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Supply Chain News: Truck Drivers Really are the New First Responders in the Virus Crisis Era


New York Times Profiles Driver Ingrid Brown, who is Driven to Deliver, Despite Various Industry and Personal Challenges

Arpril 22, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

An article in the Washington Gazette two weeks ago described the nation's truck drivers as the "new first responders."

That's because if it wasn't for having enough truckers, operating now in very tough and actually dangerous times, the still generally well stocked grocery stores shelves would soon by empty, causing panic.

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One luxury hotel in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, offered to house truckers for free, so they could have a comfortable place to sleep outside of the cramped quarters of their truck cabs.

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An interesting article in the New York Times this week profiling one trucker (a 58-year old grandmother) shows just how challenging the job is right now – and what a different breed drivers really are.

The Times article profiled Ingrid Brown, who mostly hauls           food products literally coast to coast. It turns out she is reasonably well-known, making occasional interviews on cable news shows as an advocate for drivers generally and women truckers in particular.

She has few weapons in her effort to remain virus-free. The Times piece says she can't easily find masks or disinfectant supplies to wipe down her truck.

"We're going into this naked," Brown said in a phone interview with the Times, as she drove through Missouri. "We are running through a fire with a pair of gasoline pants on. That's what's happening. Drivers have no protection."

As someone who is in regular contact with people across the country, she says, she could become a carrier and infect many others.

Brown also worries that she could fall ill, thousands of miles from home – and is especially at risk from battling skin cancer.

Even so, Brown has no plans to go home anytime soon. She loves trucking, and "America moves by truck," she says – echoing an actual campaign in the trucking industry called "Trucking Moves America Forward."

Brown has been driving trucks for some 40 years. When she's not on the road, she FaceTimes with her grandchildren and advocates safe working conditions and better opportunities for truckers.

She also advocates for safe conditions for women truckers, such as better lighting and surveillance cameras at truck stops, and seat belts made for women's bodies.

The Times article says that she's in touch with a network of colleagues across the country to navigate the health risks and find safe places to eat, shop, use the restroom and shower.

The Coronavirus, as we reported elsewhere, certainly makes the job harder. For one, loads are no longer predictable. Orders for essential items like medical goods and food have skyrocketed in recent weeks to keep up with demand, while other shipments have been canceled as stores, hotels and restaurants are closed.

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The new challenges include difficulty in finding meals and supplies. Many restaurants are closed. Truck stops are running out of certain goods, and truckers can't easily pull into parking lots even at big box retailers to buy essentials if there isn't designated truck parking area. Even if they can, Brown says, coveted items, such as Clorox wipes, are usually out of stock.

But there is more positive news. Many hotels, other businesses that rely on truckers, and even individuals have been stepping up to help feed and house truckers.

One luxury hotel in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, offered to house truckers for free, so they could have a comfortable place to sleep outside of the cramped quarters of their truck cabs. "How blessed this is," Brown said.

But in the end, Brown cancelled the reservation.

Why? Brown didn't want to infect the manager and his family, or the hotel and cleaning staff, if she was unknowingly an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus.

"If I don't protect y'all by protecting myself," she said, "this is not going to stop."

And Ingrid Brown the trucker keeps on truckin' – bringing food to the pantries of tens of thousands of consumers each week.

Are truckers the new first responders? What do you think of Ingrid Brown? Wil Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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