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Essential truck drivers struggle financially because of COVID-19's economic impact

Semi Truck
Posted at 10:13 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 13:39:34-04

OAK CREEK — Some truck drivers who are working around the clock to deliver essential items to grocery stores and hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic say they're struggling to make ends meet.

According to the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, there are more than 17,000 trucking companies in the state of Wisconsin. Many of those companies are small with only two or three truck drivers employed. Leaders warn the impact that the coronavirus is having on the trucking industry could soon end up costing consumers.

Sergio Ruvalcaba, a truck driver who stopped for gas at Love's Truck Stop in Oak Creek on Thursday said he is used to working 13 hours per day. Now, the hourly-paid driver is scheduled about eight hours per day. He tells TMJ4 he is losing about $1,000 dollars per month due to non-essential businesses being closed.

"Now, that things are slacking up I'm picking up $700 or $600," said Parham.

Neal Kedzie, President of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association said demand for shipping using some specific types of trucks, such as refrigerated trucks, has been slashed in half as states force businesses to close and residents to stay home.

"Much of the freight orders have decreased and also the freight rates have dropped so there is less profit margin for the drivers," said Kedzie.

Even though fuel prices have dropped, the overall cost of owning a truck remains the same.

"They still have their overhead operating costs, still have vehicle maintenance, fuel costs, insurance costs, payments on their trucks," said Kedzie.

Those costs must be paid for, even though truck drivers are seeing less profit. Kedzie warns there will be a cost to everyone if the truckers end up going out of business.

"When things begin to ramp up again, with fewer carriers, and we already have a driver shortage in the country, this could mean that the prices will be passed along to the consumer in the long-run," said Kedzie.

Some Democrats are currently pushing for a "Heroes Fund" that would give essential workers, including truck drivers, thousands of dollars worth of Hazard Pay.

The "Heroes Fund" is one benefit that could be negotiated and added to the next congressional relief bill.

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