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Truckers risk exposure to coronavirus to deliver critical medical and food supplies

“When this pandemic is over, I hope truckers who were a huge part of keeping America moving and the shelves stocked realize they have achieved hero status in my book,” said Deb LaBree.

Truck drivers work around-the-clock to deliver essential medical supplies and food as coronavirus cases rise. Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves.

As medical professionals and public health officials work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, truck drivers are also working around-the-clock to deliver critical medical supplies, food and other essentials to hospitals and grocery stores nationwide.

Deb LaBree and her husband, Del, of Joplin, Missouri, haul vital medical supplies to hospitals. They are independent owner-operators, who own Castle Transport LLC, and are leased to Landstar. They typically run from Colorado to the East Coast.

Deb LaBree considers truckers “unsung heroes” who rally in times of crisis to get the job done, even if it means putting their health at risk.

“We got into trucking 13 years ago, and specifically the pharmaceutical division, to help people in times like this because we know they need their medication,” she told FreightWaves.

Deb LaBree said she’s not on the “panic wagon” yet but understands the importance of remaining healthy to deliver medicine to help those affected by the coronavirus, which is now a global pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

As of Friday, more than 2,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus, resulting in 41 deaths in the U.S., according to an NBC report.

“We haul medicine that has to move no matter what,” she said. “No, we can’t quarantine ourselves 100%, but we have always been conscientious of sanitary practices — but we are even more so now.”

The LaBrees constantly wipe down the steering wheel with Clorox wipes and use hand sanitizer after using touch screens at the fuel pumps or touching other metal surfaces. They are also trying to stay more “self-contained” in their truck by eating meals they prepared at home.

“Instead of gabbing with other drivers while waiting on our paperwork, we are kind of quarantining ourselves in the truck right now,” Deb LaBree said. “Not having that face-to-face contact is lonely but necessary because we haul emergency supplies.”

Some drivers told FreightWaves they have been asked to fill out visitor health assessment forms at shippers and receivers, inquiring whether they have traveled out of the country, have flu-like systems, and if they or someone they know has been quarantined because of the coronavirus.

Drivers also reported they weren’t allowed on docks at certain facilities after new procedures were put in place this week.

Late Friday, Ingrid Brown, a 40-year trucking veteran from Zionville, North Carolina, stopped at a truck stop on her way to Florida and walked to a nearby fast food joint to grab a burger.

She said she quickly left the restaurant without her food.

“I watched this cashier take money from a customer, hand back his change then walk over and make two ice cream cones without any gloves,” Brown told FreightWaves. “I was like, ‘Nope, I can’t do that’ and walked back and ate peanut butter with a spoon in my truck.”

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges those at serious risk for contracting the airborne virus to stay home, that isn’t an option for Brown, who has miles to drive, loads to deliver and bills to pay. 

Since she was diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, she said she worries constantly about what this highly contagious virus could do to her already weakened immune system. She’s had eight surgeries to remove cancerous spots from her throat, side, face and leg in the past three years and also has battled pneumonia and pleurisy four times during that time.

The CDC urges people to keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and avoid crowds as much as possible. However, Brown said she has no way to know if others in the supply chain or at truck stops, rest areas or fast food restaurants where she stops may unknowingly have the coronavirus. Symptoms may appear between two and 14 days after exposure, the CDC said.

“I am 100% exposed with no bubble and I don’t want to put my immune system in jeopardy,” she told FreightWaves. “Truck drivers don’t get the privilege of working from home, so we still have to interact with the public. How are we to know if they’ve traveled out of the country recently or may have come in contact with the virus or how often they wash their hands.”

Some drivers expressed sanitary concerns about food buffets and roller grills remaining open at truck stops and convenience stores until the virus is contained. Questions about truck stops’ sanitation protocols for disinfecting their showers and restrooms have also been raised.

On Friday, both Pilot Co. and TravelCenters of America issued statements about preventative measures the companies are taking to keep truck drivers and motorists from possibly contracting the coronavirus.

“We are communicating to our team members the importance of staying home when sick and will continue to follow the advice of global and local health authorities as the situation evolves,” a spokesperson at Pilot Co. told FreightWaves. 

Pilot said its procedures include consistent cleaning of dining tables and food contact surfaces using food-grade sanitizer; frequent cleaning of restrooms and commonly used areas with disinfectant; cleaning showers after each use with degreaser, disinfectant and floor cleaner; and washing guest towels separately from service towels after each use.

“In addition, we provide hand sanitizer dispensers for public use near the restrooms at our locations and have implemented a fresh cup policy for all refills including using a new cup to pour drinks into personal mugs,” the Pilot spokesperson said. 

