We cannot wish Covid-19 away, but we can adapt

Al Goodhall

When will we be back to normal? When will this be over? These are the questions most asked about the Covid-19 pandemic these days. I certainly don’t have the answers to those questions, but after two months of flying by the seat of my pants I’m steeling myself to the fact that we’re dealing with a new reality. We can’t wish it away.

In early April, I was listening to a radio documentary about Victor Frankl’s memoir Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl wrote this book in 1946 after surviving four Nazi concentration camps. The core of the work revolves around the fact that even when you cannot change the circumstances you find yourself in, you always possess the choice of how to react to the situation – even those situations involving great suffering. This pandemic is exactly that. A set of circumstances we cannot change.

So, we need to start doing what we can on the frontlines to care for one another. We can’t wish this problem away.

The first thing we all need to start doing is wearing masks. It has been shown that this virus moves out of our bodies on the aerosols we exhale. Since we could be a carrier of this virus and not know it (asymptomatic), face masks combined with physical distancing measures, are the most effective action we can all take to protect each other in the present moment.

We need some universal protocols in place around personal protective equipment (PPE) used by truckers along with training as to its proper use and care.

(Photo: iStock)

Masks are the best example. If I find a mask has been included along with my trip envelope, that is fantastic. But where has that mask been? Is it sealed in its own packaging? Has it come in bulk and been handled by a person that has also been in contact with many touch surfaces while distributing the masks?

What about the paperwork that is in the trip envelope along with the mask? Where has that come from and who has handled it? How long can a disposable mask be worn? We have to make sure PPE is a protection and not another vector of transmission.

As a result of asking myself these questions about masks, I have ordered my own reusable cotton masks that can be disinfected in the truck with a little bleach and hot water, then hung up to dry.

In terms of training, now more than ever, drivers need to be the go to sources of information in a rapidly changing trucking environment. Many workers are now working remotely from home through the internet.

This shows us that two-way communication is the standard we should be moving towards in the trucking industry. It’s time we recognize the truck as a complete workspace, and not just a tool to move trailers around. Bunk spaces that convert to table/desk workspaces along with Wi-Fi availability through our existing onboard wireless communications systems should be standard.

We need to pivot away from the top-down paternalistic management model we are stuck in. This is also the fastest path to recruiting new blood and new ideas into our industry when we need it the most. Professional drivers are highly motivated self-starters with a flair for solving problems on the fly. It’s well past time they were used to their full potential and recognized as valuable members of the team when it comes to planning, productivity, and problem solving.

Expanding the capacity of fridges and freezers in trucks and making onboard generators a standard would go a long way to resolving the problem of food availability and reducing a driver’s exposure in Covid-19 hotspots.

Finally, and most importantly, rest stops, safe parking, and toilet facilities need to be part of our highway infrastructure throughout Canada, and not a luxury that is contracted out to the highest bidder. This will take longer to implement but we need to get on this now.

Stay safe everyone. Wear a mask in public and wash your hands.

Al Goodhall

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

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  • I agree that anyone ordering new trucks should look at putting in a fridge and even buying used trucks figure out if they can fit a fridge in the bunk if the truck has space . Truck drivers need more parking areas with WiFi and plugs to plug into if we have spend our down time in a truck. Some companies and owners ops have been using hotels rooms a lot more in the past 5 weeks for layovers. I have talked to many people who drove trucks in the past and more needs to be done by the shippers and receivers to make their places nicer for truck drivers. One receiver in Ontario rented 2 hotel rooms by the week ( for a minimum of 5 weeks) for truck drivers delivering to their warehouse. It seems that workers from those workers at amazon, meat packing plants, , taxi driver grocery store clerks, to truck drivers are called essential but very low level of safety and personnel protection is given to them . I just hope that the little people working and health care workers are listened to as much as lobbyists and corporations when a long term plan is made.