Essential Heroes: Truck Drivers

Sign thanking truckers for feeding America

By. Jessica Abrego

For anyone who has watched the news, been on social media, or looked at a newspaper lately you have probably heard of COVID-19. While the world has been stocking up on toilet paper and Lysol spray, there has been a high demand for product and produce in stores.

Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker announced that he was signing a statewide “stay at home order.” This order was put into effect to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a press conference Pritzker stated: “I fully recognize that in some cases I am choosing between saving people’s lives and saving their livelihoods.  But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood without a life. This will not last forever, but it’s what we must do to support the people on the front lines of this fight, and the people most vulnerable to its consequences.”

Governor Pritzker has said in numerous press conferences that all essential businesses such as grocery stores, medical clinics, gas stations, truck drivers, and agriculture businesses would stay in operation to serve the public. They are considered our nations “essential workers.”

Several stores have set up times for high risk shoppers to get their essential items. Stores are at the mercy of truck drivers to get their products to them for restock on the empty shelves.

Humberto Abrego, has been a truck driver for 34 years. He has his own trucking company called, Abrego Express. He is used to driving through California to pick-up loads for produce delivery.

Truck stop in California. Photo taken by Humberto Abrego

“When I drive through L.A. it is about 50 miles to the loading dock. It takes me two plus hours to get to the dock with all the traffic and people on a normal pick-up day. With the shelter in place it took me 45 minutes to get through L.A. this time,” Abrego said.

Abrego, along with his nephew Andres Nano Abrego, haul fresh produce and meat. Traditionally Abrego is able to walk into the warehouse and hand in his paper work for delivery or pick-up.

“I now either have someone come out in the parking lot and read my paperwork and arrange for me where to go. Or, I have to park and walk to the entrance door and have my temperature taken with general health questions asked. I am then given a plastic suit, gloves, and face mask to then take my paperwork in. I feel like an alien when I have to put on the safety suit,” Abrego said.

Abrego has made it a top priority to keep himself away from groups of people and make any entrance to buildings short. With several businesses being shut down truck drivers are limited to access for food and other alternatives for sleeping.

“The truck stops are still open for us to go in and shower and use the restrooms, but I do not stay in the building for very long. I keep rubbing alcohol in my truck and wipe everything down when I come back in,” Abrego said.

Next time you pick up your 50th package of toilet paper, are able to buy fresh produce, or get your other essential items think about the trucker. They are going above and beyond to bring you your everyday items during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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