TORONTO, Ont. — Susie Deridder began to notice a change in her loads as the stories of Covid-19 began to emerge.
“I was hauling more food products as well, and we were receiving satellite messages requesting more drivers to cover the extra grocery orders at distribution centers,” says the Armour Transportation truck driver. Her loads last week included three trips between Quebec and Nova Scotia, traveling from Moncton to North Sydney and into the ferry terminals that connect to Newfoundland.
There have been plenty of other changes as well, and not just in the lower traffic volumes that have largely left trucks on their own.
There are more restricted areas at work, and notes advising everyone which entrances to use. There’s no socializing as everyone is encouraged to keep a safe distance from coworkers. The water cooler is off limits.
“We were all supplied with sanitizing kits consisting of gloves, sanitizer and paper towels,” she says. The terminal manager also briefed her on how to handle paperwork when making deliveries. There would be no sharing pens with anyone.
Still, there are other signs of support on the road. Certain truck stops are keeping their dining rooms open, and posting signs that exclusively welcome truck drivers. Some Tim Horton’s outlets are offering service at drive-thru windows.
“Shippers are offering us care packages of snacks for the road, and grocery receivers are offering us lunch and dinner at their stores, and healthy snacks and drinks,” she says. Peterbilt Atlantic and Bayview Kenworth are providing welcome access to free showers, washrooms and laundry facilities, too.
The biggest challenge is trying to stay safe on the job. It has added stress to the day, Deridder admits. “I am constantly disinfecting my hands and inside of my cab.”
She misses her favorite Starbucks that is now limited to drive-thru service. And it’s difficult to find places where truck drivers are welcome when there’s no truck stop nearby.
But the work is being recognized.
“I believe Canadians are recognizing how important we are to get their groceries and products to stores,” Deridder says. “I have had 100-plus thank-yous on my social media daily. I have had people being more courteous on the highways, giving the thumbs up and a wave when they pass me.”
There have been offers to help her get food at a drive-thru, and others even offer a place to stay overnight with a shower and bed to escape the stress.
“I treasure all these acts of kindness,” she says.
“I am just happy I can be a piece of the puzzle, getting the much-needed goods to consumers and helping out in this crisis, filling up empty shelves.”
- This one in a series of reports on the experiences of truck drivers and other members of the trucking industry amid the fight against Covid-19
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