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June 22, 2020 9:15 AM, EDT

Drivers for U.S. Xpress Discuss Life on the Road During Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. XpressA U.S. Xpress truck. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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Truck drivers and those they encounter daily have worked together and remained positive while navigating the challenges inherent in doing their jobs in the COVID-19 era, several drivers recently said.

“I think people are nicer to each other,” said Erin Evans, a driver for U.S. Xpress, during an online panel discussion. “COVID-19 affects all of us the exact same way in regards to closing things down and limiting what we’re normally used to. I feel drivers are being a little bit more patient with each other. It is more of a family feeling.”

The discussion was part of a series of virtual events the carrier is hosting to cover topics ranging from daily operations to emerging technologies. Drivers from the company featured in this session, which was held June 18, discussed steps being taken to help drivers manage the challenges, reduce wait times and work to limit health risks while on the road.

U.S. Xpress ranks No. 24 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America. 

Company driver Jerry Martin said staff and others he encounters at truck stops have been kind to drivers during the pandemic. “They’ve been very nice, more receptive, trying to help you out more,” he said. “I had one lady recently buy me food.” Martin added that he’s hopeful this wave of appreciation for drivers lasts past the pandemic.

Driver Wayne Roy noted that some facilities are taking precautions and adding steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We were getting temperature checks at a few locations,” he said. “In some of the locations it took a little bit longer to get in because they were limiting the number of trucks.” Roy added that he doesn’t view the slowdowns these steps cause negatively, as they’re intended to keep local employees and the drivers safe.

Martin noted that, in some cases, the extra precautions inherent in operating during the pandemic are causing delays — he’s seen upward of 40 trucks lined up in some cases. “I’ve seen a lot of regional and dedicated drivers and [over the road] drivers — they’re in long lines.”

However, he’s also seen some facilities adopt streamlining processes to move goods along.

“The customer I’ve been going to lately … and a few others — it’s been way more efficient getting in and out,” Martin said. “Instead of it being four or six drivers in a line trying to get to the window, now they have a digital system.” He noted that this system will print out a receipt for drivers that provides information such as where to pick up a trailer.

Martin also pointed to the change brought about by how much more cautious and mindful everyone must be. While he noted that people were more on edge during the earlier days of the pandemic, things have calmed down. “You would see people walking around, waiting in the parking lot,” he said. “You were more guarded at that point in time. I was a little bit more nervous.”

But on the whole, Martin noted, those on trucking’s front lines have learned to adapt.

“Being around a lot of different people and having to be more safe, more cautious, more aware of things that are around you,” Martin said. “You’re not able to shake someone’s hand or get too close to say, ‘Thank you.’ You have to do everything at a distance. It’s been a big change.”

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