Created: March 21, 2020 11:43 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — At a time where workers at non-essential New York State businesses have to be at home, workers in the trucking industry are working far from home.
One of those drivers is Kevin Cort, who drives for the family-owned Leonard’s Express, which is out of Farmington, Ontario County.
Nearly every day, Cort has had to drive between manufacturers in Canandaigua and in Ontario, Canada just to pick up and deliver different goods to different stores across the region.
Recently, he’s hauling soda cans and take-out boxes, but the haul has varied. With the coronavirus pandemic going on, he says truckers in the industry are facing some challenges.
"I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life," Cort said.
Leonard’s Chief Marketing Officer Mike Riccio says drivers and manufacturers are dealing with product demands at an all-time high. He says much of it is in part to people mass-buying products like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes among other necessities.
This comes at a time when Leonard's is starting to implement social distancing practices, such as keeping some office workers at home or taking extra precautions to keep drivers like Cort safe.
As an "essential" service, the work restrictions do not apply to the company, but, Riccio says these moves are being made with worker safety in mind.
"Yeah, there's been a lot going on,” he said.
Riccio says the high demand mixed with lower staffing, is affecting not just Leonard’s, but the manufacturers its drivers pick up products from, too. This means products are taking longer to be put out, which leads to a delay in how fast a driver can deliver those products to your store.
But, Riccio says, the show must go on.
"It's essential to keep the supply chain going, and keep the products in the store, really to maintain civility, quite frankly," he said.
With that idea in mind, the federal government suspended an ‘hours of services law’ (HOS) which mandates how many hours a truck driver can work. The ruling applies only to drivers who are hauling medical supplies and equipment related to fighting COVID-19, among other specialties.
"Everybody is happy to see more business, but the circumstances are obviously terrible, horrendous," Cort said.
Because their loads vary, Riccio says Leonard’s consults with its risk management team before choosing to have a driver operate under the new regulations.
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