Fewer drivers working longer hours to keep with demand

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 5:05 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Due to the ‘stay at home’ order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards, 18-wheelers and other truck drivers have mostly taken over I-10 and other highways across the state.

“I feel sometimes I am driving by myself,” driver Muhammad Elnahas said.

There are several trucks on the road trying to keep up with demand.

“Our drivers are working a lot of hours,” Chance McNeely, Louisiana Motor Transport Association Executive Director said. “[They are] trying to meet the needs of the various grocery stores, places where folks are going to get the things they need.”

He says the roads are busier for some drivers, others have been let go.

“If you’re on the retail side, the grocery side, you’re blowing and going,” he said. “But a lot of the folks who are in raw materials or supporting plants and different things, that have all cut back. The trucking industry in those bases is really struggling.”

McNeely says drivers in the oil and gas industry are getting sidelined.

“This crisis is unusual to what we have seen before to natural disasters. You're not really seeing a big surge on demand on fuel,” McNeely said. “In fact, everyone staying home people aren't really going out filling up very frequently."

For drivers who are on the road, like Jackie Griffin, it’s hard for them to find a place to stop and eat.

"Mostly, I just take a lot of stuff from home because it's hard to get into different places,” Griffin said. “Everything is closed. The truck stop is closing down sections where the fountain drinks are. It's difficult."

Griffin says when he does come across an open restaurant, it’s extremely busy with other drivers. “We’re on a time limit, a timely schedule,” Griffin said. “If you see four or five people, you might as just keep on going because you don’t want to be around anyone.”

McNeely says the association did reach out to restaurants along highways. He says a lot of them are finding creative ways to serve drivers.

"We've seen a lot of restaurants and a lot of truck stops get innovative with how they can provide us services,” McNeely said. “We think people have kind of risen to the occasion."

He says the association is to keep drivers informed on what to do to stay safe.

“This a new era for me,” Griffin said. “I’m just learning the safety procedures to be safe.”

“I’m using hand sanitizer all the time. Even when I go to the bathroom, at the truck stops, I have to use my mask,” said Elnahas. “I’m trying to stay on the truck all the time.”

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