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'Every Single Thing That Anyone Buys Was Delivered On A Truck'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

That phrase essential worker has taken on a clear definition the last few weeks - nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and truckers, including Dakota Roach.

DAKOTA ROACH: Every single thing that anyone buys was delivered on a truck.

SIMON: Dakota Roach lives in Castle Rock, Colo., but he's been on the road for the last two months. We caught up with him as he rolled out of Sullivan, Ill.

ROACH: You buy a car. It was delivered on a truck. You buy toilet paper, hand sanitizer, which is huge right now, that's delivered on a semitruck. So a lot of the country is going to see truck drivers are doing their job and we're not buttheads (laughter) being on the road. You know, trucks aren't trying to get in your way.

SIMON: Dakota Roach says the pandemic has kept him busy, but it's also made it hard to find a good meal on the road. Truck stops no longer offer relief.

ROACH: They have closed restaurants for the most part, and we really only have access to gas station food or fast food at this point. Gas station food is, you know, like, little taquitos or, like, little rollers. It's just - it's very miniscule. There's not - there's not a lot to choose from. It's greasy. It's - you know, you don't know what's in it, to be honest with you. It's just - it is what it is. You see it, and if it looks like it's decent, you go for it. Before all the coronavirus stuff, you were able to go in. You ask for a table. You sit down, not be confined to this 8-by-8 truck and enjoy other people, enjoy the interaction that you get to have, you know, being waited on even. I mean, that was awesome. And stretch your legs out and eat with real silverware and not eat out of a plastic bowl or, you know, stuff like that, it's just something that I really miss.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROACH: I'm going home for the first time, and I go home to my mom. And my mom's 63 years old and has asthma and a lot of health issues. I want to be as cautious as I can going home to her. It's scary with the coronavirus stuff, especially in an industry like this where we have to shower and do our laundry and all that kind of stuff in these truck stops. I would say anywhere from 150 to over a thousand people a day are going through truck stops. I will say the truck stops have done a really good job of, you know, posting stuff when we walk in the door is about this is - we do X, X and X to make sure that you're safe from this virus. But it's still a little unnerving because I've been in the restroom when these people come in at the truck stops and actually do the cleaning. And it doesn't look a lot different a lot of the times when they leave than when I walked in there and they weren't in there.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROACH: In school, they tell us a lot of the time people don't care about truck drivers. And when you get out on the open road and you're driving a truck, you see that people don't really care or understand what it is that we do and how hard it is. But the other day, I was driving on the highway. I was in Virginia. And the older couple that was behind me drove up next to me and the lady that was in the passenger seat was looking out the window and put her hands in the little praying position and mouthed thank you to me and waved with a big old smile on her face. And it just - it made me feel really good to know that there's people out there that do understand. And it adds another element to something that I love to do that makes it that much more lovable for me. So I'm going to continue to do my job and do it to the best of my ability and get stuff wherever I need to get it.

SIMON: Dakota Roach, a trucker from Castle Rock, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.