Home Fleetwatch 2020 This truck driver was not worth two apples

This truck driver was not worth two apples

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It’s been a long and lonely road for truck drivers during the COVID-19 lockdown with not much welcome or thanks at the end of the road.
It’s been a long and lonely road for truck drivers during the COVID-19 lockdown with not much welcome or thanks at the end of the road.

By Patrick O’Leary
Managing Editor

Never again – and I mean NEVER AGAIN – must truck drivers in this country be treated and ignored in the way they have been over the past few weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown. If there is one thing FleetWatch can promise, it is that we will fight even harder for the recognition and elevation of trucks drivers – and indeed the whole trucking industry – to its rightful position of respect and importance in this country. As it stands, truck drivers feel they are low-life – and they are certainly NOT! Check this out.

He hadn’t been able to buy food anywhere on the road due to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations prohibiting the sale of cooked hot food. He was now at his loading point taking on board 30 pallets of apples. He asked the lady at the depot if he could have two apples. Just two apples – that’s all he was asking for. The lady said NO! He told her he would pay for them. She still said NO – and this despite the fact that there were many thousands of apples in crates and many more lying around on the ground in the yard.

The sterling work being done for the country by this truck driver – and many others like him – during the COVID-19 crisis was not worth two puny little apples. On the one hand, this makes me so sad. On the other, it burns me up with anger.

The truck drivers of South Africa have been sucking the hind-tit of appreciation for the work they’ve been doing during the COVID-19 lockdown. They are the ones who’ve been carrying the food, the medical supplies and every other essential item designated under the Regulations. Unlike petrol attendants, farm workers, supermarket cashiers and others who get to go home at the end the day, truck drivers spend days, if not weeks, away from their families as they continue to serve the nation during this crisis time. Yet when one of them asks for just two apples, it is denied.

But why would he ask for apples? Surely they should buy their own? After all, you can’t have every driver asking for some of the food they are loading or offloading.

In normal times yes, they would buy their own. However these are not normal times. We’re living in the age of the coronavirus described as the worst crisis to face the world since World War 11. And just like in any war, you get your front line fighters who the general population normally rallies behind and supports. People like our medical workers who put their lives at risk in caring for COVID-19 positive patients. There are many others, among whom are our truck drivers.

Unfortunately though, they have not been given support. If the support was there, that truck driver would have been given a packet of apples as a thank you instead of refusing him two. I bought 13 the other day for R10-something.

Despite the fact that there were a number of apples lying in the dirt getting squashed by vehicles or just sitting there rotting in the sun, the two apples the driver asked for - and offered to pay for - were refused him.
Despite the fact that there were a number of apples lying in the dirt getting squashed by vehicles or just sitting there rotting in the sun, the two apples the driver asked for – and offered to pay for – were refused him.
Picked up from the ground. An apple good enough to eat by a hungry truck driver who could not buy food on the road during the COVID-19 lockdown. He didn’t eat it though. He put it back on the ground and went on his way. His dignity was intact but his heart was sore.
Picked up from the ground. An apple good enough to eat by a hungry truck driver who could not buy food on the road during the COVID-19 lockdown. He didn’t eat it though. He put it back on the ground and went on his way. His dignity was intact but his heart was sore.

Hadn’t been able to buy food
So again, why did he ask for the apples? Simply because he hadn’t eaten on route as he was unable to buy food along the route. That’s it. He wasn’t being a bum; a scrounger; a beggar. He wasn’t trying to take advantage of the copious supply of apples available on the site. He wasn’t trying to reduce the profits of that company. For goodness sake, he even offered to pay for them.

There were apples lying around on the ground in the yard – some squashed by vehicle movement; others perfect to eat. His pride and dignity would, however, not allow him to pick up two apples from the dirt. Rather he wanted to be open, honest and buy them. That’s what a dignified person does. But the answer was no.

I had spoken to that same driver a few days earlier. This is what he told me. “Yesterday after loading in Worcester, I tried to find some place to buy food as I hadn’t eaten from the morning before. All I could find was a packet of crisps. I then set out on the road and stopped at a few places along the way to try buy food. I couldn’t find anything. Even the garages didn’t have bread to sell.

