By Jessie Wagoner
Leroy Foreman, of McPherson, is one of 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. who are trying to keep America moving amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreman says he has hit a few road blocks lately but he and other truckers are determined to keep rolling.
“There have been challenges,” Foreman said. “Finding places to eat, places to park, it’s been weird lately.”
Foreman does a lot of driving in the Midwest, mainly traveling through Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois. He used to be able to make a stop in McPherson to check in at home almost every day. With the current situation, he anticipates being on the road for weeks before he gets a chance to make it home.
On Thursday, his trailer was filled with 39,000 pounds of food, a sure sign there is no food shortage, despite the bare shelves at local stores. His load of pizzas, ribs, chicken nuggets and other frozen food items are heading to a distribution center.
“People need to know there is no food shortage,” Foreman said. “People are just overbuying and hoarding. If they would just slow down for a couple days things could get restocked. There is plenty of food, we just can’t get it to the stores quick enough because of the overbuying.”
Troy Lane, a truck driver based out of Oklahoma City stopped in McPherson at Love’s Travel Stop on Friday to fill his truck. He agreed with Foreman, he has seen no signs of a food shortage but simply overbuying.
“I’ve got a trailer filled with paper goods, plenty of toilet paper and paper towels,” Lane said. “I’m not the only one. We are all hauling something that somebody wants. They just have to give us time to get there. We are pushing as hard as we can.”
While they work hard to keep the wheels moving, they are finding some bumps along the road. Both men say finding places to eat has become a challenge. Fast food restaurants have closed their lobbies and a semi can’t go through the drive-thru.
“A lot of people have helped out though,” Foreman said. “Some of the places we have hauled to gave me a sack lunch; other places have given me a bag of snacks. It’s a sandwich, cookies, chips, bottled water, beef jerky. It helps a lot.”
Foreman has also heard of truckers being pulled over by law enforcement, not to ticket them, but to give them cheeseburgers or a sandwich. In some locations, the D.O.T. has opened up the scales and provided meals to the drivers.
Lane says after hours of driving he was hungry and tired. He couldn’t find a restaurant open so decided to pass on eating and sleep instead. He found a place to park at a rest area and was shocked to see a family had set up in the parking lot and was grilling hot dogs for drivers.
“It was pretty cool,” Lane said. “They had hot dogs for all of us, chips, apples and bananas, bottled water and soda. They were just a nice family trying to help some guys out.”
Both men acknowledge the risk they are taking, they know they are traveling into areas that are hotbeds for COVID-19. But it is a risk they are willing to take.
“I worry about it, I worry about bringing it home to my family,” Foreman said. “But I think if you ask any trucker out here, we aren’t doing this for ‘Atta boys,’ we are doing it to keep America moving and give people a glimmer of hope. If we all work together we will be alright.”