Jeff Bessent says his truck drivers are on high alert amid reports that protesters plan to block three exits along Interstates 80 and 94 near the Illinois and Indiana border on Tuesday.
The Illinois Trucking Association stated on its Facebook page that it had received a “credible report” Tuesday morning that protesters plan to block the northbound and southbound exits at Calumet Avenue, Indianapolis Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue, just inside the Indiana border, around 4 p.m. Central on Tuesday.
Bessent, safety director for Chicago-based M&J Intermodal Inc./Eagle Intermodal Inc., said the safety department and dispatchers have been in constant communication with his 140 drivers about the planned protest.
“We are staying off the interstates as much as possible and we are watching all of the road closures that are going on and following all of the advice that the Illinois Trucking Association and the Illinois State Police are providing to us, as well as the Chicago Police Department,” Bessent told FreightWaves. “Right now, we are trying to move all of our freight as early in the morning as possible to avoid running in the afternoon and evening hours.”
Peaceful protests and civil unrest have continued to rage for eight days in many major cities, including Chicago, following the death of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The Illinois State Police is advising truckers and motorists to check its main Twitter page for interstate and exit closures. It is also sharing safety tips, including avoiding locations with active police activity and protest areas, as well as abiding by cities’ curfews.
So far, none of Besset’s drivers have experienced any run-ins with protesters.
“Our drivers are pretty dedicated to what they got to do and they know where they are going,” he said. “There are certain areas like the Norfolk Southern terminals right now we are avoiding from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. because of their location.”
Besset said that 90% of the intermodal company’s work is local, which helps his safety and dispatch teams keep track of hot spots around Chicago where looting and vandalism are occurring. The company also has terminals in New Jersey; Kansas City, Missouri; Commerce City, Colorado; and Atlanta.
“I don’t mind protests. I am all for it because I did my time in the military and fought to defend this right for everybody else,” he said. “I am just as upset by what happened to Floyd as everyone else, but I don’t support rioting and destroying property. It’s only going to make the situation worse.”