Spotlight on UK truckers

  Barry Davis, from Manchester, is a lorry driver with 26 years of experience. He works for Transflora, driving heavy goods vehicles that regularly travel between the UK and Northern Europe, transporting plants and other products. Davis’ grandfather was a truck driver, and his father joined the business after he retired, as did his uncle and brother.
  Although not always by choice, he has been on the road for most of his life. “I never settled down and never made real friends,” he says, “because we were never settled.” Every day, it’s truckers like Davis who sacrifice comfort and socialization. Stores don’t run out of stock or out of supply. Most products are transported by trucks, as Davis said: “Without trucks, there won’t even be trucks.”
  The importance of truck drivers cannot be overemphasized, but the reality is that their numbers are no longer there . More, Brexit and the new crown epidemic have exacerbated this problem. Figures from the ONS show that in 2020, the number of truck drivers in the UK fell from 305,000 to 235,000. The British Road Transport Association said the UK would need 100,000 more truck drivers to keep the economy running. And the UK isn’t the only country experiencing a “truck driver shortage”. To fill the gap, wages for truck drivers are rising across Europe.
  I met Davis early on a Wednesday morning last September. He had just come off a short sabbatical and was ready to go to work in a car park in Lim, Cheshire. His day usually starts around 6am, doesn’t eat much, just drinks some coffee and doesn’t eat until lunchtime. According to regulations, one shift requires 7 days of driving, and he just took a 24-hour break and is about to start the second 7 days. After the third 7 days, he can go home and rest for 4 days. He had to stay with his white truck until he got home. The car has everything you need: fridge, camp stove, food, and a bed with blue and white plaid linen behind the front seats.
  Before leaving the parking lot, Davis circled the car as usual. Check out, the engine roars, and we’re off. The first stop is a warehouse in Runcorn, about 24 kilometers away, but it takes an hour to arrive. In the UK, the speed limit for heavy trucks is 90 kilometers per hour. A tachometer above Davis’s head, similar to an airplane’s black box, records his speed, mileage and rest periods. According to government regulations, you must take a 45-minute break for every 4.5 hours of driving, with a maximum of 56 hours a week, and a total of 90 hours of driving for two consecutive weeks.
  If the mandatory rest time is approaching, or if there is a traffic jam, drivers often have no choice but to rest on the spot, no matter how inappropriate the parking place, or they may face hefty fines. Davis considers himself lucky because his company is in good condition, and the foreman, George, is a former driver and empathetic. But not everyone can meet such a good company and boss. The lack of flexibility in the rules and the pressure from managers to meet delivery deadlines have often left drivers in a dilemma when the two conflict.

The daily necessities in Davis’s car are readily available. He had to stay with the truck until his shift.

  Runcorn’s warehouse is very large, and there are heavy trucks that are reversed into the warehouse one after another. Davis signed some paperwork, and then a hissing sound was heard, the connection between the tractor and the trailer was disconnected, and the wires, air pipes, and cables to the brake system were pulled out one by one.
  We were then connected to another trailer full of cargo. “26 tons of mouthwash,” said Davis, who has shipped stone Buddhas, giant dinosaur paper sculptures and wind turbine blades. He also delivered steel beams for the Shard in London. Every time he goes to London, he looks at the skyscraper from a distance and thinks, “I’ve helped too,” which inspires him.
  We re-entered the highway and picked up speed. Davis hadn’t had breakfast yet, but the truck stop was already crowded as lunchtime approached. With our stomachs growling, we had to drive to our stop in Rugby, Warwickshire. Davis was impressed with the facilities, the wide variety of restaurants and the better buffet than most service stations. However, when he tasted the duck roll with hoisin sauce, he received bad news. His friend and colleague Andrew Tustin called to tell him that a driver he knew had a heart attack and died suddenly in the yard. “They rescued,” Davis said, “but it was too late.” The
  drivers had nothing but bitter jokes and spent the day in dark humor. Truck driving is a high-risk occupation. Davis’ brother, Brian, was trapped under a pile of pallets while loading a car on a slope and nearly died after being trapped for more than an hour. To this day, Brian still needs to walk with a cane and has suicidal tendencies. But he was never compensated because his company was not responsible for the accident. Every year, one of the truck drivers Davis knows dies on the job. Even with care to avoid serious injury, years of truck driving can leave a mark on one’s body and mind. Davis has developed a thick callus on his right thumb from years of gripping the vibrating steering wheel. There was also something wrong with his back: the human body was not suited for this sedentary work.
  It’s just physical discomfort, and once you hit the road, a strong sense of loneliness strikes. Drivers will take any opportunity to talk to people to ease their loneliness while drinking tea, refueling, and unloading. But nowadays, everyone seems to be in a hurry, and people under stress are spending more time on their phones. Usually in the second week of his shift, Davis suffers from occlusion.
  However, on the Internet, especially in the circle of Douyin logistics workers, truck drivers can still find like-minded netizens. They often upload their own reviews of the various truck stops. However, it was this strange and mysterious world that they discussed most, with stories of bizarre encounters and spectacular sunsets being shared. There are quite a few emojis from truck drivers, including one of a van full of toilet paper with the driver posing as a tail-gunner (many of the drivers are ex-military indeed). There is also a thin and gray-haired old man on it. The old man is smoking a cigarette and his face is anxious, but next to it is written: “Who said that there is pressure on shipping? I am 34 years old and I feel very good.”

