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Nevada Relies On Trucks To Stock Its Shelves

Chris Smith/Desert Companion

Semi-Trucks sit idle waiting to get back on the road after some rest at the TA Travel Center on Dean Martin Dr. in Las Vegas.

(Editor's Note: This interview originally aired April 2, 2020)

Nevada relies more on trucking than most states. The Nevada Trucking Association says 92 percent of all goods are delivered to the state by truck. 

There are no planes, rails or other modes of transportation delivering toilet paper to Beatty or fresh vegetables to Elko. 

The pandemic has put an exclamation point on that fact, because what would happen if that supply chain is stopped? 

“We do have enough drivers. The supply chain has been amazingly nimble to meet these needs,” said Paul Enos, the CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association.

Enos said members reported freight movement has doubled what they normally experience during the holiday season where freight movement is up by 30 to 40 percent.

He said companies that haul freight for grocery stores saw a 62 percent increased but they couldn't get the supply there fast enough to meet the demand.

“It’s not that there’s not enough supply, there’s not enough food or there’s not enough toilet paper. The panic buying made it so hard for our folks to go in there and get their trucks loaded and unloaded and that demand was unlike anything we’ve seen,” he said.

One of the big concerns is if a large number of truck drivers start to get sick with the virus. Not just anyone can get behind the wheel of a big rig, Enos pointed out.

He said trucking companies have supplied drivers with personal protective gear to help protect them.

In addition to those measures, one of the largest truckstop companies in the country has stepped up its measures.

Barry Richards is the president of TA-Petro, which owns hundreds of travel centers around the country. The centers allow truckers to fuel up, take a shower and get some food.

Richards noted that truckstops are a vital but fragile link in the supply chain.

“We really stepped up our day-to-day housekeeping. In fact, call it hour to hour. We’ve always had a very stringent shower and bathroom cleaning program and frankly, we had to spread it around the site – continuously wipe down surfaces that people touch and come in contact with,” he said.

Truckstop employees are now told to wipe down door handles, countertops and any surface that is touched frequently.

Besides working to keep truckers safe from the virus, Enos said another concern is the length of time it takes to load a truck at a distribution center.

He said the wait time has been clocked at six hours. 

However, Enos gave credit to government officials across the board for removing restrictions to speed up loading, unloading and trucking times.

“We have seen local governments throughout the state suspend restrictions of deliveries into grocery stores. The state has been phenomenal about saying, ‘what can we do to help you,’” he said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has lifted the service hour rules to make sure important supplies get distributed around the country faster, Enos said.

Barry Richards, president, TA-Petro;  Paul Enos, CEO, Nevada Trucking Association 

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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)