Peter Lacoste, NFI Transportation: Cleanliness Became a Crusade

Keep it real, keep it clean, keep it real clean.

Words to live by during a pandemic, to be sure. But for Peter Lacoste, they represent more than a catchphrase. They are his crusade.

Lacoste, 55, is a 17-year NFI Transportation employee based at the fleet’s Framingham, Mass., location, and a 30-year trucking veteran.

A driver-trainer who works with recruits brought along through NFI’s program, his job involves coordinating operations within the yard, communicating with drivers and ensuring deliveries stay on track.

But when the COVID-19 outbreak began to take hold, Lacoste took on a new responsibility — sanitizing the company’s trucks to help keep his colleagues safe.

On March 17, Massachusetts began ordering many businesses to shut down in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but NFI Transportation, as an essential business, remained open and continued to transport vital goods. The division of Camden, N.J.-based NFI Industries delivers truckloads of 5-gallon jugs of Poland Spring water for one of its primary customers, Nestlé Inc. NFI Industries ranks No. 18 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

NFI Transportation uses slipseating in routes that stretch from Maine to Pennsylvania, meaning that multiple drivers share the same truck. Constant cleaning is imperative.

“It’s real important that what we do is keep coming to work,” Lacoste said. “If one person, say, gets sick, it will spread like wildfire.”

To that end, doing his part to ensure the safety of the terminal’s 83 drivers and six-member office staff became the primary focus.

Peter Lacoste on his truck

Lacoste takes a moment to enjoy a light meal in NFI Transporrtation’s Framingham, Mass., terminal yard, (NFI Transportation)

That means a deep clean for about 40 trucks, depending on the driver rotation. Lacoste’s wife, Novilyn, and her mother, Norma, helped by securing supplies.

Novilyn is used to seeing such dedication.

“He always volunteers … even on vacation,” she said. “He’ll always answer the phone. He’s very dedicated to his job.”

The first order of business is removing the big debris, such as food bags, snack wrappers and soda cans. That’s followed by blasts from a leaf blower to get surface grit out. Then the sanitizing, with alcohol, Clorox, or basically whatever is available.

“The focus is always on the interior … what people touched for the past 14 hours,” Lacoste said, referring to the time of a driver’s shift.

It takes about 45 minutes to get a truck ready for the next driver. “Once you get a system, it starts moving a little quicker,” he said.

Nothing can be left to chance.

“Every switch, button, dial. If you forget something, you think, ‘Is that the thing [that could transmit the virus]?’ ”

As the outbreak worsened, drivers’ apprehension increased. The first step was to put their minds at ease.

“It started by making the drivers comfortable coming into work, and getting into a truck someone else just got out of,” said Tom Cosgrove, logistics supervisor for NFI ­Transportation.

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