On the open road

Semi-truck and trailer rigs traveled southeastward Friday morning on the I-94 freeway near Fergus Falls.

A cold and windy March morning saw travelers rolling in and out of the Big Chief Truck and Auto Plaza for fuel, a rest break and maybe a cup of coffee or a snack - pretty much business as usual next to the busy Interstate 94. 

The furor created by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with the stock market, closed schools, universities, churches, government buildings, dine-in restaurants, bars, museums, salons, barber shops, movie theaters and gyms in this period of national emergency. It has had a paralyzing impact on millions of lives and led to panic buying, hoarding and mandates about staying home and avoiding large gatherings.

Yet the men and women who move freight are still trucking along. It is not something anyone wants to shut down.

“They’re finally seeing what the country runs off of - truckers,” said Lane Rogers, an accountant at Big Chief.

Daryl Sweat is a trucker for Johansen’s Transport of Westport, Massachusetts. His 18-wheeler was hauling a flatbed covered with machinery pulled into one of the diesel islands at Big Chief Friday morning to put on fuel. Johansen’s Transport carries freight from coast-to-coast.

Sweat shared a hardy laugh when asked about how the COVID-19 threat was affecting him.

“We can’t stop just because everyone wants to get sick,” Sweat said. “We gotta keep going, we gotta keep cruising.”

If Sweat could ask for a little help he would like to see people call for less government interference in the trucking industry. 

“I wish everyone would call the government and tell them to leave us alone and let us do our jobs,” Sweat said. “Every way we turn we’re getting stabbed in the back.”

Another trucker adding fuel Friday morning was pulling a big Sara Lee Bread trailer behind his semi.

Curtis Ryckman lives in Fergus Falls and hauls for the local bakery. COVID-19 has not changed anything about his job. He drives between Fergus Falls and Minneapolis - a one-day run many truckers would envy because he is home every night. 

One complaint he has heard is that some of the public truck stops located along the freeway have closed. Even if truckers can get by without food they still need a place to park wherever they pull off the road. 

Long-haul truckers have sleeping quarters in their cabs but like anyone else these gypsies of the road occasionally need other amenities as well. Big Chief supplies what it can. Trucks coming in off the road can find a place to park and their drivers can grab showers and get some hot food. Big Chief’s dine-in cafe is presently closed by an emergency order but truckers and other travelers can still order food from the kitchen 24/7.

“From what I’ve seen the trucks are rolling, not normally, but close to it,” Rogers said. 

Trucking is not an easy profession to pursue. Truckers have to deal with deadlines, bad weather, brutal traffic and other hazards of the road.  

“It hasn’t changed my job at all,” TMC driver Erik Alliss said as he stopped at Big Chief with a large flatbed behind ready to take on another load. “Honestly, I think it is just because the media has blown it out of proportion.”

Alliss has been navigating the highways of the Lower 48 for the last nine months. He is able to make it home to his family every other weekend. 

“The restaurants are getting a little more picky but I haven’t run into any issues about getting a shower. I get home every other weekend so I don’t have to worry about doing laundry, I’ve just got to get a shower.”

Alliss said that 90 percent of what TMC hauls are building supplies, They have terminals in four states including the one he was heading for in Iowa - just 420 miles down the road.

Friday for fuel. Johansen’s Transport carries freight from coast-to-coast.

Sweat shared a hardy laugh when asked about how the COVID-19 threat was affecting him.

“We can’t stop just because everyone wants to get sick,” Sweat said. “We gotta keep going, we gotta keep cruising.”

If Sweat could ask for a little help he would like to see people call for less government interference in the trucking industry. 

“I wish everyone would call the government and tell them to leave us alone and let us do our jobs,” Sweat said. “Every way we turn we’re getting stabbed in the back.”

Another trucker adding fuel Friday was pulling a big Sara Lee bread trailer.

Curtis Ryckman lives in Fergus Falls and hauls for the local bakery. COVID-19 has not changed anything about his job. He drives between Fergus Falls and Minneapolis - a one-day run many truckers would envy because he is home every night. 

One complaint he has heard is that some of the public truck stops located along the freeway have closed. Even if truckers can get by without food they still need a place to park wherever they pull off the road. 

Long-haul truckers have sleeping quarters in their cabs but like anyone else they occasionally need other amenities as well. Big Chief supplies what it can. Trucks coming in off the road can find a place to park and their drivers can grab showers and get some hot food. Big Chief’s dine-in cafe is presently closed by an emergency order but truckers and other travelers can still order food from the kitchen 24/7.

“From what I’ve seen the trucks are rolling, not normally, but close to it,” Rogers said. 

Trucking is not an easy profession to pursue. Truckers have to deal with deadlines, bad weather, brutal traffic and other hazards of the road.  

“It hasn’t changed my job at all,” TMC driver Erik Alliss said as he stopped at Big Chief with a large flatbed behind ready to take on another load. “Honestly, I think it is just because the media has blown it out of proportion.”

Alliss has been navigating the highways of the lower 48 for the last nine months. He is able to make it home to his family every other weekend. 

“The restaurants are getting a little more picky but I haven’t run into any issues about getting a shower. I get home every other weekend so I don’t have to worry about doing laundry, I’ve just got to get a shower.”

Alliss said that 90% of what TMC hauls are building supplies, they have terminals in four states including the one he was heading for in Iowa - just 420 miles down the road.

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