“Supply chain” is one of the phrases that’s frequently been tossed around in the last couple of weeks as the country hunkers down to try and stave off the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, many local trucking companies and truckers are playing big roles as key links in that supply chain.
Keeping food and other items moving during the crisis is important for families that need groceries, and businesses that need supplies in order to keep the economy from tanking.
Houston Tank Services, located at 3210 Hwy. 641 north of Paris, is one of the trucking firms in Henry County freight and food products.
Scott Clifton, a dispatcher and freight broker at Houston Tank Services, said the effect of the coronavirus hasn’t been huge on his company, which has nearly 50 employees, so far.
“We’ve had to do some re-routing for the truckers,” Clifton said. “Our drivers are running into some situations where they might see a truck stop, but it’s closed and they can’t get fuel.
“Or, they might be able to stop and get fuel but they’re not allowed to go in. And, there’s some places where they can go in, but they can’t get food.”
Clifton said the company does haul some paper products and those have to be handled with care since the virus apparently spreads easily through paper.
The company does a lot of business with Pella Windows & Doors. It also frequently hauls items to McCartney Produce Co., which is based in Paris.
“We might have a truck full of potatoes coming from Idaho. They’re driven into Memphis or Nashville, and we pick them up there and bring them to McCartney,” he said.
McCARTNEY FEELS SLOWDOWN
While things might be running smoothly for Houston Tank Services, McCartney itself has had some slight issues.
Don Bush, vice president and CEO at McCartney, said the major effect of the pandemic for his company is because its items are typically perishable.
The closing of restaurants or the limiting of restaurants to take-out only, and the resulting loss of business for them, has trickled down to McCartney.
The company receives shipments of produce from all over the country and then reships to its customers.
“But with the loss of those food services, we’ve had to deal with products that are in danger of going out of date,” Bush said.
He said McCartney had donated some excess product to the Paris-Henry County Food Bank.
Safety precautions have been amped up at the company’s building at 459 Culley Drive, too.
“Our guys are sanitizing at the gate, and we are regularly sanitizing the door knobs and door handles in the building,” Bush said. “All our trucks are getting thoroughly cleaned every night, too, before anyone touches them the next day.”
DIFFERENT PROCESS FOR TRUCKERS
Hot Shot Freight & Service, 3025 Dinkins Lane in Paris, delivers primarily general freight rather than food or grocery supplies, but its drivers are also facing the new normal when it comes to making deliveries.
Steve Barrow, Hot Shot’s president, said his company delivers a lot of automotive supplies.
“Any place you’re delivering now, it’s more of a process to go through for our truckers,” Barrow said.
“When the driver gets to where he’s going, some places won’t even let them out of the truck. They unload the freight themselves, then they just hand the forms, like proof of delivery forms, to the guys through the cab window.”
As the country continues to deal with the outbreak, the truckers are among those unsung heroes who are risking their own personal health and doing the hard work that keeps that supply chain moving.
The public has responded with acts of kindness toward them. In Oklahoma City, a local company provided truck drivers with a “grab-and-go” sack lunch featuring a submarine sandwich, water and chips. Company executives held signs up near an interstate highway there, encouraging truckers to take a break and enjoy the complimentary meal.
In Washington state, a public high school was opened up as a rest area for truckers along Interstate 5 there.
And, a driver for Werner Enterprises in Omaha, Neb., got to the end of his route to make a delivery at a store in the Southeast this week. He told his boss, Derek Leathers, that “it felt like when a pilot lands a plane perfectly, and everybody applauds for the pilot.”
“Well, nobody does that for truck drivers,” Leathers said, “but he got a round of applause when he pulled up to the store … said it felt really special.”