Truck Drivers: The Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic

While many frontline workers were celebrated for their contributions, truckers and their efforts were disregarded throughout the pandemic.Working conditions for truck drivers have worsened due to the pandemic. Truck drivers have been at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 while having increased working demands, and due to a lack of paid leave, many had to choose between their health and being able to provide for their families. 

Trucking is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Trucker drivers carefully deliver goods across cities and even across countries everyday. They help create a safer community by working with law enforcement, healthcare officials and governments. Truck drivers have shown resilience throughout the pandemic and have adapted to changes like varying protocols for transporting goods. 

Keith Belwa, the Safety and Compliance Officer at Compass Rose International Transportation Inc, shared his experience working with truck drivers in the Peel Region amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In his 21 years in the trucking industry, Mr. Belwa has worked in all matters affecting truck drivers from hiring to overseeing wellness when on the road. However this past year was challenging for him, as it was for most Canadains. He describes truck drivers as “the unsung heroes of the pandemic” and expresses a great deal of pride in working with them. 

When asked about how COVID-19 has affected the trucking industry Mr. Belwa highlighted two main issues, the first being the virus itself. Due to COVID-19 many truck stops, yards, and companies have lowered capacities to follow CDC guidelines. When the first lockdown began, truck drivers were the first to re-evaluate and adapt. They were invested in protecting the Canadian economy, so when the process of transporting goods across the border was slowed, truck drivers worked long hours to ensure that essential items were delivered. 

Another key issue in regards to COVID-19 is the increasing backlog of international deliveries. The production of new vehicles has slowed and supply chains have fallen behind by about 5-6 months. This is due to primary manufacturing plants located in Asia that have experienced delays and are unable to ship parts out to North America. 

In his interview, Mr. Belwa shared a common story of truck drivers having to leave home for weeks at a time due to quarantine restrictions and resorting to living out of their vehicles while working. As essential workers, truck drivers were among the first people eligible to get vaccinated. However, work demands made it difficult for them to schedule vaccination appointments. Thankfully, due to the contributions of people like Mr. Belwa and organizations like DriverCheck, COVID-19 testing and vaccines clinics within truck stops were established. 

As COVID-19 cases begin to rise, Mr. Belwa advises us to do our part in protecting truck drivers. “Give them space, and give them the recognition they deserve.”

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