Truck drivers keeping Tampa Bay stocked and running amid coronavirus pandemic

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – They’re the unsung heroes of the roadways: All the truckers who are continuing to drive as people hunker down at home.

A trucker’s life is hard enough before you add the stress that comes with keeping America running as it shuts down because of coronavirus. Now truckers are facing new struggles as they hit the road.

“I pick up on Tuesday and deliver on a Thursday in Lakeland,” Norm Wood of Quincy, Michigan said.

He makes the 1,200-mile drive down every week. Since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to combat the coronavirus, he’s noticed a change.

“There’s only trucks on the road nowadays, but normally they’re full of cars. So that’s the way it is now,” said Wood.

Another truck driver, Rick Mahar of Tampa, has been driving for 25 years now.

“I basically run from Texas up to as far as Virginia. I try to stay in the southeast. Some of these guys are running coast to coast,” Mahar said.

He realizes he is just one of the millions of professional truck drivers who are keeping America running right now.

“With this so-called toilet paper crisis, you’d never get toilet paper. You wouldn’t get any food. You wouldn’t get anything from store to store,” said Mahar.

But things are getting harder for drivers. Rest stops are closing, the demand for supplies is up and places to eat are shutting their doors to customers and only keeping the drive-thru open.

“I’ve seen where truck drivers are having a hard time because they have to walk up to the window or something like that and these stores won’t service them because they’re not in a vehicle,” said Mahar.

Truck drivers tell 8 On Your Side the only appreciation they need is a kind word.

“Just be nice. Say hi. Don’t be afraid. Some of these guys look rough and tough on the outside, but they’re not. Believe it or not, most truck drivers, we have feelings too,” said Mahar.

According to the American Trucking Associations, if truckers stopped hauling for three days, grocery stores would run out of food in three days. It’s likely much sooner now since a lot of stores already have empty shelves.

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