Long haul drivers’ journeys have been reduced by up to three hours and they have received warm thanks from people hitting them on the highway bridge crossing.
But there are also challenges for those outside the essential goods sector, and surprising disappointments, including closings of toilets and exceptional reckless driving. A car driver was recorded at 134 mph in a 40 mph area in London, while Gloucestershire police timed a driver at 122 mph on the M5.
But the lockout also brings out the best in the people, said Bill Dommett, 62, a C&D South West driver, based in Chard, Somerset, while traveling with the Guardian on board.
“You see children, adults, the elderly waving and clapping and they have little signs. You give a hoot or a smile and you can see that they are so happy. I don’t think of myself as someone special, I’m just a truck driver, so seeing people enjoying what you do even though you’ve never been appreciated like this before is really cool. It’s heart-warming and it’s a little teary-eyed, ”says Dommett.
He recounts another incident that occurred last week when he bought 15 bars of a new variety of Galaxy chocolate for his prison guard daughter, who says it kept her going after he brought a bar home. night.
“The cashier came over and picked up five more bars and handed them to me, saying, ‘This is from one key employee to another, stay safe and healthy and we hope to see you next week'” said Dommett. “It really made me stop. What a gesture. “
Mark Bagley, 45, is a night driver, cabbing a 60-foot double-decker truck for the same company. His usual route is the 340-mile return trip from Chard to a Palletforce distribution center in Burton upon Trent, where he can drop off or pick up vital supplies ranging from bread, flour and fruit to industrial supplies.
Each trip takes approximately three and a half hours, depending on accidents, bottlenecks and congestion.
Covid-19 emptied the roads, reminding Bagley of the great open campaign of the United States where the only other vehicles are tractors and combines slowly moving through crops.
“Before the coronavirus, you would see about 300 vehicles per hour. Now it’s a completely different world. I have driven a lot in the United States and the campaign is very similar. I thought you would never see that in this country, but when the coronavirus struck, it was like driving in Wisconsin again, “said Bagley.
It is not only business and family car trips that have disappeared, but also trucks carrying non-essential goods.
“It was very scary,” said Dommett. “If you go to a gas station now, there are two or three cars in the parking lot, no caravans, no buses. “
But there are also benefits, he says. “It’s so nice to be able to get on your truck and set the cruising speed between 53 and 56 mph and stay there without the cars in front of you making 50 mph forcing you to use the gears. “
Like everywhere, there are those who flout the lock rules, and Bagley says he has been shocked once or twice.
“The other day, I had two bikers on Harley-Davidson on either side of me – it’s the middle lane doing 80 mph and his friend doing the same inside me on the hard shoulder. It’s in broad daylight. There was a car in front of me and a truck in front of the car and then the bike inside made a gap between the car and the truck. I thought: I hope he falls off his bike and breaks his neck. It pissed me off.
“You have a five year old daughter who dies from Covid and you have these 34/35 year old men who play with the lives of people on the highway. It was just depressing to see, especially since you have the electronic dies of each gantry and bridge saying “Stay at home, travel only, save lives”. It’s constant, there are no excuses. Either way, you don’t ride on the hard shoulder, even at 80mph, “said Bagley.
Lorna Hammond, managing director of the transport company, said business had gone down 30-40%, forcing her to find a matching part of the drivers and park a third of the fleet.
As expected, she saw larger volumes in collections and deliveries to supermarkets, including the Morrisons regional distribution center in Bridgwater, Somerset, as well as garden furniture and patio tiles. But there were also a few surprises, including an increase in orders for spas and swimming pools.
Small breweries have stopped deliveries, while business for a customer who supplies wood stoves has fallen because installing ovens would mean workers entering a house for non-essential work, which is not recommended.
We’re on the go all the time to keep supplies moving, where are you supposed to wash your hands?
Dommett taking a lunch break on the road.
C&D South West also runs twice a week to central London with stocks of hotel minibars, including bottled water, snack packs and chocolate. The supplier is still active but the hotel business evaporated overnight.
The decline in custom has also hit drivers. Food is no longer available at gas stations, which have also closed toilets and showers.
“I think it’s disgusting,” says Dommett. “We’re on the road all the time to keep supplies moving, where are you supposed to wash your hands?” He said, stressing the risk of spreading the virus between different places.
One day Dommett could be in Wolverhampton, another in Middlesbrough or a closer house, picking up or dropping food for the farm. He remembers the FMD epidemic when everyone and everyone entering a farm has been disinfected, and cannot believe the cavalier attitude of some with regard to hygiene and coronavirus.
He believes that some depots may have used Covid-19 as an excuse to shut down the washrooms they didn’t want to provide to drivers in the first place.
A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said, “This goes against health and safety, since a truck driver is essentially at work and should have access to the washroom where he collects or deposits charges. We had tons and tons of complaints at the start and still get one or two a day. We entered the Department of Transport and also called the various depots. “
Hammond says she tries to keep morale high, giving drivers plasticized rainbow designs for their windshields and baking a colorful seven-layer cake for her workers.
While her business is going well and could be large enough to survive, she fears for small family businesses.
The ORS reports that in the industry, 46% of trucks are idle and 25% of drivers have been put on leave.
Paul Mummery, a RHA spokesperson, says, “There are a lot of truckers out there who just want to go back to work, even if they are on vacation, and that may seem acceptable. There is concern that trade volumes will not return and it is a precarious industry anyway. “