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Busy C.O. truckers facing impacts of COVID-19 outbreak

Some states closed rest stops, and finding a place to eat can be a challenge

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some 80 percent of Oregon's communities rely solely on truck drivers on a daily basis to deliver items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, according to Oregon's Trucking Associations.

The Central Oregon Truck Company is one of those companies Oregon depends on. It specializes in hauling industrial construction supplies, like lumber and steel. The company employs 300 drivers nationwide, traveling in 48 states.

So far, it says the COVID-19 pandemic has had little effect on their business. But if Oregon decides to remove industrial and commercial construction from the essential business list, like Washington state, that could change fast.

“That could pose a problem to the flatbed industry as a whole, if other governors follow in those footsteps,” Rick Williams, the company's chief executive officer, said Thursday.

Williams said his truck company has only had a few minor setbacks since the outbreak. One of them was at a Home Depot distribution center that cut back on its lumber orders.

He said the only other real issues for his drivers have been rest sop closures. Oregon's rest stops remain open, but earlier this week, Pennsylvania closed several, a decision which has since been reverted.

“The truck stops play a real important role in what we are doing to service the nation," Williams said. "Whether it’s a flatbed or a van carrying hand sanitizer, toilet paper and food, we have got to keep those open.”

Williams is a part of the Daseke Inc. task force for the coronavirus. Daseke owns the Central Oregon Truck Company and 15 other such businesses nationwide. Williams said he’s on the phone every day, discussing potential challenges the coronavirus could bring down the road. 

Some of those challenges are now everyday occurrences for trucker Edgar Kelley. Kelley drives in all 48 states, and just last week he drove from Boston to California. Finding places to eat can be challenging, he said, because truckers cannot use drive-thru, and some states have closed rest stops.

“It's a challenge," Kelley said. "All across Pennsylvania, Indiana, all the rest areas were closed, and parking was very minimal at the truck stops, if you could find any.”

Kelley did say there is one positive for truckers from the pandemic. He said there are fewer cars on the road, which makes for a faster trip.

Central Oregon / Money / News / Redmond / Top Stories

Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.



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