Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'It's Just ... Empty': This Truck Driver Has Little To Haul

Neftali Dubon is used to seeing miles and miles of containers stacked up and down and back to back.

After all, he's a truck driver at some of the busiest ports in the country — Los Angeles and Long Beach — both shipping hubs for Chinese imports. But when the coronavirus lockdowns idled Chinese factories at the beginning of the year, drivers like Dubon were the first to start seeing their work dry up.

"I've never seen what I'm seeing now," he says. "Places where we would have stacks of containers, it's just ... empty."

Dubon is an owner-operator. That means he's considered his own boss. So he's technically still employed and doesn't qualify for government assistance. He gets paid for each load he picks up from the ports. Dubon says he needs at least five or six runs like that per day to make a living. By mid-March, he was doing just one or two.

Meanwhile, he's still paying down a loan on his trucking rig — which he bought on his personal credit — as well as paying insurance and storage fees. The total: more than $2,000 per month.

Read more stories in Faces Of The Coronavirus Recession.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.