LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After days of panic-shopping cleared store shelves of items like toilet paper, the Arkansas trucking industry is trying to spread the message that supply lines are fundamentally fine.
"Actually, we have not seen a large interruption in our business," said Malea McElyea, the vice president for business development for CalArk International, a Little Rock-based trucking and logistics firm. "We've actually seen an increase in a lot of our businesses."
The company's warehouse alongside I-30 in Mabelvale started the morning filled with various goods. By noon, rows of huge white bags waited on pallets. The bags looked like giant rolls of toilet paper, but alas, held pellets used by an Arkansas oil business.
Two workers quickly used forklifts to load 18-wheel trailers through two of the dozens of loading bays.
"Eighty-five percent of the goods in Arkansas are moved by truck and we move those goods every day whether it's a pandemic such as the coronavirus, or on the day-to-day need for the consumer," said McElyea.
The activity backed up statements made by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson during a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday in West Memphis.
"The supply chain continues to exist," the governor said. "We are manufacturing in Arkansas, we're producing goods, those goods are being delivered."
But anyone who has gone on a quest for toilet paper in the last week might have trouble believing that. Admittedly, that rush for supermarket goods caught everyone in the supply chain by surprise.
"That's temporary," said McElyea. "The empty shelves are a temporary situation and we're again partnering with our customers to correct that issue."
The main challenges to truckers these past few weeks have been new stipulations put in place by those customers. Drivers, by nature, are socially isolated. But on the flip side, they go everywhere, including into virus hot spots.
"We do understand that drivers do travel across many state lines, but that is within our response plans for our organization," said McElyea. "It's actually become a great opportunity for us all to stand together and move forward to us supporting this country."