The spread of the COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine restrictions forced us to stay at home and practice social distancing. As much as possible, we avoided going out. We even avoided going out for grocery essentials. Instead, we started relying on online shopping. After all, it’s far safer to stay at home and wait for our orders to arrive at our doorsteps.
To meet the demand of the public, more retailers transitioned to online business transactions. They strengthened their online presence to provide people’s needs. They scrambled to improve their delivery systems as well so that they could cater to more people regardless of their geographic locations. Many of them reached out to a logistics consulting provider to settle everything and got more truck drivers on the road.
Demography of Truck Drivers During the Pandemic
According to a study conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, trucking, warehouse, and postal service industries are considered frontline workers. Out of the 31 million frontline workers, over 3 million work in the trucking, warehouse, and postal service industries.
To be more specific, there are 1,832,391 workers in truck transportation. One million drivers go on the road to deliver to use every day despite the pandemic risks. They are the crucial aspect that keeps the supply chain going as the economy struggled.
The Life of a Truck Driver
Life as a truck driver is more than just solitary road trips. Now, it’s also a matter of staying safe from the disease. It’s recognized as one of the most hazardous jobs in the U.S., even before the pandemic started this year. There were over 5,000 fatalities in just one year. It’s also one of the loneliest jobs a person could have. They spend weeks on end alone. They eat their meals and look for places to sleep on their own. The quarantine restrictions made it especially harder for them because of the enforcement of social distancing. But they push through.
One of the many drivers out there is a 34-year-old woman named Bunni Metanoia. She shared her story with The Lily as she droved a long-haul to almost every state in the country. She operates as an “over the road” (OTR) driver. It means that she doesn’t have a standard route. It all depends on where the goods are needed to get to.
Robert Greene is also a driver of a long-haul. He shared his story with the Wall Street Journal. He’s 52 years old from Fairborn, Ohio. He’d been at the job for over 30 years. He was used to hauling meat and other food products. But now, he was tasked to deliver the bodies of the deceased to the crematorium. He somberly shared that this year’s events made him truly realize just how alone he is at this job.
Appreciation for Truck Drivers
Many satisfied customers turned to social media to show their gratitude and respect for the truck drivers. They used the hashtag #ThankATrucker and shared photos and anecdotes about their experience with these workers. This may seem like such a small act compared to the work that the drivers do every day. But it still helps the drivers, and it contributes to their motivation. It keeps them going.
Strangers have also been giving them free food and other essentials. Harold Simmons, also a truck driver, said that it felt nice that shippers and receivers of goods are “finally treating [them] like human beings again.” This proves that the job was previously underappreciated. But now, people are more expressive of their gratitude.
Truck drivers truly appreciated the expressions of gratitude from the customers. But it’s not the only thing that would keep them going in this challenging job. They also need fair compensation. It’s even more crucial now because of the health risks that they’re taking on the job. Since 2009, they’ve been struggling with low wages. At the beginning of the year, some experience a 20% decrease in their pay.
Fortunately, the circumstances changed recently. Their efforts were further recognized and reaped financial rewards. Because of the demand from online shoppers, retailers began spending 30% more than they did last year on truck transportation.
The rapid rise of online shopping isn’t the only thing that made truck drivers more essential today. Suppliers also needed to constantly stock the shelves of grocery, convenience, and drug stores. Customers that were panic-shopping for essentials was a huge problem that came with the pandemic. It demanded more goods to be delivered to stores. Hospital equipment also needed to be restocked regularly. We should count ourselves lucky that truck drivers are still there, ready to face the long road ahead of them.