  The average age of a UK truck driver is 50. Within the next five years, one-third of them may retire. Young people don’t want to be truck drivers. Davis’ sons had no interest in driving trucks on duty. Getting a heavy-duty driver’s license is a huge expense, and the wage gap between truck drivers and retail workers has narrowed over the past decade. People tend to opt for a more down-to-earth job than tiring and unpredictable truck driving. There are many people with driver’s licenses, but very few actually enter the industry. “It’s almost impossible to do this job and have a good relationship with your family,” Davis said. He doesn’t get along well with his children, and he said: “I think it’s also about the reluctance of young people The reason for the truck.”
  In an age before power steering and global navigation systems, it was more difficult and dangerous to drive a truck. However, the truck drivers of the time also received the respect they deserved. Day in and day out, the UK never seems to be short of goods. Davis thinks a lot of people take it for granted. After they’ve bought milk, they’ll say to the truck driver who just arrived milk outside the store, “You can’t park here.”
  Many people have experienced a shortage of goods for the first time in their lives due to the coronavirus pandemic. Flour and toilet paper are in short supply, and supermarket shelves are empty. Davis wants people to stop taking everything for granted. Many drivers have been furloughed, but Davis feels it is his responsibility to keep driving. During the pandemic, he shipped large quantities of personal protective equipment and antibacterial soap to hospitals. Grandpa’s words echoed in his ears: “If you hit the road, you won’t be unemployed.”

The average age of a UK truck driver is 50. Young people are reluctant to drive trucks.

  Davies believes that if the cost of getting a driver’s license was lower, it might help encourage people to enter the industry. By contrast, crumbling infrastructure is a bigger problem. 150 drivers may only be able to share two showers, sometimes not even authorized to use them at all. “You’re treated worse than a dog on the road,” he said. “All we want is decent showers and healthy meals.”
  Many truck stops are in poor condition and drivers can’t decide where to park at night. . Anything can happen adrift, and drivers must be prepared for everything. They have a trick for turning the passenger seat into a makeshift toilet: drop the armrest, spread out a plastic bag, and squat. “Practice makes perfect,” says Davies, “but you can’t just throw bags on the road… what will society think of us?”
  Now that the driver shortage has finally pushed up the wages of UK truck drivers, the new recruits Drivers also receive cash incentives from transport companies, and the government has pledged to improve conditions at truck stops. But Davis believes it could take years or even a generation to fill the gap. No one wants to drive a truck, and no one wants to drift away all year round. As Davies puts it: “It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.”
  Our next stop is a warehouse in Daventry, Northamptonshire. Unloading takes an hour and a half. Davis calmed down and wanted to drive. Last time, he waited five hours in this warehouse. It was hot, the sun scorched the concrete, a forklift was unloading to and from the trailer, and a vulture flew overhead. We could only sit in the air-conditioned cab and wait quietly.

  On weekends, if he happens to be in town, he likes to quietly observe ordinary people as they stop and go in the store, picking out merchandise and having fun.

During the pandemic, the UK has struggled with a shortage of truck drivers. Davis felt it was his responsibility to keep driving. He shipped large quantities of personal protective equipment and antibacterial soap to the hospital.

  At the end of the long wait, Davis was ecstatic: “We are free!” As he passed the gate, he shouted to the officers on duty: “See you tomorrow!” Next, we loaded 16 boxes of potatoes at another warehouse in Warwickshire. piece. This is the last shipment of the day and needs to be delivered to the town of Brown Hills near Walsall in the West Midlands. When we arrived at the unloading point, it happened to catch up with the forklift driver to start his 45-minute rest, and the enthusiasm was poured with cold water.
  Finally, the chips were signed, and the day’s task was finally over. Davis knew that trucking would be his life’s work, even at the expense of family, social life and stability. But even in his current state, the job gave him a lot of freedom that most jobs don’t.
  Davis once felt worthless, but the job gave him meaning. On weekends, if he happens to be in town, he likes to quietly observe ordinary people as they stop and go in the store, picking out merchandise and having fun. “I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment to think that I’ve contributed to this   .

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