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The Last Word

The Truth of Full Shelves

By Alan Riels

When I was asked to contribute to the Arkansas Trucking Report, my first thought was “With everything I have going on and what this country and our industry is facing, I do not have time.”  However, I realized time is an important resource I can contribute to The Driver. 

I have been in the industry for 37 years and have been a business owner for 20 years.  As an “old school” person in a “new school” world, I have seen the perception of truck driving jobs change. At times, they have been considered a-dime-a-dozen, and other times, driving is rightly recognized as one of the most important jobs in the American supply chain. For far too long, I believe the driver has been taken for granted, and it is a shame that it takes something like COVID-19 disrupting the supply chain for our nation to realize how important our drivers are to us all.   

We ask drivers to leave their families for days, and in some cases for weeks, to deliver goods to keep our households and businesses running smoothly.  Before COVID-19, we all assumed things like diapers, toilet paper, milk and bread would all be on the shelves when we needed them. But items don’t appear on shelves just because we wish for them as many consumers learned when they stormed the stores looking for a crate of hand sanitizer. No, someone is analyzing our buying patterns, anticipating our needs based on past behaviors and sending drivers to deliver everything we expect to see. That’s the truth of full shelves, and we should never forget it. 

Under normal conditions, drivers deal with struggles most of us can’t imagine. Under abnormal conditions, multiply those struggles by 10.

A normal struggle: they are away from home longer than any of us would agree to.

A multiplied struggle: We expect them to keep the goods moving, even when rest areas around the country shut down. Instead of using clean restrooms, they are forced to take their bathroom breaks in port-a-potties.

A normal struggle: they have to plan carefully to find healthy meals on the road.

A multiplied struggle: Restaurants up and down the highway have closed their dining rooms to prevent the spread of the virus. Drivers can’t move their trucks through the remaining chain drive thru routes, so some crawled out of their cabs to walk up to the window before being refused service.

I say all of this just to bring attention to the driver and the great job they do for all of us on a daily basis but especially in times of crisis.  As business owners and executives, we have to think outside of the box to take care of drivers right now as they navigate multiplied struggles. Many companies have already done this. How?  When the driver doesn’t ask for much, sometimes, a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.  We can also help them by managing some of their additional expenses. We can supply them with some healthy food because we need them to stay strong and live long, prosperous lives. Maybe we can pay a bonus to compensate for even longer hours they are spending away from home during these trying times.

The most important thing for all Americans to understand is just how important the driver is to us all every day—to recognize the struggles that drivers manage on the way to stocking our shelves.  Without Trucks, America Stops.  Without the driver, the truck is no good.  I realize you are the choir, and my sermon is for Americans that have taken the driver for granted for far too long.  Please, spread the word of how important the driver is to this great country we call the UNITED STATES of AMERICA.  

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Alan Riels is the president and CEO of Dedicated Logistics, LLC and a member of the Arkansas Trucking Association Board of Directors.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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