Owner-operator, Brita Nowak, shares her perspective on COVID-19’s impact on over the road truckers.
All of a sudden we, the truck drivers, were hailed as heroes.
People started waving at us, thanking us, and we enjoyed traffic-free driving through what were usually gridlocked cities. Everyday life changed, sometimes eerily so, and we adapted.
From one day to the next, we were no longer required on the docks, and warehouses were able to load and unload our freight without our supervision. Emailing our PODs became the norm, which in my opinion, is a part of trucking that has finally progressed to how it should be.
When calling freight brokers, hearing babies and dogs in the background became normal, and I stopped bothering with lipstick because I just covered it with fashionable masks.
But there was the hunt for food. The very people who supplied the nation with food werenʼt able to find it themselves. Drive-thru only? Well, that doesn’t quite work if you’re driving a big rig. Truck stops stopped serving the self-serve “roller grill” items entirely.
I somehow felt both appreciated and completely unappreciated at the same time.
My stainless steel coffee cup couldn’t be refilled, but a new disposable cup could, despite the fact required people touching the dispenser. Desperation created innovation on my part and, while my RoadPro lunchbox didn’t get much use, I found workarounds, like using my own kettle and French press that helped prevent the need to wait in long lines to get coffee.
The thing I heard over and over from my trucker colleagues was that they stayed away from home out of fear that they might bring back COVID-19 from some random encounter at a distant place they were a week ago.
But then finally, freight rates went up! That made staying away from home more bearable, as I supported family members who are now no longer working. However, months into the pandemic, truck drivers were no longer enjoying the amazing treatment we initially experienced.
It was sweet and brief. We are back to being cut off while on the road, yelled and eye-rolled at, by the motoring public. ELD exemptions were lifted.
As we look forward to the new year, and better times, I am hopeful that some of the good things that have come out of having a greater awareness of the role truck drivers play will stay beyond COVID-19.
Brita Nowak worked as an actress in Hollywood before starting her trucking career. Now she owns her own trucking company, BratCat Express. Check out BratCat Express at www.bratcatexpress.com and on Instagram at brita.nowak.