Thank truck­ers, who are de­liv­er­ing us from evil

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - David Whit­ley Coro­n­avirus Helpers & He­roes

About that pack of dis­in­fect­ing wipes in your purse or car or kitchen. Do you know how it got there?

If it’s Clorox brand, the wipes were man­u­fac­tured in Atlanta, loaded onto a semi­trailer and de­liv­ered to a dis­trib­u­tor in Or­lando. The pal­lets were un­loaded and sep­a­rated, then trans­ported to gro­cery stores or other re­tail­ers.

Most peo­ple don’t think about any of that. All they care about is get­ting wipes be­fore coro­n­avirus gets them.

When you reach for a wipe to­day, pause a sec­ond and think of Tony Roddy.

“What peo­ple need,” he said, “I de­liver.”

He’d just spent a long night rolling down In­ter­state 75 in his 18-wheeler. Roddy pulled into Or­lando shortly af­ter dawn on Mon­day, checked his watch and got wor­ried.

“I was late for my de­liv­ery,” he said. “But be­cause I was de­liv­er­ing Clorox prod­ucts, they didn’t care. They said, ‘Bring it on.’”

Work­ers un­loaded 20 pal­ettes of Clorox dis­in­fect­ing wipes, ger­mi­ci­dal wipes, bleach packs, multi-sur­face cleaner, hard­sur­face san­i­tiz­ing spray, hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide, bath­room cleaner and good old bleach.

At 70 cents a mile, Roddy earned about $315 for his night’s work. Along with that, we

should have given him a medal.

Sure, truck­ers are just do­ing their jobs. But these days, that job is prob­a­bly more im­por­tant than yours, mine or any­one who’s not on front lines in the COVID-19 bat­tle.

“The Lord has al­ways put me in a po­si­tion where I can help peo­ple,” Roddy said.

His ex­act po­si­tion Mon­day was at the Tur­key Lake Service Plaza on the turnpike. He’d pulled in about noon and was ob­serv­ing the 10-hour break truck­ers are re­quired to take af­ter 14 hours on the job.

About 40 rigs were parked in rows, each purring like a gi­ant cat. Truck­ers keep the en­gines idling for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, start­ing with the fact they power the mini ap­pli­ances in their cabs.

They need a well­stocked re­frig­er­a­tors these days. All the fast-food joints at the service mart are closed. Chairs and ta­bles are stacked and sur­rounded by yel­low “CAU­TION” tape.

The place looked a de­serted crime scene late

Mon­day af­ter­noon. The only per­son work­ing was the cashier at the con­ve­nience mart. The only cus­tomer was Roddy, a 62-year-old bald guy with a sur­gi­cal mask sit­ting on top of his head.

“All of us go­ing to remember this,” he said, “just like we remember 9-11.”

He’s work­ing about 70 hours a week, mak­ing round trips from Atlanta to Or­lando and Atlanta to Mi­ami. In an odd way, this vi­tal link in the food-dis­tri­bu­tion chain was made for a pan­demic.

“We’re al­ways self-iso­lat­ing,” Roddy said.

He passes the hours lis­ten­ing to Christian mu­sic and wait­ing for one of his grand­daugh­ters’ num­bers to pop up on his cell phone.

“Ahh, ev­ery time I see that — grand­ba­bies call­ing me — I’m in good shape,” Roddy said.

With his glasses and goa­tee, he looks more like a pro­fes­sor on holiday than a trucker on break. Be­fore this, he was a Marine, he man­aged a Wendy’s, then he got a mas­ter’s de­gree in hu­man ser­vices.

He be­came a coun­selor for at-risk kids, but their prob­lems con­sumed him.

“I get too close to the kids, which I shouldn’t,” Roddy said. “But I can’t help it.”

An 11-year-old girl he was coun­sel­ing was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a 35-year-old man. Roddy was so torn up, he was afraid he might kill the guy.

“I wasn’t any good af­ter that,” he said.

It doesn’t sound like your typ­i­cal trucker’s story. But then, how many of us know what con­sti­tutes a typ­i­cal trucker?

The only time we usu­ally no­tice truck­ers is when we’re pass­ing them on a high­way. But there are 3.5 mil­lion of them in Amer­ica. They com­bine to drive al­most 300 bil­lion miles a year. That’s a lot of self­iso­lated hours of lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, wait­ing on grand­ba­bies to call and liv­ing out of sleep­ing com­part­ments.

Do they re­ally need 10 hours of man­dated down time af­ter driv­ing all day or night?

“Ac­tu­ally, you do,” Roddy said. “You’re pulling 80,000 pounds. You’ve got to up­shift, down­shift, up­shift, down­shift. You can’t just kick back in a truck, be­cause any­thing can hap­pen.”

He had four more hours of idle time left Mon­day, then he would pick up a load of fer­til­izer and take it back to Atlanta.

Af­ter a rest, he’d head to a ware­house and get an­other de­liv­ery for Or­lando.

“More Clorox,” Roddy said.

Remember that to­day if you go to the gro­cery store and some­one is stock­ing empty shelves with packs of hand wipes.

“I just hope we’re do­ing enough to keep Amer­i­can cit­i­zens safe,” Roddy said. “Peo­ple need food, peo­ple need veg­eta­bles, peo­ple need Clorox.”

Peo­ple need truck­ers. It just took a cri­sis for us to truly re­al­ize it.

DAVID WHIT­LEY/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Tony Roddy has been haul­ing Clorox prod­ucts from Atlanta to Or­lando dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

MARK J. TERRILL/AP

Signs along in­ter­states may urge mo­torists to stay at home, but truck­ers must stay on the job in or­der for Amer­ica to beat COVID-19.

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