Coronavirus Chronicles: Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, Sharp Transportation

John G Smith

Shelley Uvanile-Hesch was back on the road, even if the message on the side of the truck driver’s trailer implored Canadians to stay home.

The message was clear. “Stay Home. Save Lives.” The masked medical personnel pictured on the vehicle wrap stare out into traffic to punctuate the point.

Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, Sharp Transportation (Supplied photo)

The load inside, however, had to roll in its own effort to “#FlattenTheCurve”. The shipment of hand sanitizer was produced by one of the fleet’s existing pharmaceutical customers, destined for Burnaby, B.C. by way of Saskatoon. It was being moved by Sharp Transportation at no cost.

Still, she was frustrated by Canadians who were not yet doing their part.

“It’s quite obvious people aren’t getting it,” she said. Yes, highways were quieter, but she didn’t think they were nearly as vacant as they were in the early days of self isolation. Then there were the news reports about kids having a house party in nearby Brampton; the tweet from Ontario Provincial Police showing dozens of people in a dog park.

“I mean, c’mon … If you knew anyone in healthcare, you’d realize the importance of having to stay home. Up until this, other to go out and get groceries, I haven’t left my house.”

It’s was the first load she had taken since the death of her husband and co-driver in a yard accident on Aug. 18. But in the months since then Uvanile-Hesch has focused her energy on the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, a grassroots organization that she founded and continues to lead.

The driver feels pretty good about the thought of hauling a critical supply in the fight against the virus. Wash your hands. When soap and water are not available, use the hand sanitizer if you can find any. But that still reminds her of the stories of price gouging in selected truck stops, where palm-sized bottles of sanitizer are priced at $16.99, and larger bottles are offered at $40.

She’s also frustrated by reports of grocery stores that won’t allow drivers inside if they admit to being out of the country within the past 14 days. Truck drivers are largely self isolating because of the nature of the job, after all.

And for every story of support for truck drivers, she hears another about a fleet that limits access to basic facilities like washrooms. Where one truck stop hands out free coffee, another closes access to the showers.

The general public seems more aware of the work that truckers do these days. She just wonders whether that will continue after the pandemic, of if things will quickly switch back to the way they were.

“We can only hope that it changes things.”

  • Coronavirus Chronicles tell the trucking industry’s personal stories from the front lines of Covid-19. They are drawn from the ongoing coverage at www.trucknews.com.
John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Canadian Shipper, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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