As America becomes more and more dependent on deliveries to keep grocery shelves stocked as well as stock hospitals with crucial medical equipment, it’s clear that truck drivers are more necessary now than ever. But Armand Jones, a truck driver based out of Los Angeles, says his day-to-day is rapidly changing, despite being deemed an essential worker.
“At this point, [I’m] just trying to figure out what’s going to be normal for the next three to four weeks, to maybe two to three months down the road,” Jones told InsideEdition.com.
On a normal day, before the coronavirus began affecting his schedule, Jones explained he would normally be on the road by 6 or 7 a.m., spending the next 14 hours making deliveries around California and Nevada for big box stores like Walmart, Target and Amazon, before taking his federally mandated 10-hour break.
But now that new regulations have caused some businesses to shutter their doors and other businesses to be busier than ever, Jones finds himself concerned with things he never was before, like where he’s going to stop to eat.
As most states have implemented various shelter-at-home orders, many restaurants and bars have closed their dine-in services and many rest stops along the highway run on reduced hours, or operate on a take-out only basis, Jones said. As a result, Jones, who already spends his entire shift in his car, now has to eat in his car as well, he said.
“You see an empty dining room where people would normally be allowed to sit and eat," Jones said. “You can’t even sit and decompress. You literally got to sit in your truck and eat in your truck.”
Meal choices are now down to the basics, Jones said, and healthier options are harder to come by. “Normally, you’d be able to stop at like maybe an iHop or Denny’s or something, where you got fresher choices in food, whereas now you really only got fast food options,” he explained.
The closure of some eateries' dining rooms sometimes makes that spot off limits to Jones and other truck drivers, as fast food restaurants that only have the drive through open are unable to fit a truck through its lane, Jones said.
Because Jones’ hours and restaurant’s hours are changing too, he said he often plans ahead and buys two meals when he does stop, keeping one in the fridge in case he can’t find anything open in time for his next meal. “I’ve got to be more strategic. … Someone who is a newer driver wouldn’t think to do that,” he said.
And when a job took him out to Arizona, Jones ended up spending the night at a rest stop near the border between Arizona and California instead of his own bed, since he wouldn’t make the drive back to Los Angeles before his 14-hour shift was up.
But finding a spot at a rest stop isn’t always easy. He said that as parking lots, motels and rest stops have closed, he finds himself competing with his fellow truck drivers for a spot at the places that are open.
The saving grace in the extended search for a place to rest, however, is that Jones gets paid by the mile, and the extra distance he travels means a bigger paycheck. Since the coronavirus began affecting his industry, he’s seen his pay cut by $200 to $300 each month, so he welcomes the additional miles.
Jones typically picks up the trailers he delivers at a lot near a railroad. During more normal times, the rail lots are bustling. But now, when he arrives, Jones says the area is quiet. Many lots have also changed their ways of operation to adhere to social distancing norms, which means Jones doesn’t see many friendly faces if he does encounter people on his pick-ups at all.
Social distancing norms also means he doesn’t get to see his family on the weekends. Jones normally sets up his last delivery on Fridays to finish up in a location close to his family so he can spend some time with them when he clocks out. But such strategizing isn't always possible during a pandemic.
The time with them is important, he said, "Especially with my youngest son just giving us a granddaughter, whom I haven’t been able to see except for one time since all this craziness has been going on."
But Jones said he’s grateful to still be working, and will continue to take what comes his way in stride.
“That’s the main goal – go to work as long as I can, depending on what’s going on with the loads, the virus, and everything else going on,” he said. “Hopefully things get back to normal real soon.”