By Jamie Campbell, Managing Director, JCS Transport Consultancy
I’ve worked in haulage for 25 years and April and May 2020 will be imprinted on my mind forever. Two months when the world closed down for most people.
While there was a lot of public recognition of supermarket, NHS, care home and other important public sector staff (quite rightly) for continuing to work throughout the coronavirus crisis, there was slightly less so for the role played by the humble trucker!
At JCS Transport, we believe they form an essential workforce, without whom shops would not have food on their shelves and hospitals would not have PPE equipment.
In light of this, we asked lorry driver Brian White from White’s Transport and Logistics Services, about his experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown from up high in his HGV cab.
Here’s what he told us:
“I’ve been a trucker for 20 years all over the UK and Europe. I was driving the same long stretches throughout the pandemic. I had no choice. I had to deliver goods to the supermarkets.
It was weird – like living through a dream. Mile upon mile of motorway with nothing but the occasional car or other lorry.
The only living creatures in sight for so much of my day were the cows, sheep and horses in the fields bordering the road.
It was as if life as I knew it had disappeared. If I pulled into a truck stop, I really noticed the silence. I don’t remember any time in my years as a trucker where there was so little traffic – in normal times, even in the dead of night, you see other vehicles.
It made me realise how so much of our daily stress involves people. With so few cars around, there were no accidents, no bad driving, no traffic jams and no road rage.
But along with the nicer bits of the lockdown came some not-so-nice bits. I found that not only were the motorway cafes and service stations closed, but so were the toilets.
It was uncomfortable driving for such long stretches and finding so many truck stops closed. Even the distribution centres weren’t allowing us to use their facilities. Everyone was terrified of catching the virus. We were told to stay inside our cabs.
While there was a lot of tension at the stops, driving the truck on the empty road felt good. It was an escape from the coronavirus stress everywhere else.
Eventually, service stations and petrol garages reopened their facilities after a campaign by the Freight Transport Association, Road Haulage Association and Health & Safety Executive. Finally we could go to the toilet without it involving the use of a bottle or plastic bag, or having to go behind the back of a bin!
Truckers – a valued workforce. At last!
Truckers are usually overlooked by the general public but I feel the Covid-19 crisis forced people to started taking notice of the work we do.
At the start of the lockdown, when supermarkets were running out of products and essential items almost the instant they hit the shelves, people realised how dependent they were on those of us who’d be bringing more stock in a few days.
Now the country has opened up again and the roads are nearly at the pre-lockdown levels, I understand what a privileged view I had from my driver’s seat.
It’s a part of history the world will never forget and most people only experienced it from inside their homes. My fellow truckers and I witnessed huge parts of the British landscape in a way no one else will ever get to see.
I feel fortunate to have had that experience and that haulage drivers are now more valued as a workforce than they were before. Most of all of course, I feel so lucky that I was not one of the unfortunate people who fell ill with the terrible virus.”
Photo shows one of Brian White’s long lorry journeys near Paris.