It’s been nearly a year since we had the opportunity to speak with Barbara Herman of K-Limited Carrier. Barbara was named the first female winner of the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Award.
We thought it would be good to catch up with this Toledo, Ohio native and learn how the current environment is impacting her daily life. Barbara has been driving trucks for 35 years, the last 12 with K-Limited Carrier. Barbara is proud of her two million accident-free miles – with nearly one million safe miles with K-Limited.
SmartDrive: It’s nice to reconnect, Barbara. A lot has happened since we last spoke. What has changed in your day-to-day life since the onset of the pandemic?
Barbara Herman: I’m doing a lot more cleaning – door handle, steering wheel, inside of my truck – everywhere! When I get fuel, instead of using my finger, I use a pen. I’ve learned that the places we go to have cut their staff; they’re patient with us and, in turn, I’m patient with them. It sometimes takes longer to complete a delivery. For instance, when I used to go to one of our customers, I could usually get in/out in 1-1.5 hours; now it takes 2-3 hours. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is. I’m trying to practice safe distancing and am continually washing my hands.
I’ve had to modify my eating habits – both what I eat and where. I’m eating more in my truck than I did before. I have a microwave and coffee pot in my truck. On Sunday, my husband cooks meals for the week if I’m going to be on the road. I’m trying to eat healthy, but it’s not always easy! I still try to stop at the places where I loved to eat, realizing they’re take out now.
SD: Can you share any specific anecdotes related to social distancing in terms of drop offs and pick- ups, rest stops, self-quarantine, etc.?
BH: I find that staffing makes the difference. In the company mentioned earlier, they had sent half of their employees home. Rather than two guys working together, they now have one guy do 12 hours and then another do 12 hours. The companies are limiting who can go into their offices and the number of people who can go in at any one time.
SD: How has the pandemic impacted your personal/family life? Are you on the road more? Are you self- quarantining from your family?
BH: I’m quarantining from my family, but not my husband, who is an essential employee at his company. I have a daughter who is also an essential employee; she’s a nurse practitioner at one of her local hospitals. As for schedule, I’ve been staying out all week. When I come home, I put my clothes in the washer and shower immediately. I also spray alcohol on the bottom of my shoes.
SD: What changes has K-Limited Carrier implemented?
BH: Social distancing. We used to talk to our dispatchers face to face; we do a lot more over the phone now. Our business involves a lot of paperwork, so everyone is wearing gloves. After servicing, I put on my gloves, get my Lysol wipes and wipe everything back down. You can’t be too careful. Unfortunately, you have to treat everyone as if they’ve got the virus. It makes me feel bad as I’m a hugger and you can’t do that now. I look forward to a time when we can.
I’ve noticed that people’s attitudes have changed so much – in a good way! You pass another truck driver in a truck stop and people speak to each other now. That rarely happened before. Even drivers on the road. Whereas they used to go out of their way to cut me off, I now see people back off and let me over. In the last 2-3 weeks I’ve had more people back off and let me in, than in the last 30 years!
There’s a lot less traffic on the roads. In Cincinnati, for instance, which is one of the biggest bottlenecks I frequent, I went through during rush hour and never had to slow down. Same thing with St. Louis. No matter what time of day, it’s like running through at 2:00 am.
SD: Have you experienced any really positive things since the situation started?
BH: As I mentioned before, people are friendlier. The amount of appreciation and recognition we’re receiving has been absolutely phenomenal. As a driver, we’re out here simply doing our job. We’re not looking for a pat on the back.
We want to tell the general public, be patient. We’re going to continue to do our job and get you what you need as quickly – and safely – as possible. When people walk into the grocery store and see the shelves are bare, the reality of where these products come from hit home. For the most part, people have finally realized that if drivers aren’t out there delivering what they need, they’re not going to get it. Eventually it’ll go back to what it used to be, but in the meantime, everyone has to continue being patient.
I’m convinced that with what has happened, this is going to bring families back together. I’m sure that families won’t be constantly staring at their phone. Families are starting to sit down and have dinner together and talk to each other. Maybe this is what we all needed.
Thank you, Barbara. Stay safe. Stay healthy. And, thank you for helping keep America moving forward. You can read more about Barbara being named the first female winner of the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Award here.
All of us at SmartDrive would like to acknowledge those, like Barbara, who are going above and beyond to keep America’s stores and hospitals stocked – safely. Do you have an employee who is prioritizing safety while continuing to ensure goods are delivered quickly to meet customer demands? Nominate your employee and they’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card. A different hero will be selected each week. Our favorite stories will be shared on social media to inspire others.