Maverick’s Liz Imel Navigates COVID-19 to Keep the Supply Chain Moving
Trimble is taking a special look at the individuals who are keeping the supply chain moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liz Imel is proud to say that she has the best office view there is. Imel, a driver for Arkansas-based Maverick Transportation, has been a professional truck driver for eight years and spends her work days looking out on the open road.
“I’ve always been a free spirit,” Imel said. “Working in an office, sitting and staring at a computer screen isn’t for me.”
After taking a commercial driver’s license (CDL) course at a local community college, Imel started driving and hasn’t looked back. Imel was recently named as Maverick’s Driver of the Year, a recognition that highlights a driver who “demonstrates exceptional commitment to their profession, while maintaining Maverick’s standards of holding safety in the highest regard.”
While operating safely and efficiently has been the norm for Imel, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has presented new challenges, both for Imel and truck drivers across the nation.
“When you are a truck driver, you are all over the place,” said Imel. “I’ve always tried to be a little cautious anyway.”
COVID-19 Complicates Things Both On and Off the Clock
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all parts of the supply chain have felt the impact of the virus on product inventories, freight capacity and social interactions. Imel is no exception to this rule. For Imel, the repercussions of COVID-19 can be felt in all aspects of her job, including when she arrives with her freight at a customer location.
“Some customers are more concerned than others about social distancing,” said Imel. She notes that some customers now require her to hand paperwork through a metal door or won’t require her to hand certain paperwork back.
The effects on the supply chain have also meant changes to what Imel hauls. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Imel focused on flatbed loads of items like pontoon boats. With the change in demand, Imel has recently been making more frequent dry van deliveries.
For Imel, it’s not just the work component of the job that is being affected by COVID-19. Like most over-the-road truckers, Imel spends her days and nights on the nation’s highways and some of the amenities she relies on are also subject to COVID-19’s influence.
“Your mom and pop fuel stops have closed their bathrooms, which is a little rough,” said Imel.
She adds that while the larger travel plazas are fully open, food is harder to find and so are supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Staying Safe and Productive in a COVID-19 World
It’s not just the inconveniences of COVID-19 that are impacting drivers. Health and safety are two big concerns for all of us, but particularly so for people like Imel who continue to operate on the front lines during the pandemic.
Imel notes that Maverick has established a robust protocol for the entirety of its operations, including areas such as increased facility cleanings, social distancing measures for vehicle maintenance and limits on who can enter a driver’s cab, and resources such as telemedicine services and employee assistance programs.
While the social distancing hasn’t bothered Imel too much – she notes that drivers by nature like their solitude – what is concerning is potentially taking the virus home to her loved ones.
“I am not going home until this settles down,” said Imel. “I have grandkids and I do not want to take that chance.”
The longest Imel has ever stayed out on the road is three months, and she is prepared to do that now, if need be. To help her stay connected, Imel relies on technology both personally and professionally – satellite radio and social media to communicate and stay informed – and in-cab technology to receive daily updates from Maverick on the evolving status of how COVID-19 is impacting their business and drivers. That’s not to say that technology can replace every aspect of interpersonal interactions.
“I like to hug people but can’t do that now,” said Imel.
Shining a Light on the Importance of Truck Drivers
If there is one silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it has placed a renewed focus on the importance of the brave men and women who drive trucks and keep our supply chain moving. This increased appreciation doesn’t go unnoticed by Imel.
“People are giving me the arm pump, waving to me and overall have been really nice,” said Imel.
In spite of the recent COVID-19 challenges, Imel continues to love her job – a job that so many of us have come to appreciate even more in these last few days and weeks. In addition to keeping supplies moving and shelves stocked, Imel also has advice for all of us during these challenging days.
“Try to have a good positive attitude,” said Imel. “We have to work together as a team.”
To help encourage this collaboration, Trimble created a COVID-19 resource page dedicated to important news and updates for the transportation industry on this key topic. Be sure to regularly check out this page for new information and for more stories like these of the men and women who are keeping us all moving forward.