'Part of the team': How local truckers are delivering for health care providers

Marni Pyke Daily Herald 4/6/2020 5:30 AM

A Lake Villa trucking company helped transport protective gear to Illinois hospitals March 30. "It was extremely refreshing to be involved ... to be part of the team," company Operations Manager Corey Heidkamp said. (Courtesy of AMS Elite Solutions)

"Truckers for AMS Elite Solutions typically haul massive machinery or construction material for projects ranging from O'Hare International Airport to the CTA's Brown Line.

Last week was a little different.

Thousands of pallets loaded with personal protective equipment to help medical workers battling the COVID-19 coronavirus waited at a warehouse in Springfield.

Mid-West Truckers Association Executive Vice President Don Schaefer emailed members: Who wants to help distribute the vital supplies?

Lake Villa-based AMS volunteered, and at 6:55 a.m. March 30, Operations Manager Corey Heidkamp was dialing a designated number.

"I was thinking it would go into a call center," he said.

Instead, an Illinois Emergency Management Agency executive picked up. "How can I help you?" a voice asked.

"I said, 'How can I help you?'" Heidkamp recalled.

A few minutes later, a downstate AMS trucker had jettisoned his day off and was driving to the state central warehouse in Springfield, where he loaded up with N95 masks and gloves. Then it was north to deliver the vital supplies to a Rockford hospital, followed by Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin and, finally, Highland Park Hospital.

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While much of the economy stalls, "trucks are still busy," Schaefer said.

Safety procedures are evolving, but it's possible for a trucker to move from loading dock to loading dock without coming near pickup and delivery personnel, Schaefer said.

Gloves and masks are part of the new normal.

"Nobody wants to cross-contaminate," Heidkamp said.

He and his wife are hunkered down in Arlington Heights, per the state's stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the contagious respiratory disease.

The two are juggling full-time jobs and wrangling their kids, ages 3 and 5.

In the midst of coronavirus disruptions, "it was extremely refreshing to be involved ... to be part of the team" fighting COVID-19, Heidkamp said. "We knew we were giving somebody something they needed.""

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