Truckers feel quarantined in their vehicles during pandemic
FARGO — President Donald Trump's expanded emergency declaration to grant an extension of hours for truck drivers delivering essentials during the coronavirus crisis is having an effect on drivers.
While drivers didn't lose their jobs, they're feeling strained.
"I've driven 16 hours. We're only supposed to drive 11 legally. We're only supposed to work 14 a day. I'm on 23 hours and 39 minutes right now," said truck driver Shane Paulsen.
Paulsen drove a nearly daylong shift from Wisconsin all the way to North Carolina with limited amenities along the way, thanks to executive orders across many states.
He saw closed-off sit-down eating and other limited food options. Paulsen said he has resorted to a lot of junk food.
"No hot meals; all the restaurants are closed, obviously," Paulsen said.
The executive orders made it so there was virtually nowhere to relax either. While not hospital-directed, Paulsen said he was practically quarantined to his truck to meet deadlines and stay healthy.
Once he hit his destination Friday afternoon, March 20, face-to-face interaction was cut short there too, and facilities were hard to come by.
"Put a plastic bathroom out on the corner, one of those port-a-potties, for us to use. No toilet paper obviously. I had to take my paper towels out there with me," Paulsen said.
He said showers have been available along the way, so far.
A job that's quite isolating to begin with just got a lot less comfortable without much of an incentive, Paulsen added.
"I'm not making any more money," said Paulsen. "I'm just more tired. I get the same amount per mileage as before this coronavirus, but I drove 1,100 miles yesterday."
He said he uses music as a way to distract himself from the tight deadlines, as well as taking plenty of pictures along the way.
"Sunsets, sunrise, beautiful vistas. Trucking is beautiful. I love seeing this country. I love this country. I'd like to see it get back on its feet as fast as possible," Paulsen said.
Another truck driver, Mike Geske, said many rest stops have been closed along his routes. He said even paying for gas has become a challenge, because some stops are limiting the forms of payment they accept.
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