How are we to respond to the mess we now find ourselves in? How do we chart a course? What will life be like on the other side of it?
And more immediately for me, what the hell can I write on April 10, 2020?
Two weeks prior I resolved that I would not write this column about the pandemic that engulfs us. We’ve all read and heard too much, I felt. In the end, however, I realized that I could write about nothing else. So, with Chico the handsome Husky lying contentedly at my feet in enviable oblivion, here goes.
First off, let me repeat something you’ve been hearing a lot lately, probably for the first time ever from civilians: you’re all heroes. Drivers especially, but also the techs in all the country’s shops. The dispatchers of course. The forklift folks. And many, many others who help to keep the trailers full and the wheels rolling. You know this already, I think, but I appreciate you. Always have, always will.
Gradually, the rest of Canada is seeing you this way too. When things began to shut down, everyone seemed to forget about truckers’ needs. Rest areas closed. Restaurants closed. Drive-throughs wouldn’t allow drivers as pedestrians to order a coffee and a doughnut. Warehouses, even more than usual, banned truck drivers from using their washrooms. It was ugly.
Thankfully, that’s been changing, and we’ve seen extraordinary acts of kindness and understanding popping up all over the place. It’s still a struggle for longhaulers but things are improving from what I hear and see. Let’s hope that such kindness and increased respect for truck drivers lasts into the new world we’re headed for. I’m actually hopeful that it will.
So where are we going? I don’t know, and the truth is, nobody else does, either. Bigger brains than mine can’t answer that question, largely because we don’t have enough data to conclude anything at all. Testing for the dreaded virus is spotty at best, especially in the U.S. where the president has just de-funded federal support for that effort. Hard to figure that one.
One thing I do know is that we will not get back to “normal” any time soon. We may never get back there, so prepare for the “new abnormal”. Except there’s no way to prepare for something we can’t yet imagine. We’re caught between a big rock and what will be a very, very hard place for a while.
Another thing I know is that we’ll see the world in increasingly local ways. In just a few short weeks we’ve come to appreciate our neighborhood restaurants and barber shops and hardware stores. Many will close, many will get very inventive and survive in new ways. They deserve our support.
But “local” will be broader than that and will come with a newly invigorated “Made in Canada” status. Do you want to buy pickles made in India when they could come from somewhere just down the road? Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province will never again be dependent on foreign supply, a statement made after the petty demand from Washington that 3M mustn’t ship N95 masks to Canada. That sentiment will carry progressively more weight and may ultimately change a great many things in terms of supply chains.
Freight will be relatively scarce for a while but it will come back and trucking will always be an essential service. Despite all the moaning and groaning – well justified in a lot of cases – if you’re in trucking, you’re in a solid place.
The next few months, and likely the next couple of years, will not be easy, but we’re a resilient bunch with a clear purpose. Stay the course.
And remember, what matters is not what we face but what we make of it.
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