Though hoarding continues, a giving spirit bucks back

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Updated Apr 7, 2020
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Former longtime owner-operator Jeff Clark, now in a company truck with the fleet he leased to for years, Paper Transport, runs a regular route between Minneapolis and Racine, Wisconsin, and other points in his home state (he’s based near Green Bay). He’s among the many professional drivers moved by what has been, this week, an outpouring of support from in many cases anonymous individuals both inside and outside the trucking world, as truck stops adjust to keep their services open and available to truckers working the roads.

That’s a point well known, he said, by anybody trucking food, medical supplies and, in Clark’s case, the cardboard so much of those things end up in at some point. “We’re not on the front lines like the medical people are, but we’re the supply-line soldiers,” he said. No doubt.

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He was at the Love’s in Menomonie, Wisconsin, for a coffee, on Wednesday this week. It’s been a bit of a crap shoot, he said, at various points and times of day to actually be able to get coffee you don’t make yourself, given self-serve coffee stations at many truck stops have been removed in an effort to reduce the number of communal surfaces.

Wednesday, though, the counter server had plenty ready, she “gave me my coffee,” he said, and he picked up some Pop Tarts for a snack. When he went to the fuel counter to pay, staff working the register told him, “‘Well, you don’t have to pay for that.’ Somebody had made a donation, and they were paying for all the food bought at the stop” up to a certain amount, debiting a donation down right there at the register.

That’s of course not the only such example of this out there over the past week, as individuals and groups and fleet personnel in many cases on their own initiative have gotten cooking and delivered meals at scale houses, in parking lots and at terminals, or made donations like the above.

Plenty have no doubt been inspired by the story of young Logan Miller of Morgantown, W.Va., son of Mercer-leased owner-operator Jason Miller. As I was writing the piece last week about the “manageable problems” owner-operator Erick Engbarth was having relying on takeout-only options at stops around the nation, Logan, home from school as his district closed classes to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, could see those problems playing out in his community.

Last Friday, at his instigation, and using about $100 of his recent weekly allowances that he’d managed to save, Logan and his mother visited a Sam’s Club and bagged up a sizable cooler’s worth of sack lunches to deliver to truckers. One of the pro drivers he ran across at the rest area he visited that day was Joseph Graham, who also happens to operate the Hillbilly Express videography company, who’d stopped for his 30-minute break and ended up going live to Facebook with Logan with the following video. If you’re not one of the almost 1 million people who’ve already seen it… :

https://www.facebook.com/hillbillyexpressmedia/videos/217701666137296/

(Logan Miller and his father are at the I-79 SB West Virginia rest area just inside the Pennsylvania line this afternoon, Friday, March 27, from 2-5 p.m., matter of fact, if you’re headed that way and could use some grub. Logan has been back out three more times since Friday a week ago.)

As far as Sue Dreschel is concerned, we need a whole lot more of this, and a whole lot less of what she’s seeing out West in some areas, according to this report from the KUTV CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City. Namely, Dreschel said, residents’ hoarding instinct in the panic has kept her working overtime, no doubt, and consumers ought not to take such panic buying to the truck stops supporting her and every other truck driver in America. As she told the station:

Paper towels, toilet paper, the things we need. If you go and buy it there we don’t have any. We can’t find the stuff we need to sustain us out here out on the road and that’s the scary part. (Find their full report via this link.)

As Graham makes note of at the end of his video — Logan, more than most adults out there, has got it figured out. Resist the hoarding instinct and give, instead.

Though anecdotal reports of out-of-order drivers’ restrooms at some shippers and receivers have been more than a little disconcerting (c’mon, you guys), it’s certainly great to see the give-back spirit happening as much as it has.

Clark agrees. “So far, trucking during the pandemic, I have seen good things and bad things,” he wrote on LinkedIn at the end of his run Wednesday. The basic knowledge that someone cared enough to buy his pop tarts, well … here’s how he put it: “I had to wipe a tear or two from my eyes. Thank you. You made my day.”