“My truck is my office and I have the best view every day.” That is the response recently provided by a truck drivers when asked what he likes about his job. An unexpected (but not unique) answer given the current supply chain strain and worker burnout. There is a passion that pulses through the industry and drives both the employees and the packages.
It is no secret that the supply chain industry is under immense pressure right now – a secondary fallout to the pandemic. Computer chip shortages, lack of universal protocol for both the virus and the vaccine, and a sharp increase in demand have created an impossible situation for the fulfillment industry. Add to that a lack of reliable childcare, rising costs, and mandatory quarantines for sick employees and the situation is even more dire. Job descriptions seem to change daily as new federal and state guidelines are released, and drivers find themselves faced with new health and safety requirements that are often more difficult to navigate than a busy holiday delivery route during a snowstorm.
Frontline workers – the people who have had to work through the pandemic and could not stay home when the world shut down – have been the focus during the past 18 (plus) months. The term frontline worker conjures up a variety of images, and truck drivers are probably not one of the first that come to mind. Drivers have been overlooked and overworked (not to mention in high demand) throughout this pandemic when in fact, they are among the unsung heroes of this ongoing economic crisis.
If the supply chain came to a grinding halt, as some extremists warned, it would devastate the world. Our dependency on deliveries extends far past daily consumerism. With such a transient ecosystem our food, electronics, vehicle parts, building supplies, medicine, and more are dependent on transportation. Drivers are responsible for the safe and timely delivery of just about everything.
With a desire to learn more about the people behind the deliveries, we ventured into the field to talk with drivers. The goal was to hear firsthand why they chose this line of work, what new challenges they have been faced with, what additional stress COVID has presented, and why they continue to enjoy driving. The responses that we received were overwhelmingly positive and truly tell a story of the people who deliver goods day in and day out. We have seen firsthand how consumers have changed the landscape of the supply chain this year, and as a service provider, we have to be able to adapt. The men and women on the road who ensure the customers’ products make it to their destination safely and on-time are so important to the livelihood of our economy.
We spoke with individuals who had been driving for two to 15 years. The most common reasons that we heard for getting into driving revolved around a desire to be on the road and see the world. “I get paid to tour the city,” said Marcus B. who has been a driver for seven years. David R., a driver of four years, said “I love driving. It is my passion,” and Chris E., who has been driving for two years, said he enjoys the freedom of being on the road. There is a strong sense of camaraderie within the driving community, drivers are drawn to the road and enjoy the sense of flexibility and control. Choosing to drive is not random, but rather a well thought out profession and lifestyle.
Shockingly, the majority of drivers we spoke with did not feel a major interruption or sense of stress even through all the recent changes and increased demand brought on by the pandemic. Many felt that this further secured their job. The biggest concerns felt by most drivers were the loss of relationships, due to social distancing, with both customers and coworkers, the difficulty of finding a safe public restroom or place to eat during the height of the pandemic while out on the road, and the increased traffic as the world began to re-open.
The past two years have been unlike any other for the transportation industry and the future is both unknown and delicate. There needs to be an awareness of the resources and dedication to keeping deliveries flowing seamlessly. Without the people behind the package, there is no delivery.