(The Center Square) – Truckers are delivering essential medical equipment to the front lines across Illinois.
Don Schaefer, executive vice president of the Mid-West Truckers Association, said the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the supply chain. However, he said supplies continue to move, especially after the government relaxed weight limits and allowed truckers to get in an extra two hours of driving in a day.
The move also allows truckers to get essential emergency medical supplies across the state from the state’s central warehouse in Springfield.
“We’re talking [personal protective equipment], we’re talking all the pertinent things that medical personnel need around the state,” Schaefer said. “That allows these trucks to get in, get out, make their deliveries up in the Chicago area, Carbondale, Belleville, Champaign, Peoria, Rockford, all over the state and they can do that efficiently.”
There have been stories of rest stops being closed and other issues, like some places allowing a trucker to walk through a drive-thru food window, but Schaefer said that has mostly subsided as people acknowledge truckers need to be accommodated when making crucial deliveries.
A silver lining to the stay-home order Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued is less traffic. Schaefer said a recent study showed the average speed for trucks had increased.
“And it’s not because the trucks are going faster, it just means there’s less traffic especially in the Chicago area,” Schaefer said. “So the trucker who’s used to going maybe 25 miles an hour during the rush hour finds out there is no rush hour and he’s driving 55 miles an hour and that has improved efficiency.”
While some nonessential workers face layoffs, Schaefer said trucking companies are looking for help.
“Some of the larger stores like Walmart, they are straining to get all their goods delivered. We’ve got a lot of companies that are in the same situation,” he said.
That could change, though, especially if there’s a recession.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how this all pans out,” Schaefer said. “If there’s a recession it may mean there’s a decreased demand for goods, it may mean that certain things won’t be selling so people aren’t buying, or whatever, and that may have an impact on the trucking industry.”
Ultimately, Schaefer said, “you still have to get milk to the grocery store, you still have to get gasoline to the gas station, you still gotta get toilet paper to Sam’s Wholesale Club or wherever, there’s always going to be a demand for these items and it’s going to take a truck to get it there.”