By Al Muskewitz
The trucking industry seems to have settled into the new normal that is the nation’s coronavirus response, but there are still questions and uncertainties out there and that’s what makes TLD Logistics’ Ambassador program more important than ever.
Kevin Freeman has been on the road since the crisis began, making runs that stretch from the Upper Midwest to Florida. As the first of the Tennessee-based carrier’s driver ambassadors, he’s on the front line for answering any questions TLD drivers have concerning the virus and its fallout have on their operations.
The early days, he admitted, were “rough,” from uneven policies of shippers and receivers to challenges finding places to eat and park, but federal authorities and an increasingly appreciative public have responded to make life a bit easier.
When a TLD driver does have a question or may be uncertain about a situation, the easily approachable Freeman has been there to provide a sympathetic ear and voice of calm.
“It does put a lot more questions in the guys’ minds,” he said of the crisis. “I’ve just been trying to keep the panic down.
“I try to stay informed with what’s really going on to try to kill any fake news or untruths because it’s a scary time and you got people who live for times like this so they can put out scary information like that. I’ve had guys ask how long this will last, what are the chances of us taking this home. I tell them what I do. I tell them don’t throw caution to the wind. I always try to be a proactive person.”
With a wife and 6-year-old back home in Mississippi, Freeman has his own concerns about the virus and has been taking all the necessary safety precautions. He carries a good supply of gloves and hand sanitizer in the cab, alternates the several masks he’s made and never leaves the truck without gloving and masking up or returns without sanitizing — recommendations he makes to all his fellow drivers. When his supplies start getting low or hard to come by he gets inventive to preserve them.
“We’re still men, husbands and fathers,” he said. “One of our first priorities is to protect our family.”
TLD introduced its Ambassador program in February. The concept is to give drivers who regularly talk among themselves on the road but may be reluctant to speak out formally or have no other outlet to ask questions a liaison with operations and customers.
Western driver Bruce Everett recently was added as a second ambassador. TLD has plans to add three more but that expansion has been put on hold due to the current COVID-19 crisis.
It was anticipated most of the driver conversations would take place at truck stops or customer yards, but social distancing restrictions have made those interactions a rarity. Freeman has made himself available by holding conference calls while the drivers are out of the road hauling the goods essential to keeping the country going.
Freeman has been both impressed and encouraged by what he has seen as the nation responds to the crisis.
“What I’ve been most impressed with is seeing everybody being a little bit more cautious,” he said. “I’ve seen more hand washing, seen more truck drivers doing the same thing I’m doing. It makes me feel good to see other people take those precautions. It makes me think we’re going to beat this thing.”
Al Muskwitz is Editor of Wright Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photo: TLD Driver Ambassador Kevin Freeman (R) and senior operations manager John Hutton.
By Al Muskewitz