. The other day I didn't want to stop because it was so packed. People were lined up on the off ramp, sleeping right there. They couldn't even get into the truck stop.
It's getting hard to even get a sandwich in the past week, with states closing down restaurants. I thought that was insanity. They're doing takeout, at least they have that.
There's a restaurant that I always call ahead to so they'll have it ready. This time, they asked me if I could sit out in my truck. They brought it right to my truck. That was a first.
The other day I went to Burger King in Kingman, Arizona. My truck doesn't fit through the drive-through so I stood in the drive-through. I made my order walking between the cars and they looked at me like I was some kind of crazy guy.
The lady said, 'This is a drive-up.' And I said, 'Yeah, but I can't drive my semi.' She just kind of chuckled, and said 'We don't usually do this.' I said 'You're going to have to start, because we got to eat.' They didn't give me a hard time.
Based out of: Crossville Tennessee
Drives for: A FedEx contractor
I'm a little bit nervous [that I've been exposed].
It's definitely scary. When I go home off the road, I live with my grandparents. I'm afraid to go home and transport it to them.
Truckers aren't health care workers and we're not anybody special. We just have to keep working because, what else are we going to do right now? And people need their toilet paper.
Based out of: Greenville Missouri
Drives for: Prime, Inc.
We've been a little bit more obsessive about hand cleaning and sanitizer. Because you just don't know. It's business as usual, with the acknowledgment we have to be super, super careful about hygiene.
It's already using hand sanitizer before we walk into the truck stop. Or we have gloves on. We're not touching surfaces right now. I'm trying not to touch buttons. When we're at the fuel island [to fill up] we're using a pen versus actually touching that surface.
People are kinder now. My husband, who I drive with, took $70 into a Walmart Thursday to get what he needed. When he went up to the counter to ring everything up, it came to $78. This lady behind him gave him extra [money] to pay for what he needed to get. I realized that was human kindness at work on our behalf as drivers. She didn't have to do that. He could've came out to the truck, got the ATM card and covered everything, but she didn't waste any hesitation in giving him that extra money.
Based out of: Houston, Texas
Drives for: Jetco Delivery
I just dropped a full trailer loaded with milk. As a father, I got kids at home. I would feel bad if my family doesn't have whatever they need. Right now I feel proud, I feel good because somehow we're helping the community to make sure that they get whatever they need in their homes.
Honestly, I don't feel tired. I just feel excited. What's happening now is impacting every family across the nation. I got friends that are driving from state to state. Everyone is doing their part.
Based out of: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Drives for: Walmart
You always pay attention to who is following you. With all the stuff that's happening, now we really have to pay attention.
I talked to a driver last week who had somebody come up alongside him and blow on the horn and asked him to roll down his window. They wanted to know if he had toilet paper, as he's driving down the road.
You don't know how desperate people are. People do different things that they would never do when they need something really bad.
Most of the time, we don't have a clue what's in our trucks. Even if we do know, we don't tell. You don't know what that person is going to do, how that person's going to react. In these times, we have to step up our game.
In 39 years, I don't recall ever being thanked for just being a truck driver before. I appreciate being thanked for a change. I hope that it's not just during this time and when it goes away, we're back to just being in everybody's way again.
We make sure everybody has what they need everyday, and do it as safely as possible and in a timely manner.
During a global crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, the good in humanity shines brighter than the cruel, and in the trucking industry, that could not be more evident than it is now.
Across Western Canada and beyond, businesses and individuals have been going above and beyond with “acts of kindness” toward an industry that has stepped up to the plate and literally “delivered” during this time of uncertainty.
In fact, there are almost too many examples to include in one story. But we will attempt to do this feel-good story justice and show how love and appreciation for the industry has grown, as we and many others #ThankATrucker for all they do.
• Dean Stanton owns the Subway at 640 Sterling Lyon Parkway in Winnipeg, which has large parking lots around the restaurant. “We are set up for remote online ordering through the Subway app, so meals can be prepared and ready to go. Our bathrooms are open to our customers and are cleaned and sanitized many times throughout the day, as I know drivers need a place to wash before eating.” • Big Freight Systems is housing sanitizer products for the Manitoba Trucking Association to distribute to its members. • Fat Panda Vape Shop is providing material to bottle sanitizer for truck drivers. • Dayna Robbie and her parents stood on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway clapping and cheering for truckers passing by “as a way to say thank you for all they’re doing during Covid-19. • The Morris Stampede Inn in Morris is allowing truck drivers to come in for one hour free for a hot shower and rest. • Flying J in Headingley is handing out free vegetarian meals on April 4 starting at 10:45 a.m. until the food runs out. • McDonald’s locations across the country are making access to food easier for drivers by including in its My McD’s app an option to order ahead of time and have delivery curbside for truckers. • The Carberry Motor Inn in Carberry is offering drivers rooms to shower, and has take-out service from its restaurant. • From April 7-9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Maxim Truck and Trailer in Brandon will be thanking truck drivers traveling the Trans-Canada Highway with free meals.
