In COVID-19 economy, trucking industry shoulders added responsibility: 'My guys are heroes'

BUTLER -- After one of the industry's worst years on record, truckers are now in high demand to keep up with the rush at grocery stores due to the coronavirus. The business is welcome, but it carries a toll for the folks behind the wheel.

They've been delivering groceries to stores since the 1960s, but the surge in demand for Polyak Trucking during the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented.

Pamela Polyak

"We haul a lot of meat. We haul a lot of groceries. We haul a lot of dairy," said Pamela Polyak, president of Polyak Trucking. "We just, we can't seem to keep up."

As more people anxiously wait for their deliveries, responsibility falls on the shoulders of drivers like Frank McGowan.

"It makes you feel good that you're doing something positive, and people depend on you," McGowan, an owner-operator with Polyak Trucking, said. "When you accomplish the delivery, it actually makes you feel kinda good that you're making a difference."

But the job comes with challenges. While many businesses have been brought to a standstill, the trucking industry is still running full-speed ahead after the Department of Transportation lifted its limits on the number of hours drivers can work per day.

"We're tired. We're exhausted, but we feel the weight of the world on us, and that's a lot to bear," said Polyak.

"For us to be outside, trying to help people get the product that they need, you can't give up," McGowan said.

It's the shot in the arm the trucking industry needed, but a win they can't celebrate -- stretching themselves thin to make as many deliveries as they can, wishing it was under better circumstances.

"I think my guys are heroes, period," said Polyak. "They're all out there working ridiculously hard and trying to make as much money as possible because next week is not promised with everything going on."

Some wondered what sorts of precautions are in place to protect truckers. Polyak told FOX6 News that her drivers are often being screened upon arrival at their destinations to check for symptoms.