On Friday, TravelCenters of America stated it is also increasing its cleaning frequency and will continue to use “best-in-class chemicals to disinfect and sanitize common touchpoints for employees and customers at our sites,” according to the statement on its website.

“We are continuing our focus on enhanced preventive measures and have issued best practices guidance to our employees. We are actively communicating with our teams, highlighting matters such as proper and thorough hygiene and handwashing practices, sanitation recommendations and food preparation procedures,” TA said.

Late Friday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency order, the first time in the agency’s history, to suspend hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for commercial vehicle drivers hauling essential coronavirus equipment and supplies in all 50 states.

Prior to the federal agency’s emergency declaration, the LaBrees worked out a driving schedule as they haul essential medical supplies.

“We’ve figured out a driving schedule and how to break up our days to make sure we are still getting adequate sleep,” she said. “We haven’t seen anything like this [nationwide suspension for HOS]  in our lifetime.”

As thousands of motor carriers and drivers gear up for some long days ahead, LaBree said she hopes they feel a sense of pride in what they are doing for the country.

“When this pandemic is over, I hope truckers that were a huge part of keeping America moving and the shelves stocked realize they have achieved hero status in my book,” she said.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes


  1. Aaron

    What about the unsung hero’s that work at the truck stops. Cleaning up the showers and toilet’s. More risk for us, as we come in contact with almost every driver that comes through our facility.

  2. Sheli with Crete/Shaffer

    We truckers drive 600 or more miles a day. Crossing into different states , using public facilities and deliver to many different companies. Wash your hands and stay clear of anyone coughing. Stay in your trucks. Don’t sit in tv rooms. Sray out of game rooms. Restaurants have started closing there operations down. Stock up some food for your rigs.
    Praying we don’t get shut down !! We deliver refrigerated items and medicines. Be safe everyone.

  3. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

    Why is “God” interpreted as “Male” ???

    Due to the rain that falls from the “sky” aka the “heavens” , and interpreted as semen fertilizing Mother earth(soil) the “womb” from which “life” comes into existence . For with no water(semen) there is no life .

    The sun ? “God’s sun ” which brings light to the world . For without light there is no life and light “saves” us from the “darkness”/sin devil , call it what you will . Darkness is not evil , for without it plants wouldn’t flower , nor would our bodies fully rest etc .

    The planets and satellites have been personified to control man through some interesting man made imaginary stories .

    The planets and satellites release tremendous energy which has an effect on us smaller energy beings on this planet and on this planet itself . As above , so below (wink) . The true clock of time is found above(around) , the one that man cannot manipulate nor CONtrol !

    Religions are interesting stories but nothing more than just highly imagined stories . Time for the children to grow up out of the Brainwashing hocus pocus they’ve been lead to believe in , in my humble opinion ……..

    In the markets some of us sarcastically use the word “GOD” to interpret (G)old , (O)il & (D)rugs which pretty much CONtrols the world .

    The names given to the days of the week also come from the satellites & planets above .

    Keep guard of your most powerful but also most vulnerable part , your MIND ! For it is not user friendly and can easily be manipulated .

    20/20 does not need to be interpreted as hindsight but rather as an eye opener to see clearly in 2020 . Let this pandemic open your eyes and remove the scales of BS from over them .

    You are “free” to choose to remain a slave in the mould your mind has been imprisoned or to liberate yourselves to discover and live by the truth !

    When I look at a rose I’m not blinded by its natural beauty , I can also see the thorns . Can you ?

    Guard your 5 senses well , for it is through these that you are easily deceived .

    In my humble opinion ………

  4. Michael

    Instruct actually provides a service you should check out. Drivers & shippers (any or all of them) can communicate and e-sign the bill of lading or take photos of signed BOL and send to that shipper. That alone would very simply help combat the spread of viruses tremendously! The shipper and driver would just have to sign up…which is simple and worth it!

  5. Rusty good

    What’s the risk though. This is a politicalized panic by liberal media. The common flu is by far more deadly. Get real. I’m a trucker and am not at all worried. Hell crossing a street is more deadly than corona

    1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

      They consider the “risk” quite severe due to not knowing how the virus will develop within us and how our organism will react . Some develop mild symptoms while others develop more severe symptoms leading to death . This is why governments are acting severely with preventive measures . The propagation of “fear” is due to the unknown leading to severe preventive measures .

      Not taking this seriously would be equivalent to playing Russian roulette with the public’s lives .