• KFC in Estevan, Weyburn, and Moosomin all have special deals only for truck drivers. • Lucky Bastard Distillers out of Saskatoon delivered six large bottles of hand sanitizer to the Saskatchewan Trucking Association office to hand out to truck drivers. • No. 1 Scoop Ice Cream Hut, a restaurant in Tompkins along the Trans-Canada Highway that serves a variety of food, is opening early just for truck drivers. They are offering truck parking and call-ahead ordering, and driver can pick up their food at the walk-up window. • Across Canada, Sandman Hotels are offering special discounted rates for truck drivers. • Western Star Inn and Suites is offering truck drivers a hot shower, free breakfast, wi-fi, and welcoming them to come in and just enjoy a coffee and light snack if they wish, 24 hours a day. Locations in the province taking part include Estevan, Carnduff, Melita, Stoughton, Carlyle, Esterhazy, Redvers, Regina (Hampton Inn and Suites), and North Battleford (Holiday Inn Express). • Quality Inn and Suites on Diefenbaker Drive is offering drivers a place to stop for a washroom break and a free to-go breakfast, and they can stop by any time during the day. “We wish to thank you for your service and commitment during this difficult time. We care and are committed to help in any way possible during your travels through this great country of ours.
• Calgary’s Dashmesh Cultural Centre is handing out around 100 free vegetarian meals to truck drivers per day with three drop-off and delivery points (Husky Truck Stop on Barlow/32nd Ave. N.E., Road King Truck Stop in S.E. Calgary, and Petro Pass Truck Stop on Country Hill Blvd. N.E.). • Diamond International Trucks hosted three events from April 1-5 handing out free meals to truck drivers in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Chilliwack. • Super 8 Edmonton International Airport in Leduc is providing drivers with two hours of access to a room to shower, do laundry (with soap and fabric softener provided) and access to mixed breakfast items for $25. • All sites of the Ultramar/Pipeline cardlock network are open with showers and washrooms available. Truckers can enjoy 25% off food, drinks, and snacks at participating locations. Truckers can show their Pipeline card at participating locations to receive the discount. This offer is available until May 31.
• Lisa’s Lakehouse in Christina Lake closed and reopened as a truck stop with its drive-thru window open for the first time to feed truckers, first responders, and any essential worker. Their washroom is also available and there is enough space for about five semi-trucks to park overnight on the property. (See the rest of the story below). • The Dairy Queen at 3190 Island Highway North Hwy in Nanaimo is giving all truckers a 50% discount on all regular priced items. • The Town of Sidney is blocking off a large portion of its downtown parking for out-of-town truck drivers only. • A group from Kamloops organized food trucks to visit various cardlock locations in B.C. so drivers have better access to food. Portable washrooms were also set up.
• A group Food Trucks Feeding Truckers During Covid-19 launched to get more food trucks active in increasing access to food for drivers. • In Quebec, Groupe Robin, is offering a free half-hour stay for truck drivers at one of three Holiday Inn and Suites locations in Saint-Hyacinthe, Trois-Rivieres, and Vaudreuil-Dorion for a shower and restroom break. • Irving Oil is offering free grab-and-go breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and complementary hot showers with any fuel purchase at various locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario and the state of Maine. • Best Western Plus Hotel and Suites in Dartmouth, N.S., offering a half-hour free access to a room so drivers can have a shower. • Stayner Home Hardware on Hwy 26 in Stayner, Ont., has closed, but is keeping its doors open to truck drivers who are looking for a washroom, a place to rest, a snack, or coffee. “We want you to know that if you need a place to stop, a washroom, or a candy bar, we are here for you. We will put our store on hold so that you have a few safe moments outside of your truck.” Gravenhurst Home Hardware is doing the same. • Tim Hortons is opening 400 of its locations near major Canadian highways to truck drivers only for washroom use and front counter service. • Eddy’s Restaurant in South Brook, N.L., gave out free meals to truck drivers today (April 3). • Aulac Big Stop Restaurant in New Brunswick is handing out free breakfast to drivers until 11 a.m. • Generations Diner in Windsor, Ont., transformed into a mobile diner and provided free meals to truck drivers April 1-2 doing its part “feeding our forgotten heroes.” • At many of its locations in Canada, A&W is allowing truck drivers to walk through their drive-thru service to get food. • Starting today (April 3), Jean’s (Nita’s Bar and Grill) in Moncton, N.B., will hand out free coffee to truck drivers who pull into their parking lot. • Walmart in Niagara Falls, Ont., gave its truck drivers a to-go appreciation bag filled with snacks and other surprises thanking them for the work they do. • The Iron Rooster Rotisserie and Grill in Marmora, Ont., is giving truck drivers passing by free homemade burgers and coffee, as well as a large parking area to rest. They are open Tuesday-Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. • Jeremy’s Truck Stop at Nairn Centre, Ont., just west of Sudbury, is offering drivers and first responders one free meal per day, with a different selection Monday-Friday. • ONroute will offer free coffee to truck drivers April 8.
As you can see, so many are stepping up and doing what they can to help drivers across the country.
Lisa Smith of Lisa’s Lakehouse in Christina Lake, B.C., is a perfect example of how one person can help those in the trucking industry and beyond.