“When I got to Riversdale, I went into a little shop and found two koeksisters and three small pieces of dry wors. I was really hungry so I bought them along with 1-litre of Coke. And they charged me R150. So the places are out of food and when we do find a little bit, they overcharge us. It’s crunch time and its hard but we will keep on working as we can’t let the people down.”

This serves to highlight one of the biggest problems that has faced long haul truck drivers since the beginning of the lockdown on March 27th – the unavailability of food on their routes. No hot food has been allowed to be sold and this had had a severe impact on truck drivers. Here’s another story…

Take-aways during the COVID-19 lockdown have been closed. As a result of this, drivers have been unable to buy food on the road. And this while providing an essential service to the country during the COVID-19 lockdown. They have been the ignored front-liners in the COVID-19 war.
Take-aways during the COVID-19 lockdown have been closed. As a result of this, drivers have been unable to buy food on the road. And this while providing an essential service to the country during the COVID-19 lockdown. They have been the ignored front-liners in the COVID-19 war.

“I had been travelling from Cape Town to Johannesburg and was really hungry and looking forward a hot meal at Lainesberg in the Karoo. However, when I got there, there was no food. Nothing. Not even a packet of crisps. I once again went to sleep hungry that night.”

This is a place that has long been favoured by truck drivers. The food is always good, hot and served by friendly people. It only caters to truck drivers in normal times. But, the authorities had been there and closed the place down. And it wasn’t only this particular driver that went without food that night. There were other drivers at the same spot and it almost ended up with them embarking on a protest action and blocking the N1.

Fortunately for you, me and the millions of other people that have been relying on the trucks to deliver their food and other essential items, they decided against blocking the road but to rather sleep with empty stomachs in their cabs and to carry on serving the nation when they woke up in the early hours of the morning to hit the road again.

Not welcome in some towns
You might ask – why don’t they just stop in some town and buy canned food at some Checkers or Spar. The first problem is that many towns do not allow trucks to stop in their towns unless, of course, they are delivering supplies to the town. Then they are quite welcome but, once offloaded, they must get out quickly. It’s as if the trucks and truck drivers are lepers. AAARGH! I hope this COVID-19 crisis changes such attitudes.

And if they are allowed to stop, the other problem that has faced them during this lockdown period has been the queues. Many of you have probably seen those queues on TV. Some of the larger towns would have just one chain store open and when the driver arrives, he finds all the residents standing in a long queue trying to get into the store which can only allow so many people in at a time so as to adhere to social distancing protocols.

Truck drivers have strict schedules which they have to adhere to. They can’t spend two or more hours in queues outside stores to buy a can of baked beans.
Truck drivers have strict schedules which they have to adhere to. They can’t spend two or more hours in queues outside stores to buy a can of baked beans.
All the supermarkets, stores, hospitals, clinics and the other places requiring essential goods during the COVID-19 lockdown have been delivered by truck. And yet little consideration has been paid to the trucking industry and its drivers.
All the supermarkets, stores, hospitals, clinics and the other places requiring essential goods during the COVID-19 lockdown have been delivered by truck. And yet little consideration has been paid to the trucking industry and its drivers.

Truck drivers have strict ‘lock times’ which is the allotted time for offloading at their drop-off or pick-up points. If they miss that time, the customer would soon be screaming down the phone. Due to these strict schedules, truck drivers just do not have the time to stand one of two hours in a queue to get a can of baked beans. 

During crisis times like these where the drivers are running long and hard to keep the wheels of the nation turning, why can’t the chain stores take all this into consideration and have a special queue for the truck drivers. To prevent abuse or chancers using that queue, all that’s needed is for the driver to show his ‘essential service’ permit. It’s easy enough to do, so why not just do it. The permits get them through the road blocks so why not let it get them into the stores. 

On the point of police road blocks, the general consensus among the drivers I have spoken to has been that the cops have treated them with friendliness and respect. There’s a type of camaraderie between the truckers and the cops out on the road. If there were apples at the road blocks, I’m sure they would share them, unlike you know who!

However, there have been incidents where the cops have been insulting and rude. Also, where they have not known the regulations and have demanded documents that are not required in the regulations. But that’s another story.

