• ITVI.USA
    10,834.240
    82.790
    0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.900
    0.770
    5.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,828.530
    85.470
    0.8%
  • TLT.USA
    2.700
    -0.100
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.110
    4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.910
    0.050
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.250
    -0.060
    -4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.390
    0.130
    5.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.330
    0.070
    5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.750
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
  • ITVI.USA
    10,834.240
    82.790
    0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.900
    0.770
    5.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,828.530
    85.470
    0.8%
  • TLT.USA
    2.700
    -0.100
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.110
    4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.910
    0.050
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.250
    -0.060
    -4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.390
    0.130
    5.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.330
    0.070
    5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.750
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
Driver issuesNewsTrucking

Truck driver sacrifices home time to protect family amid COVID-19 pandemic

It’s been 81 days since truck driver Mike Baker has been home, but says he plans to stay out on the road until scientists give the U.S. the all-clear that the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Baker of Weymouth, Massachusetts, is headed to Georgia with 5,000 cases of Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowls. He admits it’s been a lonely few months living in his truck, but said he tries not to focus on it too much.

“Prior to COVID-19, I got home about every six weeks, but I’m well past that now,” Baker told FreightWaves. “I live in a 72-inch square space, so imagine putting all of your stuff in a small closet and living there for nearly three months. It becomes isolating after a while.”

However, he said the sacrifice is worth it.

Baker said he’s unwilling to risk his family’s health if he unknowingly has the coronavirus. He and his fiancée, Sandi Pelton, have six children combined and five grandchildren. While Baker misses them every day, it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make to keep them all safe. 

Plus, Pelton has a heart condition that puts her in a high-risk category for contracting COVID-19.

“I am just not willing to risk her [Sandi’s] health just so I can go home for a while,” Baker told FreightWaves. “She and I have already had this conversation that I’m not coming home until this is over, and right now, who knows how long that will be. But, if this is what we gotta do, it’s what we gotta do.”

Baker, who has been a truck driver since 2012, is leased on to BLC Transportation of Springfield, Missouri. He hauls refrigerated loads for another Springfield-based trucking company, Prime Inc.

He’s not alone in staying out on the road for months at a time

He said he and other truck drivers are adjusting to self-isolating in their trucks as truck stops, shippers and receivers attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While he misses his family, Baker said he doesn’t really talk about his fears or concerns with other truck drivers.

“We don’t really have heart-to-heart conversations out here,” Baker said. “Truck drivers are pretty stubborn so I doubt if anyone would really tell you they weren’t doing good.”

Since the outbreak, Baker, who is deemed essential because he hauls food, admits rates have been down, but that they are slowly picking back up. 

“Things haven’t been great, but I feel like it’s not about me right now,” Baker, a retired U.S. Air Force mechanic, said. “Some of us out here are determined to feed America or die trying.”

Baker’s fiancée, Sandi Pelton, who works in finance for State Street Corp., said she worried about his safety out on the road during “normal times,” but that her worries have heightened since the coronavirus pandemic.

“This isolation and the constant threat of potential illness is very scary for all of us, but now in this time of a potentially deadly virus, I worry even more, which I didn’t think was possible,” Pelton told FreightWaves.

She said Baker’s military experience as an Air Force veteran for 26 years, with many of those years overseas in combat zones, may actually help him cope with the loneliness and isolation many truckers are experiencing out on the road. 

“I can’t help but believe those [combat] experiences have actually helped him to be able to mentally deal with this unique situation somehow,” Pelton said.

Relatively new to the trucking world, Pelton said that prior to the pandemic, she loved going out in the truck with Baker when possible.

“I’ve worked in finance for 26 years, so trucking is a 180-degree life from mine,” she said. “It’s been an adventure.”

Mike Baker and his fiancée, Sandi Pelton, knew each other in high school, but never dated. They reconnected 35 years later and have been together since 2017. Photo: Sandi Pelton

How they met

Pelton said she and Baker were “sweet on each other in high school” but never officially dated. When he left to join the U.S. Air Force after high school, she still had two years left to go.

While both went on to marry other people, Pelton said they reconnected via Facebook 35 years later in 2017 after both were divorced. 

“Mike said he was going to be swinging into town to get his license renewed and asked me if I’d like to meet for coffee and catch up on the last 35 years,” Pelton said. “We went out for coffee and filled each other in on our lives and it grew from there. We’ve been together ever since.”

While Pelton said she is grateful she has a job that allows her to work from home during this pandemic, she worries about finances given the volatility of the freight market.

“Isolated here at home, handling our finances, working my own stressful finance career, caring for the house and the challenges of being in lockdown, have been quite a challenge these last several weeks,” she said. “I have health issues that put me in the ‘at-risk’ population so we need to be very careful about exposure. I know Mike worries about me as well.” 

Baker said some truck stops are now selling personal protective equipment, including face masks and hand sanitizer, but that they are not cheap.

“A case of masks costs around $50,” Baker said. “I have bandanas in my truck so I use them to cover my face if needed.”

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and Trucks.com. Clarissa lives in the Kansas City area with her family. If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to chawes@freightwaves.com.

4 Comments

  1. Mike…. I’ve been doing the same thing. Wife has Lupus and is recovering from cancer. Her auto-immune system is completely crashed. Last time I was home was Dec.28th. Planned on going home in March, but that’s where it all changed. Stay strong.

  2. I really like your article. It’s evident that you have a lot knowledge on this topic. Your points are well made and relatable. Thanks for writing engaging and interesting material.

  3. There are alot of men and woman on the roads hauling food, medicine,everyday essentials for our country can live I’m a truckers wife I’ve had the luxury of being able to go on the road with him I have been to 47 of our states I have seen it all. My complaint is there isn’t enough parking for our truckers when there day is at end they want to be able to park there truck safely take there showers and go to bed in peace and not in fear of being attacked by some idiot who wants to rob them I was told a story of a couple that were driving for yrs and we’re set to retire it was there last load out and they were done for the night went to bed and never woke up they were poisoned while they lay in there truck at a truck stop with ether they were robbed and left to rot this story has affected me my heart was heavy with emotions I still think of them and cry I never meet them.i thought of all the truckers on the road how fear must of consummed them when the word traveled I’m sure at night when they lay down I know for months before we went to sleep I made sure doors locked windows up made sure to be aware of our surroundings as we pulled in to a truck stop I was like a detective made sure there wasn’t anybody that shouldn’t be in our area out of character the reason I’m writing this is because today our truckers aren’t looking out for each other there’s no communication the cb radios are a thing of the past if you do hear someone talking its usually to fight with another trucker all I’m trying to say here is you all have a job to do your job isn’t more important than the next trucker be kind curtous and watch out for your fellow trucker I have alot to say on this subject but will give it a rest be safe

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