Cesar Quintana Moreno, a professional truck driver with Hub Group, might not think of himself as a hero, but that’s increasingly how many people view him and other truckers who have delivered essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the midst of this public health crisis, frontline workers in the freight transportation industry have hauled groceries to supermarkets, medical supplies to hospitals and other staple goods to businesses and residences.
“It doesn’t get delivered by envelope,” Moreno said of essential freight during a recent conversation with Transport Topics.
During the early days of the pandemic, the importance of freight transportation was made all too clear when some consumer goods became scarce due to panic buying as the outbreak immobilized nearly every aspect of society.
“The thing that got everybody to calm down again [is] when they started seeing the shelves being stocked up again. They’re like, ‘OK, it’s coming back to normal.’ So that’s one less thing that they had to worry about,” said the 41-year-old Moreno, a Southern California native who is married and has three children.
Cesar epitomizes the term: professional driver. He has been with the company for over five years and during this time he has become a huge asset to the team, both driving and training.
Krystal Zamacona, site manager at Hub Group
The trucking life, he emphasized, is a vocation.
What began as a job assisting with moving boxes and loading trucks inspired a passion for driving the truck itself.
He has been a commercial driver for more than a decade now, including six years at Hub Group, a provider of intermodal transportation, trucking and logistics services. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company ranks No. 12 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
Moreno’s primary task is delivering supplies from Southern California to Home Depot locations in Las Vegas and San Diego.
“They have all types of freight in there: power tools, cleaning supplies, toilet paper. So, they’re very essential, right there,” he said.
Through it all, he has appreciated the support and recognition he has received from members of the public, particularly when arriving at a store with long lines of customers waiting to get their supplies.
“They see me coming up, and sometimes they wave at you and everything,” Moreno said. “It’s a good feeling, you know, that they won’t have to be going to another store or driving around all day long looking for their essential needs. It’s a good feeling for the driver, just to see that he helped out for the day.”
After several years, the delivery routes have become familiar. He has several favorite dining and coffee establishments that he refers to as trucker-friendly.
And, like most people, Moreno has made adjustments to adhere to safety guidelines such as social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When embarking on his routes, he is prepared with masks and personal protective equipment, or PPE. The objective, he said, is to keep it safe and healthy.
Meanwhile, Moreno also stepped up to assist with training new drivers hired by Hub Group to quickly fill roles prompted by the health crisis.
Moreno said sometimes people will wave at him as he is arriving at a store to deliver goods. He also said his daughter has a shirt that says, “My Dad Is a Hero.” (Hub Group)
Several of his colleagues said Moreno ensured these new employees received proper training amid the stress and strain of the pandemic.
“Cesar epitomizes the term: professional driver,” Krystal Zamacona, a site manager at Hub Group, told TT. “He has been with the company for over five years and during this time he has become a huge asset to the team, both driving and training. He not only strives to be a great driver but pushes those around him to thrive, also. Dedicated to safety, being ambitious are just a few things that describe Cesar.”
The new safety training will remain important long after the pandemic runs its course.
“We’re just praying for each other, making sure we’re safe, because after the pandemic, there’s still all the driving that you have. There will be another day on the road,” Moreno said.
Given the growing recognition of trucking’s essential role in our society, Moreno hopes the motoring public will take a step back and be more understanding of the men and women whose job it is to deliver the nation’s freight.
“We are moving the essential needs right now. We haven’t stopped. We thought we were going to get shut down, too, but, I guess not, because how are we going to survive without the food, the medication, the toilet paper, tools, whatever you need,” he said. “Have a little bit more patience with us because we are slow-moving vehicles, wide-turning vehicles — all those things.”
When asked if he considers himself a hero, Moreno admitted to not fully appreciating the question. He insisted he is simply out there making deliveries and helping his colleagues.
“Sometimes we don’t feel it that way,” he said. “We just consider it a job for us right now, but when you look back at the end of the day, get off your truck and you turn it off and you look at it again, and it’s like, ‘Wow, we did this today. We moved freight for people that needed it.’ ”
He continued, “I never thought of that, you know, myself being a hero. Just that my daughter wears a shirt that [says] ‘My Dad Is a Hero.’ And I see that, it’s like the greatest feeling you get, you know. But I don’t know, that’s something that caught me off guard right there. Being a hero? I don’t think of myself as a hero. I wouldn’t know how to answer that. Sorry.”