By Carter Hammett
If there’s a theme to this issue, it is, of course, COVID-19. That damn virus has changed the way we function as a society and that’s reflected in this issue.
There’s no escaping it, nor the rather dystopian feeling that accompanies it. From empty streets generated by scores of people trying to come to terms with self-isolation, to police patrolling parks and ticketing people in groups, the very fabric of our culture has changed…just like that.
But there’s one group I want to take a moment to acknowledge, and that’s the 317,000 men and women employed as drivers in the trucking industry whose work is finally being recognized as—wait for it—essential.
Well of course you guys have always been essential, it’s just that most of us have been rather slow in recognizing such an obvious fact. The fact that about 70% of all the goods that are brought into this fair nation of ours may have something to do with it. The fact that your job is bloody tough, often taking you away from your families for days, weeks, at a time. The fact is many of you work alone for long hours. The fact that your job is perceived with something akin to disdain by a large number of uninformed clods doesn’t make life any easier, either. The labour shortages in the field only add to the struggle.
In an often thankless job, these people keep the economy humming and our lives running smoothly. It’s something I think we’ve come to take for granted. Think about that the next time you reach into your cupboard and extract that roll of toilet paper you’ve been hoarding.
It wasn’t that long ago when truckers found that they had little access to washroom facilities or food as restaurants across the country closed their doors when the virus hit. Some drivers were even denied access to public washrooms. “Use the bushes” some were even told.
Thankfully, people and companies across the country, recognizing the contributions truckers make, rose to the occasion. Witness the initiative out of Quispamsis NB called Help A Trucker, that aims to provide 150 hot meals daily. It didn’t take long for several restaurant chains to sign on, offering services. In Dartmouth NS, Best Western Plus Hotel and Suites is offering drivers 30-minute access to its rooms so truckers can enjoy the quiet dignity of a shower. Eddy’s Restaurant in South Brook, N.L., gave out free meals to truck drivers April 3. Across the country, Tim Horton’s is offering access to counter service and washrooms to truckers only in locations near major highways.
It’s rather ironic that a condition that relies on social distancing to keep potential fatality at bay is responsible for uniting a country from coast to coast to coast. There’s always some form of good that emerges from a war and it’s beyond encouraging to watch Canadians heed the call and rise up to support their own.
Along with doctors, nurses, paramedics and a host of other frontline workers risking their lives daily to ensure our comfort and access to goods, truckers are emerging as the unsung heroes of this unprecedented horror show. Together, these folks are helping us to keep on trucking.
And somehow “thank you” just seems so inadequate.
As we were about to go to press we were shocked to learn that Andrew MacDonald, a long-time friend of ATA and owner of Maritime Auto Parts, was among the shooting victims during the recent killing spree near Portapique that, as of this writing, has resulted in 22 deaths. Thankfully, he appears to have escaped the worst and we are told he is on his way to recovery. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all the victims of this senseless and tragic moment in time.