Sammy Lloyd does not know exactly what’s in the trailer he’s pulling. But he does know he’s hauling essential provisions — like food, cleaning goods, medical supplies — to a virus-beset East Coast that desperately needs them.
And it makes him proud.
“Most of us truckers going down the road, we all move in unison,” he says. “During the pandemic ... it’s like we are all on the same page, more than they were just a month ago, it’s an eye opener that we are one world, one nation, one team.”
Lloyd is an independent trucker, with 20 years and more than 2 million miles of road behind him. His is a solitary life, even in the best of times — and these are not the best of times
He picked up his load in California. He had to stay in his cab because of social distancing and other requirements, as the shipper closed and sealed the trailer before he could look inside.
Lloyd, 41, could have chosen a different load off the board, a marketplace for owner operators. But with social media and his wife back in northern Georgia telling him that store shelves are bare and people can’t get what they need, he chose this one.
His destination: a Target distribution center in Virginia, more than 2,800 miles away.
He takes COVID-19 precautions as he goes. He washes his hands, and sanitizes his steering wheel, dash, and shifter every time he gets into the cab, taking care with touching doors and surfaces. He wears surgical gloves when he stops to fill the tanks, but they’re hard to put on and gas pumps shred them.
He can’t pour his own coffee at the truck stop. The coffee station is barricaded with an employee inside. A yellow disposable coffee cup is extended by gloved hand and placed at the edge for retrieval. The cashier is behind protective glass and wears gloves.
There is extra care and concern when showering at the truck stops, even though they are cleaned between each use. How to take a shower without touching anything?
After all that is sorted, he climbs into the cab of his 2014 Kenworth W900 — it’s like a steadfast Zippo Lighter, he says. And then he drives, and the dangers of the world evaporate.
“There’s nothing like being on Interstate 80 going across Wyoming, just a beautiful day, sun’s perfect overcast, nice weather, windows cracked, your favorite music playing, and just ridin’ it.”
He likes the song “Last of the Cowboys” by Tony Justice: “Branded by our heroes, Taught to saddle up and move, We keep this country rolling, We’re damn proud of what we do.”
It’s a “cowboy lifestyle,” Lloyd said, but he and other drivers aren’t driving cattle; they’re working to help “this America we know keep turning.” In that, he echoes President Donald Trump, who held an event Thursday honoring truckers as “the foot soldiers who are carrying us to victory” in the battle against the pandemic.
He arrives in Stuarts Draft, Va., before dawn. He goes to the shipping office to check in. They have him drop his trailer on the yard, and a spotter driver slides it into a berth. He leaves the trailer, still not knowing what’s inside.
There is a lounge area with vending machines and restroom, but as a pandemic precaution he is asked to stay in his truck for the nine hours the process takes. He passes the time working on his YouTube channel about all things trucking, and catching up on the world. And then he’s on the road again.
He’s not sure what his next load will be or where it will take him, but he’ll check the board before heading back home to Georgia, to his wife, Tiffany, and children Dakota, 20, and Cash, 10.
But he cannot embrace them. Who knows what he brought with him from the road, along with his mysterious cargo?
He will stay in his truck, in quarantine, for more than a few days before he goes into the house.