This is the second in a series of articles that will share stories from the front lines of trucking.
“If this thing flies around, that is going to be scary.”– Nissan Varghese
TORONTO, Ont. – Nissan Varghese, a driver based in Prince Edward Island, has been following the Covid-19 news closely.
“If this thing flies around, that is going to be scary,” Varghese said Monday, referring to claims that the coronavirus can survive in the air. The World Health Organization said this week that no airborne case of the virus has been reported so far.
Varghese had just arrived in Toronto with a load of cantaloupes from New York after delivering potatoes from the PEI when he spoke to Today’s Trucking.
He said, for most part, his latest run was pretty easy with not much traffic on the road.
“When I crossed (the border) this time, there was no one in front of me, and no one was behind me,” he said.
Canadian and U.S. governments banned all non-essential travel between the two countries from Friday, sharply reducing the lineups at border checkpoints.
“But New York was different. I don’t think anyone there is following government orders to stay home,” Varghese said.
He also noticed a lot people fleeing the city in Ford F-150s with what looked like racing bikes and boats.
Varghese is most afraid of getting ill while in the U.S. Another worry is who would repair his rig if anything happens to it.
“You don’t want to be on the road. No drivers want to be. They want to stay home safe, but if you stay home now, you could lose your job.”
And in that spirit, Varghese will haul another load of PEI potatoes to New York next week.
“We get (frequent) messages from dispatch, ‘Wash your hands every one or two hours for 20 seconds.'”– Mohammad Asif
Team drivers Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Abdul Qadir are happy that they have been able to save about five hours on their trip to Texas from Toronto, but they too are afraid of contracting the virus despite minimal contacts with other people.
They are now on their way back home from after delivering electronic components.
“We obviously have to make a couple of stops. And over there, you know, are so many different people… We don’t know what they are carrying,” said Asif.
He said some trucks stops are no longer allowing drivers to prepare their own coffees.
“They are not letting us inside. So, we stay outside. Then they make a coffee quickly, and say, ‘Here you go. Thank you.’”
Many truck-stop chains have imposed strict hygiene protocols in the fight against the pandemic.
Hygiene is also the main topic of conversation they have with their company.
“We get (frequent) messages from dispatch, ‘Wash your hands every one or two hours for 20 seconds. It is for your own safety and the safety of others.’”
Asif said there are also billboards on most highways, promoting good hygiene.
“Everyone is scared. I know they are safe in their cabs, but when they go to the truck stops, they are interacting with other people. You never know where you are going to touch.”– Preet Sahi
Preet Sahi owns Sahi Express, a company based in Brampton, Ont. The company employs 27 drivers, and has a dedicated route – Toronto-Ohio-Toronto.
Sahi said his drivers are telling him that there is little traffic on the highways, but they are scared.
“Everyone is scared. I know they are safe in their cabs, but when they go to the truck stops, they are interacting with other people. You will never know where you are going to touch.”
Amid the fears, seven of his drivers have chosen to stay home.
“And, you can’t force them (to work) at this particular time,” said the former trucker.
“Why so many people are still on the road? Why people are still buying clothes at Costco?”– Dharampal Singh Sandhu
Dharampal Singh Sandhu’s trucking company, FriendEx, offers only domestic service, and he said he is following all safety and hygiene protocols to stop the spread of the virus.
But he asks, “Why so many people are still on the road? Why people are still buying clothes at Costco?”
He put the percentage of Torontonians following government orders to stay home at “zero”.
“The government should take a hard look at what China did,” Sandh said.
Authorities in China imposed weekslong curfews on hundreds of millions of its citizens before it was able to take control of the situation.
Sandhu said just of two of his 15 drivers have decided to stay home.
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