Answering a phone call from Today’s Trucking, Smith was right in the middle of cooking a ham and cheese grilled sandwich for a truck driver, but took the time to quickly chat about why she continues to serve those in the industry.
“I took a stand and sent a message. We were getting nailed and I had to lay off all my staff on day two,” Smith said, referring to when she was forced to close her doors to customers two weeks ago. “I made the call and thought that those are the people we need to feed, those are the ones on the road.”
Smith lives in an apartment right above the restaurant, so she is able to safely continue running the drive-thru service at Lisa’s Lakehouse without having to leave the building.
Smith opens from 9 a.m. until it gets dark, six days a week, closed Sunday, and even gives out her personal cellphone number to drivers and workers if they want to call ahead and place an order.
Smith has always been about serving up local comfort foods, and says she will whip up anything drivers want, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner items, with burgers and fish and chips being two of the most popular selections.
Until today (April 3), Smith was running the entire operation on her own, but because word got out quickly of what she was doing, and business picked up, she is getting another person to help with the drive-thru service.
Smith also offers up her parking lot for truck drivers to rest overnight, saying the space can hold around five truck and trailers, and even allows drivers to come in and use the washroom if they need.
“I’ve even been giving out free coffee to the truckers,” said Smith, “though some won’t accept it.”
CIRCLEVILLE - A small act of kindness at a Circleville Wendy's inspired a viral video recently when Justin Martin, a truck driver from Ontario, was looking for a meal at the end of a long day of driving on a route from Canada to North Carolina.
Martin hauls sanitary products such as toilet paper.
When Martin arrived in Circleville the night of March 23, it was around 10 p.m., and due to the COVID-19 epidemic, stores were closing for the night.
Martin saw that a Wendy's might be open, and walked up to the window to find out. The girl at the counter told him they were closed, but then went to get her manager, Zach Meadows.
Meadows, a criminal justice student at OUC, threw together a meal consisting of chicken tenders, fries, and a drink, and refused to let Martin pay. This touched Martin, as he said he may not have been able to eat for the night without that small act of kindness.
"That was honestly about the only place I had a chance of getting a bite to eat that night," said Martin. "I wouldn't have died if I didn't eat, but it sure was nice. And he knew I was a truck driver, so I knew that he did it because he knows the situation we're in right now. When I left, he said, stay safe and healthy and he was just the best."
Martin then filmed himself in his truck to tell his story and express his gratitude to Meadows and the Circleville Wendy's. He posted the video to his Facebook page where it has received more than 16,000 shares.
Son of trucker opens free 400-space lot along I-44 in Missouri
“It’s a tough life, I know it was hard on my dad, and I want to make it a little easier for truck drivers right now,” said Missouri businessman Bob Mericle of Bob’s Parking. He's offering free parking during the pandemic.
As truck drivers continue to haul essential goods across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, Missouri businessman Bob Mericle says he wants to do his part by offering free truck parking at his 15-acre, 400-space lot.
Mericle opened Bob’s Parking on Interstate 44 at Exit 88 in Strafford, Missouri, two months ago. He said his lot is fenced, well-lit and has high-definition security cameras. The only drawback: There’s only one port-a-potty onsite right now as rain delays have pushed back the date to pour the foundation for permanent restroom facilities. Also, while there’s no food at the site, it is easily accessible just two miles away.
“Truck drivers are great people and are very unappreciated — they deserve a safe place to park for the night,” Mericle told FreightWaves on Monday.
And he should know.
His dad, Ray Mericle, was a 40-year trucking veteran, who drove for well-known carriers like Pacific Intermountain Express (PIE) and Southern Pacific Transportation Co. that old-school truckers would recognize.
As he got older, Mericle said, he traveled some with his dad, back in the days when trucks had no power steering, air conditioning or automatic transmissions.
“It’s a tough life, I know it was hard on my dad, and I want to make it a little easier for truck drivers right now,” he told FreightWaves.
Mericle said he decided to open a truck parking lot after selling his eight Waffle House restaurants in southern Missouri, including two sites that offered truck parking.
“After about two weeks of retirement, I was ready to go nuts, so I decided to do something new,” he said.
As consumers continue to find grocery shelves empty and hospitals and health care companies call for more critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment, the demand for trucks to haul these essential goods has risen.
However, Mericle said some nearby truck stops are unable to handle the volume of trucks on a nightly basis as spaces fill up by 6 p.m. along I-44, a major trucking corridor. The overflow of trucks are forced to park along the edge of the road, which isn’t safe for drivers or motorists, he said.
He’s working to get his company’s name out there as a safe place to park but admits it’s been tough as some truck drivers tend to stick to their routines and go to the places they are familiar with despite the parking woes they encounter.
eserved parking at two nearby major truck stop chains can run around $18 per night, but Mericle said truck parking spaces at his lot will remain free until the pandemic is over, then he will charge $10 per night for spots at Bob’s Parking. He also rents spaces on a monthly basis.
“Truck drivers are our foundation and if we didn’t have them, where would we be?” he said. “These drivers are good people who just want to make a living. They really are our heroes right now.”