      I could catch/develop the “virus” within my organism and it could simply not have much of an effect , though you may catch it and it may lead to your death . Due to this sort of an extreme in current circumstances until the unknown is known , we will be limited in our liberties in some countries more than others all depending on the rapidity of the growth rate in infected people to reduce the rate at which it’s spreading .

      You can look at historical pandemics for further understanding . One severe case/pandemic occurred back in 1918 regarding the flu . Some doctors would prescribe too much aspirin to patients and a lot died due to aspirin poisoning while the health alignments due to such were thought to have been caused by the flu .

      Right now if you’re diagnosed with the coronavirus with mild symptoms you will be asked to isolate yourself at home . If those symptoms further increase to dangerous levels then you will be hospitalized . Generally hospitalization in the case of the coronavirus is due to more severe problems breathing . At that stage we don’t know if you’ll make it out of the hospital on your feet or in a coffin . However , a lot of people infected with the coronavirus don’t make it to the point of such harsh symptoms compared to the one’s who do . That’s one of the unknown parts of the puzzle . Why does “patient A” recoup from the virus like if it were a simple cold while “patient B” does not and dies from it ? This is causing governments to “panic” leading to people to panic .

      In my humble opinion …………

      1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

        Furthermore ,

        In this day and age we have access to information more easily than we ever had before due to the internet .

        What I would do is use it to learn more about how my organism functions .To say the least , I would change my “diet” and certain habits at least during this viral outbreak . I would cut out processed foods , sugar, meat, dairy , and cut down on smoking and drinking alcohol . In my humble opinion .

        Best of luck !

        1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

          Can’t leave you hanging like this .

          To start you off on your journey of self discovery and cleansing your mind so that you can facilitate changing your habits which will cleanse your organism , I highly recommend a book as a first step by the title of “Personal Power” – by Anthony Robbins .

          Wow this brings be back to childhood .

          This book will be a good step in the right direction to help you understand how your mind functions . The author also touches on the food subject . Learning to properly combine your foods is extremely important . Then you can learn the details about amino acids , vitamins , minerals , and electrolytes etc.

          Take this pandemic as an opportunity to slow down and take control by educating yourself about you . You will be pleasantly surprised about what you will discover about yourselves . However, you may not be so happy about those who have manipulated you into error .

          Take this time as a pre-spring cleaning and commence your cleansing journey by arming yourselves with knowledge to cleanse yourselves from all the rot in your minds and body . Be gentle and kind with yourselves .

          At least now you will be armed with a tool you can use to control the fear due to the unknown .

          Don’t just trust me blindly . Test what I will say next . At your next meal ,whatever, it may be , eat a natural fruit for desert , like an orange or apple , pear, grapes . Notice that you’ll have problems digesting it . Why ? Because that’s not the time nor the way to consume fruit ! It will be stuck and ferment which will cause you to burp .

          Then on the next day when you rise on an empty stomach , eat that same fruit without anything else for at least 30 minutes unless it’s a banana . If you decide to eat a banana then wait 60 minutes before consuming anything else .

          Notice it passes through without any digesting problem . How come ? Knowing what and when to eat it is sacred to your body and its “milieu” .

          Enjoy this time that is pushing you due to fear to learn and really be in control of yourselves . Not only will you be in a position to protect yourselves against diseases but you’ll also be in a position to prevent them from developing from within , whether that be through your mind or organism(body).

          In my humble opinion .

          1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

            My bad , the actual title of the book recommended above is :
            Unlimited Power -by Anthony Robbins .

            my apologies .

    2. Michael

      I wonder why so many have died then??? I think it’s God’s way of putting humanity back in check and I hope it works! It’s unfortunate that anyone has to die from it but it’s not to be ignored as that is EXACTLY what spreads it. You may not worry but I bet others around you worry that you don’t worry! RIP to those who have been taken by Corona Virus!

      1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

        God’s way ???

        You are thy God on this planet !

        A biological weapon outbreak is not some religious God’s way of putting humanity on this planet back in check ! This is not a “natural” disaster . This pandemic is man made !

        Our negligence leads to our pain, suffering , and demise . However, if you would rather believe that some superior being in the heavens has control over us , then so be it . I won’t share that belief though . I simply tend to be sarcastic about it as I did above .

        Good luck about keeping humanity in check . The general population hasn’t learned from the past . Most are brainwashed and look for solutions outside of themselves rather than from within !

        I guess it’s a bit like believing in some exterior god rather than realizing that you actually are a god . We are the superior species on this planet and we’re creators . Our imaginations are limitless . Your being is energy . What more proof do you need ? Re-discover yourselves and realize what you are rather than have others brainwash and control you for their personal benefit .