Home alone
To end this sorry saga, I want you to imagine yourself as this truck driver. You’ve driven hundreds of kilometres and you’ve arrived in Cape Town for your off-load slot. There’re a few trucks ahead of you and you take your place in the queue. Slowly, very slowly, the queue moves forward. They are way past your allotted time but you hang in without complaining. Then, when there is only one more to truck to go – yours – and nothing behind you, they close the depot. The next day is a public holiday.

You’re then left sitting in your cab with nowhere to go. There’s no shops that you can walk to and even if there were, it’s not safe. So that’s your lot. You have a night, the whole of the next day – a public holiday – and then another night to sit alone in a desolate industrial type area while everyone else has gone home.

If there were say three more trucks to offload, well maybe. But one. Just one. Everyone else has gone home. You’re left alone in your cab on the side of the road while your family, which you could have joined the next day on the public holiday, sits at home, also alone. Yuk hey. It’s a true story.

To all the truck drivers of South Africa, if I had an apple farm or a supermarket, you would get a taste of the best apples from my crop and you would be welcomed at the front of the queue. It’s the least you deserve for the sterling work you are all been doing during this COVID-19 crisis. You would also get a big thank you for the sterling work you are during this crisis. You have been the forgotten heroes in the COVID-19 battle. FleetWatch salutes you all. Stay safe.

Footnote: I have kept names out of this story as I do not want to compromise the drivers I have spoken to. But I have their names and I know them.

Without truck drivers, the now infamous ‘egg challenge’ that spread through South Africa during the past weeks of the COVID -19 lockdown would not have taken place. Why? Because if the trucks had not delivered the eggs to the stores, it would have been an eggless challenge and merely left everyone legless from the tequila and other hooch swallowed in those ‘down-downs’. Say thank you Mr and Mrs Truck Driver
Without truck drivers, the now infamous ‘egg challenge’ that spread through South Africa during the past weeks of the COVID -19 lockdown would not have taken place. Why? Because if the trucks had not delivered the eggs to the stores, it would have been an eggless challenge and merely left everyone legless from the tequila and other hooch swallowed in those ‘down-downs’. Say thank you Mr and Mrs Truck Driver

21 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Patrick i could not agree more with your venting – that is such a sad story i hope they cant sell those apples!! the attitude of people towards Truck drivers who are the lifebloood of this economy and help put food on the shelves is a sad with such selfish and thoughtless people
    Our Truck Drivers and the work they do is nothing short of fantastic
    Viva to all these hardworking guys
    regards
    Cameron
    Premier Trucks

    • I am a truck driver but in the UK and originally from S.A.
      I am frustrated with the lack of goodwill for the trucking industry and hope things improve for them and Karma returns the favour for the Apple farm.

  2. Hi Patrick, a great article highlighting the tough time long distance drivers have out on the road. Our drivers out there at the coal face and are more often then not the first contact and representative for the company they work for as well as the products they are carrying and delivering. It is really sad that the truck drivers are treated so badly. Thanks for venting on their behalf and keep up the great work
    Regards
    Charles

  3. Thank you Patrick, this is a great article, hope everyone sees it, especially the lady with the apples, it was my brother who was denied the apples, they dont have the slightest idea how worried me and my mom were to find out he hasn’t got food to eat, one has to concentrate on the road, but without food in your tummy, it gets difficult, thanks again!!!

    • Awesome Story. Alles so waar. Terwyl ek so gelees, kry k dai selfde flashbacks waar ek al so gestaan ht, mk hekke voor my toe, sorry Mnr, ons sien jo Maandag. Dan is dit ma Vrydag of Saterdag, nou ja da staan j soos kiepie kan das. En dai Appel een. JA nee, ja nee. ‘N PAKSTOOR in citrusdal, lol, ai wou my nie eers 1 lemoen gee nie, nevermind ‘n sakkie aan my verkoop. Plein Nee in my gesig. Lol. K lag eerder want di bloed weet soms raak ‘n man verby kwaad vir di mense.

