Dec. 26–Santa Claus wasn’t the only guy hauling freight on Christmas Day. Joe Carvalho had a delivery of his own to make.
Carvalho, a Falls River, Mass., resident and professional truck driver, was on his way from Laredo, Texas, to Norton, Mass., with a 50-foot trailer full of tequila.
Another truck driver, Columbus, Ohio-based Asad Abdi, had a more conventional payload Christmas morning: UPS packages bound for New York City.
While much of the nation sat at home, cozy by the fire and enjoying the Christmas spirit, Carvalho, Abdi and some of the other estimated 1.9 million truck drivers across the country were slogging away the miles and doing their part to keep the heart of the nation’s supply chain beating.
Were it not for a slow, over-three-hour loading process in Laredo, Carvalho said he might already have been sitting at home with his wife, Nancy, in Falls River, a cup of hot coffee in his hand and something fuzzier and more comfortable than work boots on his feet.
Instead, the 61-year-old Carvalho, who has logged over 4 million miles in his nearly 40 years of driving trucks, was idling near some other trucks at in Bethel Township.
Under federal safety rules, truck drivers are limited to 14-hour work days, including 11 hours of driving. After that, they need to be off for 10 hours before continuing their journeys.
“I don’t feel like it’s Christmas,” Carvalho said, leaning into Monday morning’s windy, arctic chill from the cab of his idling Freightliner truck.
Carvalho said he would have to remain idle until midnight Christmas when the clock governing the number of hours he is allowed to work gets reset.
Under new federal safety rules that took effect Dec. 18, all truck movements are now tracked by satellite on electronic logging devices, or ELD’s, as they’re known in the industry.
“I actually like it,” said Carvalho. “It tells you you’ve got so many hours to go, and there’s no paperwork,” he said.
“The ELD doesn’t lie,” he said, adding that drivers can’t fudge the log books with the new system.
Christmas at the Carvalho home is a big deal, he said. His two children and two grandchildren were due to arrive at his home about noon or 1 p.m. Carvalho called his wife and told her to just go ahead and give the grandchildren their presents.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Carvalho. “You get lonely actually because you know what happened last year, you know everyone was there opening Christmas gifts and going crazy. It’s sad that I’m out here, but there’s times when the run is just too long and you can’t make it home. I’m five hours from there and I can’t leave.”
Christmas isn’t as big a deal for Abdi, who said he is Muslim. But he said he still enjoys the time off and the generally festive atmosphere that accompanies the Christmas holiday.
“Everybody is celebrating,” he said.
Were he not on the road, Abdi said he would be back home in Columbus enjoying the day off with his mother.
A small wrench was tossed into Abdi’s plan when his team driving partner called off sick, leaving him to make the New York City run alone. Snow along Interstate 80 in Clinton County late Sunday further slowed the journey, he said.
About 70 percent of the nation’s freight is transported by tractor-trailer, according to Oshkosh, Wis.-based Planet Freight Inc. Food, furniture, and electrical and machinery equipment are the most transported items. Truck drivers drive an estimated 140 billion miles every year, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
There is a silver lining to covering some of those miles on Christmas Day, Carvalho said: empty roads.
With the exception of bad traffic and careless drivers, Carvalho said, “I love my job. I just don’t love it today.”
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