        Time to wake up in 2020 .

        In my humble opinion ……….

    3. John

      wow…………..Rusty js the reason the virus spreads. Intelligents will reign. Be reasonable, use caution and remember to think of those around you not just your personal needs.

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  7. Hans Witt

    I am glad somebody started to think about Commercial drivers. They are at a tremendous risk. Truck stops are a “hub” just like air ports for transmission. I have lot lot of questions just how far things will go. Will truck stops shut down, and we have buy fuel on card lock basis ? What about other commercial transportation ? How long will they let that continue? it may shut down on it own if business shut down, if that happens will the internal travel bans allow drivers to go home?
    When i let my mind run away I come up with all kind of scary stuff, but it would make since unless you have been out there.

    1. Stephen Webster

      Many insurance companies in Canada will not cover truck drivers if they get sick in the U S . The truck drivers are doing this at their own risk. We need better protection for truck drivers and others in the bottom tiers of Ontario Canada. I have seen many people end up homeless and sick because of the insurance companies actions. The cost has been covered by nonprofit groups and taxpayers. The Ontario government government needs to hire 3 individuals to to inspect all trucking companies with complaints in the last 7 years. We need to be very careful bringing in offshore truck drivers and other offshore workers for the next 12 months. Truck stops need to increase efforts to keep clean and give all truck drivers free showers once per day until the state of emergency is over. Walmart and other places need to make overnight parking for trucks and others living in cars . It is not safe to go on jet planes, cruise ships or homeless shelters at this time . 5195239586

    2. Kristen

      I didn’t actually want to reply to any particular comment, I just had a thought any question. What about truck drivers another workers who are required to be out in the public coming home to their families? If families are staying in and schools have been closed, should we have concerns about the driver or other worker coming home to the family?

      1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

        Unfortunately those in transport are neglected and are considered to be “mules” to benefit the general population .

        The only time they appear to care about truck driver safety is when they use the term manipulatively to pass and enforce some regulation in the industry .

        To prove my point ,

        Quote :

        “In what it says is a first, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a 50-state waiver to the Hours of Service Rule for commercial vehicle drivers transporting goods related to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

        There you have it . Apparently HOS are enforced for the general population’s safety on our roads ONLY when it suits the industry .

        Apparently they were so desperate to enforce safety that they banned paper log books and enforced electronic log books to ensure they can’t be manipulated . But when the nation or a state has an emergency , those “safety regulations” take a back seat and truckers are permitted to neglect and bypass them for the general population’s benefit ??? Now that’s one heck of a CONtradiction !

        It’s a disgrace and an insult to the population’s and truckers intelligence . Even if an emergency presents itself people need to stop at a stop sign . We shouldn’t allow people to violate laws just because it suits us from time to time .

        The FMCSA is a joke and so are carrier associations . This industry has played with truck drivers for far to long . How dare they ask truckers to violate the laws these clowns have obliged and enforced with a stick on truck drivers for the public’s safety . Show them that they can’t have their cake and eat it too .

        They want to enforce rules . The least we can do is abide by them AT ALL TIMES ! Drivers aren’t freaking puppets ! They are human beings and should be respected and treated as such .

        These people are literally laughing in truck drivers faces . I wouldn’t waive the HOS rule as a driver . I wouldn’t jeopardize my safety nor the publics because of some crisis . I would choose to act responsibly no matter what the heck occurs on this planet . Truck drivers are pushed enough as it is and beyond reason ! There’s a freaking limit !

        In my humble opinion .

        1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

          Another very important detail these FMCSA clowns have neglected in waving the HOS is that the more you tire a person , the weaker their immune system becomes !

          Truckers are exposing themselves to enough risk as it is . Now they want to keep exposing them to this COVID 19 outbreak by keeping them out on the road without the right to self isolate , and tire them out even more in the process ??? These people are beyond a lost freaking cause , and they are in charge of “regulating” safety in the industry ??? What a freaking crock of BS GALORE these people are ! Don’t allow them to play you like this especially during a very dangerous viral pandemic outbreak !

          I’ve stated that 2020 would be a huge eye opener ! If this lack of safety negligence doesn’t open your eyes as to how irresponsible the FMCSA is , then nothing will ! These people are a JOKE and putting you in harms way with their EXTREME negligence !

          In my humble opinion !

          Be wise , don’t burn yourselves out just because now they are allowing you to do so beyond reason by manipulating you due to a national emergency . They can go where the sun don’t shine ! IMHO

Comments are closed.

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 16 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected] or @cage_writer on X, formerly Twitter.