Truck drivers 'not our enemy' as some face challenges on the road under Alert Level 5

·3 min read
Truck drivers are feeling the blame, once again, as Newfoundland and Labrador grapples with the recent outbreak of COVID-19.  (Shutterstock - image credit)
Truck drivers are feeling the blame, once again, as Newfoundland and Labrador grapples with the recent outbreak of COVID-19. (Shutterstock - image credit)

Some truck drivers feel like the public is laying blame at their feet, once again, as the province battles an outbreak of the quick-spreading COVID-19 variant B117, amid another public health lockdown.

"They're saying that we're actually bringing the virus onto the island," driver Adam Leyte told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

"We do have our own rules to follow, and because theirs are more strict than ours, they're blaming us."

Leyte said the "blame game" weighs heavy on drivers as they spend countless hours and days away from their families to ensure essential goods — including food, oil and medical supplies — make it to their destinations.

He noted that drivers are doing their best to protect themselves with whatever protective equipment they can get, but he says the public isn't seeing the effort.

"At the end of the week when we go home, we're praying that we did not catch it and bring it home to them. Other people that are driving, they're driving off-island, some of them don't get to see their families because they come home and have to stay away," Leyte said.

"Before two weeks is up, or whatever, they're in their truck and gone again."

Attitude shift

Now that the province is back in Alert Level 5 of the provincial government's pandemic response plan, Leyte said things are getting tougher on road.

When the province was much more open, and under less restrictive alert levels, he said it was easier for drivers to find hot meals and a restroom.

Now, the situation has changed.

"We've already lost access to a lot of washroom facilities. Some places are staying open, some places are drive-thru only that will let us order only from the window, others will not," Leyte said.

"Some places will let us walk in to get food and coffee and stuff like that, other places will not."

In April, volunteers helped give back to truck drivers by providing food and drink.
In April, volunteers helped give back to truck drivers by providing food and drink.

In April, volunteers helped give back to truck drivers by providing food and drink.

In March, Leyte said, some businesses were very accommodating to truck drivers, knowing how important they were to the province's supply chain. Now in February of a new year, Leyte said some of those same businesses have changed their attitudes.

He said one driver was even threatened after making a delivery to a grocery store, then returning later in his own pickup truck to get groceries.

"It makes drivers wonder, why do we still do this?," Leyte said.

"We're doing the best we can to keep this island going in food, produce, essential medical supplies. Basically everybody wants what we're carrying, but nobody wants to deal with us."

During Friday's COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister John Haggie addressed the situation directly.

"These individuals, who work very hard, are not our enemy. They are indeed our friends and without them we would not have food, fuel, medical supplies or really a lot of essentials," Haggie said.

"I think we need to bare that in mind as part of Dr. Fitzgerald's exhortation to kindness."

Haggie said others have seen the plight as well, noting restaurants in his district of Gander have been advertising trucker-friendly service, including contactless delivery and available facilities.

Haggie added the Salvation Army will be setting up a mobile kitchen in Port aux Basques on Sunday, as it did during the first run through Alert Level 5 last year, that will be providing food and beverages to truck drivers.

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