From trucker to essential worker in one month

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I started the month of March as a trucker, and ended the month as an essential worker. This was the story for every worker that is part of the supply chain. What we are all learning is that we are deeply interdependent.

Gone are the days of thinking that any line of work is unimportant or insignificant in its contribution to the whole. The term ‘unskilled labor’ has carried with it the belief that anyone can do these types of jobs. We are learning otherwise.

There has been plenty of praise heaped upon truckers and other frontline workers over the past weeks. This is not glamorous work. It is often tedious. Most of us accept our role and operate quietly under the radar of those above our station.

So, it is an odd feeling to be seen as being heroic in our actions – actions that have not changed from day to day. It is only the perspective of others that has changed. Life on the road for the past month has become surreal, and taken on a feeling of moral responsibility.

It is wonderful to be appreciated and recognized, but it comes with added cost in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is fear and anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with the health risk frontline workers are exposing themselves to. For most of us that fear is not so much for ourselves, but for our loved ones. Many truckers are simply not going home to their families, in an attempt to protect them. As I write this, we are into the first week of April and have yet to reach the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s not getting any easier for any of us.

On arrival at the truck each Friday evening, I don a pair of protective gloves and spray every touch surface and work surface with a disinfectant spray.

I close up the truck and let everything dry before going back in and vacuuming and wiping down everything, as I normally would with regular cleaners. Only then do I load up my personal gear. This gives me a sanitized living space to work from for the week.

It’s easy for me, as a longhaul driver, to isolate myself in this space and manage my contact with others outside the truck. I minimize contact further by carrying my own food and water. It has been easy for me to adapt, because I started down this path a number of years ago for health reasons. So this is how I provide myself with some peace of mind.

Most drivers do not have the benefit I have of being out for five days then home for two. It is much easier for me to remain independent and carry homemade foods and not have to worry about resupply. Many drivers stay out much longer than I do and depend on restaurants and truck stops as part of their regular routine.

With only take-out now available and many businesses changing the access to showers and bathroom facilities for truck drivers, life on the road has become more than a little challenging. Many drivers are feeling the stress and there is still a long road ahead.

In the next month, we will see layoffs in the trucking sector. Many drivers are volunteering for layoffs since they do not want to expose their loved ones to the virus. For those of us still on the road, many are at higher risk of infection due to underlying health conditions that come with being part of the older demographic that defines our industry.

It’s not easy to leave home each week. The anxiety is very real. At the same time it is a privilege to be able to continue to work and support others, especially when so many are going without and isolating themselves in order to stem the spread of this virus.

May you all remain safe and healthy.


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Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.

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  • Great message Al. We all have a tendency to appreciate things in life more when it is not there when we want it: whether it is to feel, to touch, to use or even to eat. The Truck Driving Profession is not for the faint of heart. It is a tough job, always has been. But there have always been someone to take the wheel. Today the PM of Canada has seemed truck drivers an essential service – because everyone relies on the trucking industry. Period. But he needs to go further – much further – because we don’t need our drivers to called an Essential Service THEY NEED ACCESS TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES. Knowing this, the Professional Truck Drivers will be there for Canadians today just as in the past.

    • Thanks for your public support Mr Mullen. It’s good to know leaders like yourself with a large circle of influence have our back. I know this has always been so.
      Covid-19 has “levelled the playing field” like nothing else could. We are all in this together.
      Let’s hope we can carry that attitude through to the other side and deliver the infrastructure in every sector of our society individual frontline workers need to support ourselves, our families, and the whole.

    • When I were a pup, wet behind the ears, the veterans mentored professionalism on greenhorns. There was a self-imposed pride evident, that is lacking in the business.
      Governments have taken all the fun out of Truckin’….now it’s an entry level position.
      Drivers were natural equipment operators with electro-mechanical appreciation, generally knew how to get from A to B. Any wonder drivers are scarce? Bring back professionalism and stop treating adults like children.

  • Great article Al
    The truth is finally catching up to the people we have always been essential.
    But no one notice us except we where big and in the road.
    I agree with every thing both you and Mr Mullen said.

  • Good commentary. We need to look at all jobs that are considered essential and treatment of these people when this is over from store clerks to trucking to hospital workers. At the end of the day people who make the decisions are not the ones hurt by those actions. The shortage of places for homeless and people living in their trucks to use bathrooms and spots to eat and get out the heat or the cold weather. Medical treatment for these people especially people who work in the U S as well as Canada should have a complete review along with truck drivers treatment and pay , insurance issues. I can tell as some one who has be pushing for better treatment and camped out at queens park from Jan 24 to March 17 of this year. Many people said change is needed I hope that better protections for truck drivers and other people hurt by government and insurance companies gets a very good look at and change is made.

  • Now that we are recognized as essential, it would be nice to be recognized as a “skilled” trade.

  • Thanks very much to you Al and all the other drivers and frontline workers out there providing this valuable and dedicated service. As a retired independent trucker of 35 years I am extremely proud that you folks are keeping the supply chain open for essential goods and services.
    Truckers are the most dedicated people I have ever known and their resiliency and stature even in the face of adversity is second to none. Trucking to me has always been in my mind the lifeline of the nation and now more people are aware of this. Hopefully when this mess is over and we get into the “new normal “ people and government will remember the sacrifices and commitment you all have made.
    I wish you all safe and healthy travels. And thanks again from the bottom of my heart.