Can you tell us what you do?
I work for a refrigerated carrier out of Kennesaw, Georgia. Our main line is produce. We haul a lot of produce – fresh salads, stuff like that. We also haul meat steak, ribeyes. I’ll usually run two to six weeks on the road from Chicago, Illinois back down to Georgia and I’ll sometimes go out to California or up to Seattle. But lately because of everything that has been going on, we’ve shut off the refrigerated unit on the trailer and we’ve just been running medical supplies back and forth to California, which right now is a hotspot for the virus.
What kind of medical supplies is it?
Right now we’re hauling some of the masks. We’ve also been running regular pharmaceuticals just because during this [outbreak] people have started buying more regular over-the-counter pharmaceutical stuff, just to combat any type of sickness. So demand on that has gone up as well.
Are you still able to get what you need while you’re on the road since most restaurants and rest-stops have closed?
[Truck stops and restaurants] have been doing a really good job for us. They’ve had curbside pickup and because we’re on very tight time-frames, they’ll have hot food ready.
What are your typical hours?
For the refrigerated freight side of the industry, a lot of the plants are 24/7, so you could be picking up at six o’clock in the morning one day, 12 o’clock in the afternoon on or two o’clock in the morning, it really just varies. I prefer [to drive at night] because parking is a very big problem in this industry. If you go down the interstate and see trucks parked on the ramp, they’re not parked there because they want to. They’re parked there because all the truck stops are full and they have nowhere to go.
And once our clocks, which are in our trucks, run out for our amount of drive time,(11hours) we have to park. So I like to start at about one to two o’clock in the morning, drive my 11-hour shift, and by that time it’s usually around nine, then o’clock in the morning. Everybody else is leaving to go on the road, but I’m pulling in to an empty truck stop. So I have plenty of places to park.
You have to do that. It’s a reality. It’s kind of a race to see who can get done with their 11-hour shift first and get to the truck stop and park. So that’s one thing that I always try to do is start my days early so I can get done.
That must be a hard schedule to keep up when you’re back home.
Absolutely, because then you come home and everybody else is ready to go to bed at 10 o’clock and you’re like, “Man, I’m ready to go grab a shower and go get the truck and go!” It can be very difficult.
How have things changed from the outbreak?
FMCSA is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. It regulates the hours of service to a 70-hour clock, which is how many hours you can work in a week. Because of COVID-19, [the FMCSA] has suspended the hours of service and we’re able to drive as long as we want. My father said it best, “If a crisis happens and you have to throw the rule book out, the rule book is defective.”
[We] need to learn to not take anything for granted because we saw how quickly those shelves went empty and how people were really desperate for things. A lot of the stuff we just walk into the store and grab every day, we became entitled to. We start to believe that, “Oh, it’s just going to be there, it’s just going to be at Walmart when I go there. “Well you have to remember there’s a truck and a driver that’s bringing that and if he gets sick or they buy it too quickly, then everyone’s going without. I think that’s what people need to understand is this is a process. It takes a shipper, a driver, and a receiver all working together. And if one of those shuts down or gets sick, you’re not going to have your product. I hope that people understand that when they go to the stores, it’s a privilege that stuff is there on time, it’s not always a guarantee.
Thank you so much, Austin. I hope you have a good rest of your day and stay safe.
For sacrificing his time, energy, and family life to assure that hospitals all over the country are stocked with what they need to treat patients during the pandemic, we’re proud to award Austin Blevins with the Hardin’s Heroes title, certificate, and a donation of $500 to his chosen charity: The Nashville Rescue Mission.
Learn More About Austin’s Chosen Charity
Founded in 1954, the Nashville Rescue Mission started as a program that offered food and shelter to the homeless population in Nashville. Over the years, the program expanded, and today, the NRM aids in providing those who are hurting, homeless, or hungry, with life-saving services to better their situations and themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Their Mission Statement: Providing hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity to the hungry, homeless, and hurting.