Some services came to a screeching halt when the pandemic arrived, but among the many essential workers who had to step up to the plate to keep the country running, long haul truck drivers just kept on truckin’.
Tami Spurrier, a driver with Capital Transport, is one of the many people who continued to work, hauling her chemical tankers around the country even as most hunkered down at home as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.
Spurrier, 57, spent 20 years as part of the healthcare industry in Meridian. She was an x-ray technician, EMT and volunteer fire fighter.
“I loved serving the patients, and their well being was paramount to me,” Spurrier said.
In 2013, she decided to change careers and “shift gears,” so to speak, when she enrolled in the Meridian Community College commercial truck driving program.
Jimmy Rigdon, an instructor for the program, recalled Spurrier.
“In all my years, she was one of the most positive people I have ever taught in this program, Rigdon said. "She felt comfortable with all aspects of this traditionally male-dominated field.”
Less than 10 percent of the students in his program are female, Rigdon said, but this is the perfect program for someone who is self-motivated, who pays attention to detail, and who follows the rules and laws.
Spurrier credits Rigdon with helping her find the first driving job that she still maintains.
“I was one of the first gas-hauling female drivers hired by Capital," Spurrier said. "They took a chance on me, but my hard work and determination showed the company they had made a good hire.”
For the past three years, Spurrier found herself transporting corrosive or flammable materials in her tankers, travelling to such far-flung delivery destinations as Miami, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Spurrier said she was in Illinois when she first noticed restaurant closures and restrooms at highway rest areas shut down.
She was able to go to grocery stores to fill her truck’s refrigerator with a food supply to make up for the lack of restaurants. Where the shops remained open, she ventured into truck stops for bathroom breaks and some real cooking.
“I had to plan trips differently, knowing that some businesses I relied on in the past might be closed,” Spurrier said.
As a result of quarantines, Spurrier maintains the one positive result was reduced traffic; a typical three-hour trip was cut down to two hours.
“There were not as many people on the road, so this made it easier and quicker to make my hauls,” she said.
With the confines of COVID-19 for some people, trucker drivers were allowed more freedom. Spurrier said trucking companies “suspended hours of service” limits. Truckers could drive extended hours and haul additional products.
“We were never forced, and we never felt in danger," Spurrier said. "The ease in restrictions enabled us to meet some of the demands for products such as hand sanitizer.”
Spurrier explained the demand for alcohol was high during this time. Her normal loads were switched to pure corn-based alcohol when companies began reformulating their products.
“I transported hand sanitizer from a company in Georgia that specialized in making gel caps for medicines," Spurrier said.
"They redesigned their technology with the gel substance and converted it into hand sanitizer. I have taken this product to Alabama, Texas and California. I made many cross country trips to Los Angeles.”
While some companies suffered during the pandemic, Spurrier said she thinks Capital flourished because it adapted well to changes. The company has been the perfect fit for her, she said.
“I am not afraid of much even though I’m only 5-2, and that’s with shoes,” Spurrier said.
No matter what she is hauling, she handles all deliveries with the same care.
“I do what I have to do, and I do the job safely,” she said.