Essential worker: Tow truck driver Anthony Riale

Chester. ‘You just do what you gotta do.’

24 Jun 2020 | 11:50

Anthony Riale is the owner of LMR Towing Inc and LMR Trucking Inc., both located on Lehigh Avenue. He is also a volunteer firefighter for Walton Engine & Hose. As a firefighter he says he makes sure he has personal protective equipment: “You just do what you gotta do.”

Riale’s towing business has been evenly split between towing broken down vehicles and impounding cars when drivers have been detained for DUI.

What’s it been like during the Covid-19 pandemic?

“We went from 20-25 calls a day down to about five, now it’s about 10. It’s been slow for the past three and a half months.

“It was a little tough with towing; waiting for people to get rides. Some people didn’t understand why we couldn’t let them in the truck. They’d say, ‘You’re not going to get anything (Covid-19) from me.’ We’re still going through guidelines where people are not allowed in the truck. I couldn’t have them in the cab; couldn’t abandon them on road or tell them to walk off the next exit to wait for family members. I wear a mask, use Purell and have Lysol in the truck. I have to get into other people’s cars to put it in neutral. I had to ask people, ‘Where they were coming from, how they were feeling, were they near anybody who was sick?’”

Have you felt any more anxiety than usual?

“There’s always anxiety in the towing industry because of people in a (stressful) situation; some are hostile because we’re picking up an impounded car. It’s been harder with Covid-19. You always have to worry about people getting mad and spitting or coughing on you or even talking loud. I try to stay 10 feet away. I’m a bit of a germaphobe myself.”

In his trucking business, Riale picks up material for Home Depot from distribution sites and delivers it curbside for homeowners. During this time, he notes, “A lot of people are reconstructing their patios; the stuff flies from the truck to stores to people’s houses.”

What changes has he made at work or home?

“I’m a germaphobe to begin with. I’m not so worried for myself but for my two drivers. I make sure they have Purell; Lysol; hand wipes; face masks; surgical gloves. The NYS Department of Transportation was giving out face masks at inspection stations at truck stops. It was very nice of them because usually they’re trying to give us tickets.

“I take extra precautions at home: I try not to touch my wife or kids and go right into the shower. Clothing goes right into the laundry.”

Riale and his wife Melissa have two little girls: LuAnn, 10, and Antonia, 4. “My wife worries constantly about me getting sick and coming home sick. I’m vulnerable because I worked down at 9/11 and have a weak lung condition — I got asthma.

“My wife is an esthetician, she was laid off from work as soon as it started. It’s very hard to keep the kids entertained. They can only play outside in the yard and then they get bored. They can’t go anyplace ‘cause everything is closed.

“Everyone is losing their mind.”