CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Long-haul truckers continue rolling across the country, even in the midst of a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean COVID19 hasn’t affected the industry. “It has a huge impact on us,” says Mike Kucharski, co-owner and Vice President of JKC Trucking. “We have a little bit over 200 drivers, pre-pandemic we had more.”
The suburban-Chicago based company has been in business for more than 40 years and specializes in hauling anything that needs to be kept cool, goods like frozen vegetables, meat and cheese. Kucharski says his dad bought the first truck back in 1977. “We never thought something like this would happen – a pandemic like this that would affect everybody. Food service came to a screeching halt pretty much overnight – all the hotels, restaurants and casinos closed and all that causes less freight to haul,” he said.
He says business was really difficult in April and May, when many states shut down as a result of the coronavirus, “There were weeks at a time where it was just cheaper to park our trucks.” Kucharski says the situation has since improved but it’s still far from ideal. “Pre-COVID19 we were hauling up to 4 million pounds per week and now we’re a little bit over 2 million,” he said.
He adds the overall volume is down, which means freight prices are down and it’s all due to less demand for goods across the board.
Richard Dilling, a JKC truck driver from Tennessee says, “Going from place to place, state to state, you don’t know what’s in effect and what’s not, where it’s mandatory for a mask or not.” Dilling adds that although COVID-19 cases may be on the rise again and he’s traveling across the country, he’s not concerned: “Not at all. I’ve got the Lord on my side. If I’m going to get it – I’m going to get it.”
Mike Kucharski says his drivers have had to make adjustments and take precautions like temperature checks, masks and hand sanitizer. He says, “If a driver is sick we have a crew that goes in and disinfects his truck. Or we go in and quarantine the truck for a couple of weeks so no other drivers get sick.” He says right now the focus is on keeping his drivers healthy and his business running while keeping the threat of another coronavirus surge top of mind.
Kucharski says, “Not only is our business in jeopardy, but there’s also a lot of businesses that will be in jeopardy and will close and never open again. What we’re doing is taking it one day at a time and pushing forward and adapting to business; that’s what we have to do to survive.”