Memphis, TN

Closure of the Memphis bridge is leading to loss of revenue for truckers

Tara Blair Ball

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Drivers are changing their plans for getting work done or planning for longer excursions. Some are even choosing routes that won't take them into Memphis at all because of the closure of the I-40 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas.

Because of these difficulties, many truckers are quitting their jobs, increasing the number of open trucking jobs across the country.

"I have been driving since 2015, and I have seen nothing like this," says Irene Simien, who is known as the 'Driver Queen."

Simien is one of only a few female truckers, but she's a veteran driver who's seen anything and everything. However, what she's seeing now with the closure of the Memphis bridge is completely new.

"It's completely clogged. It requires so much more time, more traffic, and we can only sit and wait," said Simien.

The I-40 extension closure has hindered her routes. She showed us her automated log that she should keep. Unfortunately, she can only work a specific number of hours, which means it's taking her longer and longer to deliver.

"We have a 70-hour clock. We can just drive 11 hours every day. We need to remove a break from that," Simien said.

During last week's conversation with the Secretary of Transportation, the trucking companies say they're losing a record amount of revenue.

"An hour of clog or 60 miles out of course is generally $2 million every day that our businesses is engrossing in cost as long as that bridge is out," said Shannon Newton with the Arkansas Trucking Association.

"When that cost is added, who does that cost get passed down to? It gets passed down to our customers, just as our transporters," said Donna England of the Tennessee Trucking Association.

They are requesting help spreading the news to drivers to stay away from the heavy traffic, and they need signage and live cameras to show the projected traffic waits. They hope that more updated information could help their truckers avoid traffic-heavy areas or reschedule their breaks to accord with longer driving times.

"Recently I sat for three and a half hours directly around here at the 40-55 split going to 40," says transporter Ben Fortner.

Drivers say their business is in question the longer it takes to reopen the Memphis bridge.

"I'm trusting they have it done before the finish of the late spring. I'm trusting," says Fortner. As are many.

TDOT says the bridge may not re-open until August. Many remain worried that it will take even longer to fix and re-open.

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Memphis, TN
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