Possible protests spur some interstate exit closings, warnings of delivery delays

Businesses like the Love’s Travel Stop in South Holland, Illinois, shut down services to truck drivers in anticipation of potential protests in the Chicago area late Tuesday.

A truck driver who stopped in at Love’s wasn’t allowed to fuel up or come inside and was asked to return to their truck late Tuesday.

Richard Anderson, shift lead at the Love’s, confirmed that fuel pumps had been turned off and that he had been instructed not to let drivers inside except to use the bathroom one at a time.

“We received a warning earlier today that they were going to be protesting down the main street here so we can’t really tell if it’s going to be a peaceful protest or a violent one so we are taking extra precautions,” Anderson told FreightWaves. “Our district manager just let us know to cut off the fuel and not let anybody in until we get the OK about what’s going on in the outside world.”

As of press time, Anderson said he hadn’t seen any protesters.

Truck drivers also reported late Tuesday that concrete barricades were put in place and exits were closed off along Interstates 80 and 94 near the Illinois and Indiana border by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Earlier Tuesday, the Illinois Trucking Association stated on its Facebook page that it had received a “credible report” Tuesday morning that protesters planned to block the northbound and southbound exits at Calumet Avenue, Indianapolis Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue, just inside the Indiana border, around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The planned police brutality protest was canceled, according to the Chicago Post-Tribune.

However, the Indiana State Police is reporting that one person was arrested and pepper spray was used to keep about 150 protesters from I-80 and I-94 in Hammond, Indiana, according to news outlet WBEZ.

SEKO Logistics says it is not delivering or picking up in Chicago and surrounding areas due to ongoing protests and riots.

The company, which is headquartered outside Chicago, also alerted customers to potential delays across the Los Angeles metro area, including from its warehouse in Chino and its Carson facility near Los Angeles International Airport. The National Guard has imposed checkpoints in various locations and curfews are in place. 

SEKO continues to operate across the New York City area, but any time-definite or overnight deliveries may be impacted by the curfew there, the company said.

Jeff Bessent, safety director for Chicago-based M&J Intermodal Inc./Eagle Intermodal Inc., said the safety department and dispatchers have been in constant communication with his 140 drivers about the planned protest.

“We are staying off the interstates as much as possible and we are watching all of the road closures that are going on and following all of the advice that the Illinois Trucking Association and the Illinois State Police are providing to us, as well as the Chicago Police Department,” Bessent told FreightWaves. “Right now, we are trying to move all of our freight as early in the morning as possible to avoid running in the afternoon and evening hours.”

Peaceful protests and civil unrest have continued to rage for eight days in many major cities, including Chicago, following the death of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The Illinois State Police is advising truckers and motorists to check its main Twitter page for interstate and exit closures. It is also sharing safety tips, including avoiding locations with active police activity and protest areas, as well as abiding by cities’ curfews.

So far, none of Bessent’s drivers have experienced any run-ins with protesters.

“Our drivers are pretty dedicated to what they got to do and they know where they are going,” he said. “There are certain areas like the Norfolk Southern terminals right now we are avoiding from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. because of their location.”

Bessent said that 90% of the intermodal company’s work is local, which helps his safety and dispatch teams keep track of hot spots around Chicago where looting and vandalism are occurring. The company also has terminals in New Jersey; Kansas City, Missouri; Commerce City, Colorado; and Atlanta.

“I don’t mind protests. I am all for it because I did my time in the military and fought to defend this right for everybody else,” he said. “I am just as upset by what happened to Floyd as everyone else, but I don’t support rioting and destroying property. It’s only going to make the situation worse.”

FreightWaves’ Eric Kulisch contributed to this report.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes