Salute to Service: Truck drivers serve as ‘backbone’ of supply chain even more so in a pandemic

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Growing up the oldest of five, the son of a single mother and a father of four, Duncan Williams said it’s part of his nature to take care of people.

So as a truck driver, particularly during a pandemic, he doesn’t mind taking on the responsibility of keeping the supply chain going by delivering goods all around the country.

“That’s the way I was raised,” Williams said, adding that he’s familiar with the call to provide for others during times like these.

As unemployment and layoffs continue to surge in the nation, trucks continue to move. Thus, truck drivers are deemed essential workers who serve as the backbone of the supply chain when groceries, protective equipment and even toilet paper are in greater demand.

Williams, 44, is a certified HVAC technician but started driving in May 2018 for the NFI G&P trucking company. His shifts usually include 11 hours of driving in a 14-hour time period each day. But the pandemic has required even longer hours, he said.

Most of Williams’ deliveries have been to grocery stores and warehouses, but he’s delivered protective as well.

“People couldn’t survive without deliveries. Frontline workers need us, too, to get supplies delivered,” he said.

Little has changed with Williams’ role, except that deliveries have been conducted without any physical contact and temperature checks are taken upon entering all loading and unloading docks.

Kevin and Nadia Hargrave both take on the road together as truckers and husband and wife. Kevin, 41, said he’s been driving for 10 months now, and “got his wife on board” a few months ago.

Nadia, 39, served as a nurse for 17 years. After Kevin began trucking, Nadia said she prayed for affirmation from God that her time was up for being a nurse and that she needed do something else. She’s been driving for Paschall Truck Lines, Inc. with Kevin for three months now.

Nadia usually drives during the day while Kevin takes the night shift. The couple stays on the road for 21 days before resting for seven. Their longest route so far has been from North Carolina to California, which took two full days to drive.

While driving, truckers have to monitor dozens of gauges at all times, all while staying mentally focused and well rested enough to keep themselves and other vehicles safe.

“Not getting enough rest can endanger others,” Nadia said.

She added that driving alongside her husband has been “good and bad.” Good, because it’s her husband — and bad because it’s her husband. The couple has seen a lot of scenery, but stay-at-home restrictions across the nation haven’t allowed for them to explore any of the areas they’ve driven through.

Kevin said during the pandemic, some of his loads and routes have been scarce.

Previously, he had been accustomed to driving up to 5,500 miles each week, but now he’s been driving 3,500 to 4,500 miles per week. Most of the loads have been to Family Dollar and Walmart with supplies including wood, food, water, hand sanitizer and masks.

Nonetheless, Kevin said he “enjoys being part of the help.”

Driving for so many hours at once can be hard on one’s body, Williams said. That’s why he appreciates kind gestures from others. For example, since restaurants have been restricted to drive-thru, take-out and delivery only, Williams had to walk up to a KFC drive-thru window recently. A police officer approached him to let Williams know he was appreciated before paying for his dinner. Another time, a woman was passing out fruit, which Williams appreciated since it was a healthy snack to keep with him on the road.

“That does a lot for someone like me,” he said.

Williams said at this time, people have to understand that “we all have a job to do” and should appreciate each other.

He added that from truckers to nurses to teachers, “we need each other.”

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About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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