One thing about enduring a crisis: You very quickly find out who you can count on.
While during this 2020 coronavirus pandemic, there have been a boatload of people who have proven blessedly reliable, one occupation which will rise in public appreciation is the truck driver.
It’s time their being taken for granted comes to an end.
I come by my bias and appreciation for their contribution to society honestly. I’ve been acquainted with truck drivers and their impact on our quality of life for a long time. Growing up in Timmins, the land of hunting, fishing, hockey players and so much gold they built a replica of Maple Leaf Gardens, next door in Schumacher, winter storms were as regular as hockey games.
On many a night, as dad was driving us home during a snowfall, when the snowflakes came blasting at your window so incessantly they were mesmerizing, he would tuck our car in behind a transport truck, close enough to reduce the storm’s assault, but far enough for safe braking. In my young mind, it worked like a charm: The big truck protecting the little car in the wicked winter storm, as we both headed home to safety.
To be fair, those were different times and for many years there seemed to be a courtesy code between truck and car drivers, as we shared narrow, two-lane highways, before they became giant ribbons of curving concrete.
Looking back, there was even a public health and safety connection provided by truck drivers. It started when, Bessy Labatt, persuaded her husband, John, to introduce their drivers to St. John Ambulance first aid training, at their brewery in London, Ont.
Then they adopted the public service policy of having their drivers stop whenever they came across an accident to offer first aid. That same policy included stopping when they came across a car pulled off to the side of the road. In those days of reduced car reliability, more often than not, these knights of the road delivered an unexpected gift of roadside assistance the public readily appreciated and remembered.
In today’s world, the truck driver’s role has now evolved to the point where, try as you might, you can’t name one product, not one, that isn’t delivered by truck. Even if that product starts its journey by boat or cargo plane, how will it reach its final destination? Of course.
At the same time, the pressures on the occupation have increased relentlessly, to the point where the driver’s family life is directly affected by everything from extended absences, to ruthless delivery schedules and the related fallout. Add to that the incredibly dangerous behaviour drivers witness daily, perhaps hourly, when random car drivers break every safe driving rule in the book, while blithely ignoring the terrifying impact on every other driver on the road. We’ve all seen that happen.
And we haven’t even mentioned the everyday challenges brought by weather, traffic, customs, the costs of operating their privately-owned rigs, today’s insurance premiums and their Big Brother bosses. And if all those weren’t sobering enough, sadly, the number of driver on-road fatalities is rising as never before. If ever you want to understand why transport truck drivers have a special courage all their own, ask one what an average trip is like. You’ll come away shaking your head, with a totally fresh understanding of the challenges they have to put up with.
But if the job today is filled with so many challenges, why do so many continue to work so hard, to drive so far, to be away from home for days or weeks on end, to serve so many, all the time, as they have been doing during this crisis?
The answer may include loving the freedom of the road and being their own boss. But whatever that response includes, only one thing is certain. The world has acquired a new universal truth: Truck drivers are indispensable — the time for taking them for granted has ended.
R. Bruce Stock,