By Natasha Hanson and Kerri Neil
Natasha is a Qualitative Methodologist and Research Manager with Horizon Health Network, a regional health authority in New Brunswick. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow, with the On the Move Partnership, in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Prince Edward Island. This postdoctoral research qualitatively investigated how truck drivers operating out of Prince Edward Island were affected by employment-related mobility (and how this has changed over time). Her research interests include health, migration, livelihood, identity, and political economy.
Transportation and shipping of goods have been protected against shutdowns by the Canadian government as essential services. This includes exemptions on border crossings with the United States. Those truck drivers who have foreign citizenship working and living in Canada can cross the border to the US as part of work and be allowed back into the country (Today’s Trucking, 2020). Long-haul truck drivers operate on rotational shifts and their interprovincial or international travel to the US are exempt from provincial requirements to self-isolate for two weeks.It is these exemptions regarding travel which truly show how critical trucking is within Canada. Trucks transport 90% of consumer goods and food in Canada (Gill and Macdonald, 2013), this would also include medical supplies critical to combatting the pandemic.
The situation has evolved over a brief period of time and organizations that work with truckers, such as the PEI Trucking Sector Council, as well as employers are striving to provide up to date information to drivers about the federal and provincial restrictions currently in place, as well as information on keeping drivers safe while on the road. For example, the PEI Trucking Sector Council has put together a voluntary email list in order to share pertinent information with truck drivers and employers directly on a regular basis.
Truck drivers are experiencing many challenges on the road due to the current pandemic, including the search for bathroom facilities, given the closure of many restaurants and rest stops (Passifume, 2020; Smith, 2020b; Sweet, 2020). This also impacts the availability of convenient food sources as drivers of large trucks struggle to fit into drive-thrus and many restaurants prohibit people from walking up to a drive-thru window, though some are changing policies to better accommodate these workers (K Leavitt, 2020; Siekierska, 2020).
“The problem right now is all the restaurants are closed, so it’s hard to get food,” [Max De Kiewit, a Canadian trucker] said.
“You can’t take a truck through the drive-thru. But more and more, restaurants will take your order and take it out to you.” (S Leavitt, 2020)
They are also dealing with the stress of working safely when loading their vehicles and dropping off goods (McCreadie, 2020). There has been a movement to thank truck drivers for continuing to work given the challenges they are facing, as we all rely on them for a continued flow of food and essential goods (Ramsay, 2020; Walsh, 2020)
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic truck drivers were in a labour shortage situation and with the current economic downturn there have been layoffs of some drivers, while others have taken this risky time to retire or stop working in the industry (Smith, 2020a). However, it remains to be seen what the long-term impact of this pandemic will be on the trucking industry in Canada.
Gill V and Macdonald A (2013) Understanding the truck driver supply and demand gap and its implications for the Canadian economy. Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada.
Leavitt K (2020) ‘Tired and grumpy and not fed’: Drive-thru indignities frustrate truckers during coronavirus pandemic. The Star, 26 March. Available at: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/03/26/tired-and-grumpy-and-not-fed-drive-thru-indignities-frustrate-truckers-during-coronavirus-pandemic.html (accessed 9 April 2020).
Leavitt S (2020) “I can’t stay home, I’m a trucker”: Life on the road during COVID-19. CBC, 28 March. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/truckers-weigh-in-on-life-on-road-in-covid-19-pandemic-1.5512569 (accessed 9 April 2020).
McCreadie D (2020) Tears and fears: Life behind the wheel for New Brunswick’s truckers. CBC, 29 March. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/trucker-covid-concerns-1.5512185 (accessed 30 March 2020).
Passifume B (2020) PASSIFIUME: Canada’s truckers paying the price for COVID-19. Toronto Sun, 30 March. Available at: https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/passifiume-canadas-truckers-paying-the-price-for-covid-19 (accessed 9 April 2020).
Ramsay C (2020) Alberta truckers’ association asks you to #thankatrucker amid coronavirus outbreak. Global News, 26 March. Available at: https://globalnews.ca/news/6735411/coronavirus-covid-19-thank-a-trucker/ (accessed 9 April 2020).
Siekierska A (2020) Tim Hortons to open 400 locations to support truck drivers. Yahoo Finance Canada, 2 April. Available at: https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/tim-hortons-to-open-400-locations-to-support-truck-drivers-211046742.html (accessed 6 April 2020).
Smith JG (2020a) How will Covid-19 affect truck driver demand? Truck News, 31 March. Available at: https://www.trucknews.com/transportation/how-will-covid-19-affect-truck-driver-demand/1003138918/ (accessed 9 April 2020).
Smith JG (2020b) Rest area searches intensify in days of Covid-19. Truck News, 27 March. Available at: https://www.trucknews.com/transportation/rest-area-searches-intensify-in-days-of-covid-19/1003138755/ (accessed 9 April 2020).
Sweet B (2020) Relax, Newfoundland and Labrador, freight is on the way: Oceanex. The Chronicle Herald, 18 March. Available at: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/business/regional-business/relax-newfoundland-and-labrador-freight-is-on-the-way-oceanex-426092/ (accessed 9 April 2020).
Today’s Trucking (2020) Trucking and Covid-19 – Questions & Answers. Truck News, 17 March. Available at: https://www.trucknews.com/transportation/trucking-and-covid-19-questions-answers/1003137986/ (accessed 9 April 2020).
Walsh A (2020) In it for the long haul: Salvation Army dishing up hot meals for truckers. CBC, 3 April. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/salvation-army-meals-truckers-1.5519959 (accessed 6 April 2020).
Photo Credit: RaymondClarkeImages. “And To All A Good Night.” CC BY-NC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/44846675@N04/7742789866
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