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Among the difficult lessons of the new coronavirus is this: Essential workers aren’t who you might think they are. As whole swaths of the economy shut down, those still reporting to the job, those still making our country function, are grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, clerks at big box stores, Amazon delivery people.


And on our highways, still carrying out their assigned routes, are the truckers.


Many of us might be sheltering in place at home, but we still need food and goods. The grocery store and big box employees might sell us those items. The truckers bring those goods to the store in the first place.


These dedicated workers are an essential component of our national supply chains. They are doing their usual duties, while grappling with the fears of a pandemic.


“I’m a little concerned. It comes and goes,” said Frito-Lay driver Tyler Brown, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s India Yarborough. “I am wearing gloves and definitely washing my hands more often.”


“People aren’t as social,” said Topkea-based Kirk Warner, who travels with his pet monkey. “We used to sit out in our lawn chairs in the truck stop parking lot and people would come over. ... They’d come over to be around the monkey, but people are staying their distance. Everybody’s being safe.”


As the United States’ economy has shifted in recent decades from one driven mostly by manufacturing and agriculture to one undergirded by the service industry and domestic consumption, our labor force has also shifted. That’s why the coronavirus has hit our economy with such force — if people are staying home, they simply can’t use services and consume in the same way they did before.


But people still need essentials. They still need food, even if they’re not going inside a restaurant. They still need packages delivered through the mail. So the supermarket checkout clerk still reports to work. The postal worker still drives his or her route.


In real time, in stunning clarity, we’re seeing how essential functions are really those that allow us to keep living at a basic level on our own.


Truckers are a key link in that chain. They deserve our thanks and appreciation during these stressful days. Please, take care of yourselves. Drive safely and treat yourselves with kindness.