Professional drivers have to confront stupid rules and reasoning every day, but the pandemic has definitely added to the stupidity. From dealing with different pandemic restrictions in each state to mistrustful customers and business owners, the pandemic has been a trying time for truckers who have felt building levels of physical and emotional fatigue over these past two years.
Mostly, these extra hurdles don’t bother me. Sometimes they amuse me. More than one customer has had signs in their window that asks truckers to be escorted to the restroom due to coronavirus. The smart ass in me wants to ask the clerk how escorting me to the restroom helps slow the spread of the virus, but I usually hold my tongue. My compassionate side realizes that these people don’t make the rules and probably do not like them either.
The world does strange and stupid things to us in times of stress, and the so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Canada is a perfect example of that.
First a foremost, I think a lot of the rules for crossing the U.S-Canadian border are stupid. They always have been. As a trucker, I stopped crossing the border almost 20 years ago.
When it is done right, crossing the border is seamless. We have a tracking code on our paperwork that is pre-booked with the border crossing. At the gate, the guard scans the paperwork, and we cross. If something comes up, we are pulled off to the side and wait for hours for someone to give us the O.K. For me, I was pulled off to the side enough that driving over the border was just not worth the hassle.
The pandemic brought new rules for truckers crossing the border. Beginning on January 15, unvaccinated Canadian truckers were required to be fully vaccinated when making cross-border trips between the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the 15th, the truckers were granted a federal exemption from vaccine requirements to enable them to cross the border. Revoking the rule meant that unvaccinated drivers returning from the US had to quarantine for 14 days.
Personally, I think that the rule change is moot because the U.S. won’t let unvaccinated Canadian truckers into the country in the first place. It is not as if there are Canadian drivers who have been hanging around the US and are just now returning to Canada. Besides, between 85 to 90 percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, according to the Canadian Trucking Association. There are plenty of vaccinated drivers to handle the freight, and unvaccinated drivers are allowed to work within Canada.
It is the unwritten rules that concern me. Drivers are supposed to be a brotherhood where we help our fellow drivers and look out for their best interests. At the very least, we never prevent them from making a living. The drivers who blocked the border crossing kept other drivers from doing their jobs. The world can screw with us, but we don’t screw with each other.
When I was a rookie, I made the mistake of coming into a truck stop from a storm and parking in an uphill spot and set my trailer brakes. The trailer brakes were frozen, so an older flatbed driver walked over with a hammer and a small propane torch and taught me how to free my trailer brakes. Not once did he make me feel stupid. That man didn’t just get me moving; he taught me what it meant to be a trucker.
That lesson is still with me today. If I see a driver trying to back into a tight dock, I get out of my truck and spot him. That happens to all of us. We are a brotherhood, and we help each other. At least we should never stand in the way.
The trucking community has always struggled with our image, and these outlaw protests don’t help. Shutting down border crossings hurt a lot of truckers, not just the ones crossing the border. It hurts the drivers who deliver parts domestically into the plants and the ones who live by moving goods over the border.
When trade routes shut down, many drivers don’t get paid. The ones that we hurt the most are the young ones who can least afford to miss a paycheck. Missing paychecks can mean missing mortgage payments. We all lived paycheck to paycheck when we first started.
These protesters are hurting a lot of people, and ultimately, the actions of this “Freedom Convoy” will cause many people to resent truckers. We gained a hero status at the beginning of the pandemic, for moving much-needed emergency equipment and PPE where it was needed the most. Truckers have always been there.
Those few truckers who are fueling this so-called “Freedom Convoy” and holding up our economy are not representative of all of us. They should not wreck our image anymore and go to work.
Jeff is a 34-year veteran truck driver. He earned a BA in Business Administration from Governors State University. During the day, Jeff loaded trucks, and at night he went to class. The overall health of professional truckers is one of Jeff’s major concerns. Jeff became a runner and has finished 11 full marathons.
After being featured in Runners World magazine in 2009, Jeff started a Facebook group to encourage other truckers to exercise. Truckin’ Runners currently has over 1,000 members. Jeff wrote columns for Drivers Health and Truckers News magazines between 2009-2012. After that, he was one of 6 owner operators chosen to represent Freightliner in their Team Run Smart program. He has left the program, but still remains an active advocate for truckers.