  4. Thank you for this! I was in Gauteng when the lockdown hit, but had to return to Durban during the full lockdown as we supply bulk fuel. I was the only car on the road. Just me… And the trucks. There was no need for them to stick to traffic rules, no one would see, but all of them was still obeying every rule. It was a pleasure to drive on the N3 that day, except… No food available to buy. Chips, Chocolates and sweets, that was it. Even worse, all of the places I stopped at, had closed their bathrooms. In Harrismith I had to go search in the back of the building (without any lights) for one small little restroom to be used by everyone. Yes, it was clean, but I could not help to feel sorry for our truck drivers that had to cope with these circumstances. I really applaud them for still doing their job under these circumstances.

  5. Hi. Thank you for super story. Every word of it true. My husband is also a truck driver. Battling the covid 19. Over sixty. Driving long hours with insufficient compensation. Also denied food and treated very poorly

  6. Truck drivers are the life blood of the nation treat us with respect we also have a life and a job to do without us u as the people will get nothing to eat we also have a family’s we also go to the shop just like u. a truck driver don’t have a easy life on the road so please

  7. Respect a trucker..!! if you bought it a trucker brought it and to the lady with the apples even if you had only two apples you could of shared one but to have them in abundance and share none please ask for forgiveness that was really cold. As humans it is our duty to help others where we can it’s an act that makes God pleased . To my fellow truckers and colleagues at Bakers sa Ltd that are out on the road working with nowhere to get food etc we salute you it is true indeed that truckers move our country forward.

  8. Shame on you the lady of apples, keep your apples,and remember ,for you to be where you are today a truck and a dedicated driver is involved,the food that u eat,clothing, fuel, the house that you call your home truck driver is involved ,the job that you have today truck driver is involved, the money that you go and withdraw a dedicated driver took all the risk to make it happen.Clearly you need prayers. Lean to have respect of other people.

    I salute you all trucks drivers .keep it up comrades.

  9. Ja nee die lockdown is hard, Kroonvaal Truck Stop verkoop darem ng kos.As j daar weg trek is dt huistoe, want nêrens af Kaap gaan j weer warm kos kry nie, simba chips en brood miskien ja. Maar hier en daar is daar mense wat darem on Truckers help. My vriend se suster hulle voorsien warm kook kos aan Truckers in Lichtenburg. Ek ht dit op groepe laat poste ens. Harde tyd vir ons.
    Staan sterk manne
    Staan saam
    Alle Heil en Seën.

  10. Well done to the truckers. I wondered how u were getting food and was appalled to hear u couldn’t. My heart goes out to u. Tks so much for keeping on trucking. I appreciate u all.

  11. It’s really sad for that trucker to be treated so badly. Being a trucker myself for the past 25 years I know all the challenges we are faced with daily. We can only observe and endure as nobody will do anything about the difficulties we are faced with especially the authorities who regard big rigs as a big nuisance.to all my fellow truckers out there may the Lord guide you Stay Safe 🙏

  12. Why is this company not named? I am shocked. However the company is who he is working for is also to blame. If the owners of trucking companies treat their drivers like the “gold” that they are this would not have happened. Double shame here

  13. That’s so touching, People should learn to be empathy to others, maybe author for correction we never had World war 11, it was World war 2

  14. What a touching article. Truck drivers should be respected they do so much for us. We just recently bought a truck and have been blessed with such a wonderful driver. It’s our first time and very stressful and we now look at truckers so differently as we know what a stressful job they have. We look at them with a new respect. If not for them where would businesses be. A shout out to all truck drivers we are proud of you and may Gods blessings be on u always

  15. My husband works in Ireland as a trucker going on 10 months now. Myself and the kids are still in s.a hopefully we can join him soon. I’m thankful everytime I speak to him that he’s not a trucker in s.a anymore. There is no respect or even human decency towards truckers here. My husband is also an essential worker , delivers food, every night at one of his 3 delivery points he will receive a complete balanced “lunch” package left there for him. I love you guys there on the road. Thank you for all you do, you do not deserve this treatment. Stay safe.

  16. This is bull****** that the truck driver’s get treated like that I respect the truck driver’s more than any politician.
    Thanks for all you guys have done for us South Africans.God bless you all.

  17. This so true, its so disappointing to hear. My husband is currently on the road and we as a family are worried what he will eat, where can he sleep, and wash up, will he be safe if he pulls over to cstch some sleep. Thank you for posting this article… DRIVERS IS OUR HEROES!!! “I salute you”.

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