The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody has taken alarming proportions with nationwide protests all over the US. Protesters have turned violent damaging public property and blocking interstates and other major roads in the cities and countryside alike. There were protests even in the Washington DC forcing the White House to switch off external lights and take precautionary measures. Police in riot control gear and the National Guards have been called in several places to control the situation.
The edgy situation:
The nationwide unrest has put the truck drivers on their edge. They have not been spared in the turmoil and have had to take the brunt of the situation. A Fed-Ex driver was caught in a violent protest at St. Louis where the mob started looting his truck. The driver was threatened with weapons and had to pull away from the location.
Another truck driver was stranded in a protest at Minneapolis where he was pulled out of his vehicle, beaten, and handed over to the police. In another incident, a tractor-trailer was surrounded and looted. In the event, one protestor died as he got caught in between the trailers. These incidents have surely scared the drivers affecting the trucking business.
Why the panic:
One noteworthy incident in April ‘92 where a truck driver Reginald Denny was severely injured during the LA protests. Rioters, unhappy with the Rodney King verdict, stopped Denny while he was going towards a plant in Inglewood, pulled him out of the truck and beat him till he was unconscious. The entire incident was recorded by a news helicopter.
In response, truck drivers, have taken to social media to voice their concerns and are refusing to deliver at the disturbed locations. They are reluctant to pass through any interstates neighboring violent areas. Their concerns are true as a similar situation in the past has resulted in truckers’ lives.
The protests in the North-Eastern parts of the US:
The protests have left their mark on several places in the North-Eastern part of the country. For instance, in Boston, a police SUV was set on fire near the State House. In Philadelphia, police officers in riot control mode have to pepper spray the mob to keep them away. The officers also had to block Interstate 676 in the city where the mass transit system has to stop operations. In New York, the Manhattan Bridge had to be briefly shut down to car traffic.
Steps taken by the trucking companies:
The various trucking companies are aware of the situation and are handling it deftly. They are not forcing their drivers to go into areas where they feel insecure. The drivers are free to communicate their fears to their trucking company and not needed to deliver at the locations. The VP of operations at Riverside Trucking said that the driver’s security and the security of others are of main concern and they are adjusting appointment timings of delivery during the day in areas under curfew.
Trucking companies are deliberately going around the hot regions. They are staging at the city limits and calling the customers for alternate measures. At times they are getting alerts from the customers as and when situations change in an area. The truck companies also waiting over hot areas until the situation relaxes.
The trucking corporations are also coordinating with the local authorities for providing drivers with safe parking areas in the cities, out of the disturbed locations. They have also advised their drivers to stay inside their trucks just to be safe. The truckers have also been guided to stay in touch with their managers or the clients to find out about the latest situation and act accordingly.
The COVID19 angle:
Since the protests involve proximity of the mob elements, it is a hotbed for the spread of the Coronavirus. The pandemic has already taken more than 100,000 lives in the US and is predicted to turn worse in the coming days. Since the disease does not have any cure, prevention is the only way about it for now.
The truckers caught up in mob scenarios have the additional risk of getting infected. Their chances of contamination go up significantly if they come in direct contact with the protestors. Hence staying inside their trucks and using masks & hand sanitizers are the only ways for them to stay safe.