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Truckers relying on truck stops for food, bathrooms during coronavirus pandemic

Posted: 6:54 PM, Mar 26, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-26 20:40:30-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Wednesday, 3 News Now reported on how the trucking industry is staying busy and handling shipments during the coronavirus pandemic.

But as stores and restaurants are shutting down, it’s affecting where the truckers can stop. For many truck drivers, the truck stop is their break room, cafeteria and hotel, all in one.

“This is where I get my meal every day, this is where I get my morning drink, this is where I have my restroom facilities and my shower,” said Ryan Fugitt, a trucker from Utah.

“When we’re not at home we live on the road at a truck stop,” said James Bates, a veteran trucker. “Everything that we do is at the truck stop. Everything food, laundry, TV, all of it. Now it gives us a place to rest, a place to eat and there has been a lot of stuff where they’ve helped us out.”

In Omaha, trucks stops are still open but operating differently. Signs now urge people to be six feet apart, glass screens can be a barrier for employees and all staff are wearing reusable gloves.

“We’ve been in constant communication with truck stop chains around the country to make sure they stay open, make sure they have bathrooms, showers, things like that available that they’re practicing safe measures,” said Derek Leathers, the President and CEO at Werner Enterprises.

He said keeping truck stops open during the coronavirus is crucial to his company and his drivers. If the truck stops shut down, drivers would be limited on options for food and sleeping.

“We need each other. We need the people in warehouses, the people in loading docks, there are more than just truckers that are keeping this all going.”

“These are our homes when we’re not home," Fugitt said. "Sure we have a bunk in the back of our truck but we don’t have running water or the convenience of a grocery store so these truck stops are our other homes."

With businesses in Omaha limited to ten people or less, the truck stop restaurants are now only offering take-out, or to-go items over the counter. As well, unlike the normal driver, truckers can’t stop for food anywhere.

“All you have is fast food and you can’t drive one of these to a fast food store and they don’t allow you to walk up to a fast food drive thru,” said Bob Peck, a truck driver who has been driving for the last 47 years.

“We need our food and when the restaurants don’t accept us it’s really hard for us to get our food,” said Izaiah Morris, a trucker driver based out of Lincoln. “Sometimes we need to park next to the restaurant and block traffic and run up to the drive through and get our food.”

Truckers 3 News Now talked to said they urge other drivers to not steal toilet paper or hand sanitizer from the truck stop bathrooms, because they won’t have any to use otherwise.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.