Arbeit finden als Lkw-Fahrer während der Pandemie

Finding work as a truck driver during the pandemic

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For many lorry drivers in the UK, the coronavirus pandemic means they have to take a break due to temporary business closures. Finding that his plans to tour the UK have been hampered by COVID-19, Jon of Life Beyond Bricks, a blog that shares motorhome driving experiences with his partner Tash and three cats, decided to turn his driving talents to the truck - turn to driving while they were locked.

Jon shared with us his story of how he went through the experience and what he did to find a new focus in the pandemic. To read part one of Jon's story, including earning his category C license and his 22 year experience of testing, visit Life Beyond Bricks .


Jon's Story (Part 2)

After Jon secured his category C driver's license and applied for his Digi-Tacho card from the DVLA, he was ready to register with a couple of driving agencies:

Lack of experience = Limited work

As we were still on the road at the time, the first two agencies I signed up with were the larger national firms. Unfortunately, they had a limited amount of work for Class C truck drivers who have no experience. Although I've actually held my Class C driver's license for over a year and technically drove a PHGV every day, this didn't seem to have been considered by many companies looking for temporary workers.

I left my details with the agencies anyway to find the right jobs, but after not hearing much for a few weeks I decided to look around at other agencies that were offering work specifically for new passport drivers.

We started to finish our travels and move closer to home and after signing up with a few more agencies I finally got work delivering bulk orders to restaurants, pubs, cafes and schools. While the work was daunting as it is always a new job, it was very enjoyable. I figured if I did this every day I would get very fit and never need to go to the gym as all the products are loaded and unloaded by hand.

One thing that became clear was that I needed a proper, dedicated truck sat nav so it would do some work for me. It is important not to have to plan specific routes that avoid height, width, weight and vehicle class restrictions. Luckily for us we have owned a Snooper Ventura (RV and Caravan) sat nav for over three years and it has worked flawlessly during that time. An added bonus is that a dash cam is built into the device.

You can build vehicles of any size and weight with the Ventura unit, which is great as some RVs are truck chassis based. However, after speaking to Snooper about the different routing algorithms used for their Ventura and Truckmate units, I knew it would be advantageous to purchase a Truckmate unit in addition to the one already in place. The good thing is that for a small fee, you can swap the navigator software from Ventura to Truckmate. This meant I could only use our original sat nav at work to get a newer Ventura unit to buy for the mobile home. This works great as I would like to have a more permanent solid solution in the Sonic anyway.

COVID-19 has changed the plan

As the coronavirus situation became more serious, the government decided to discourage people from social gatherings and visiting public places. This meant that the cafes, pubs and restaurants I supplied dried up pretty much overnight. It was soon said that it would be wise to close these businesses, and schools were soon to be closed. Understandably, the work I was booked to do for a week was cancelled, even though the agency kept me on call for more work.

Things were becoming more volatile by the day and it quickly became clear that the work situation was going to be difficult under the current circumstances. Little did we know at the time that this would quickly develop into a life-changing global pandemic. My mind quickly swung from looking for work to make money to how I could actually help during the pandemic. As my father-in-law is a paramedic it was very important to me to help the NHS as all frontline workers had no choice; They risked their lives and the lives of their families for us.


Twitter to the rescue

Looking on Twitter of all places, I could see that the NHS supply chain was calling for extra staff in all areas, including truck drivers. This has allowed them not only to keep up with the unprecedented volume of orders coming from hospitals, but also to build in redundancy in staffing levels to prepare for off-duty work if people get sick. I did a quick internet search for the nearest NHS supply chain depots and found that Maidstone and Bridgwater were the closest to our location.

You could say we had a bit of a commute from where we were staying in Portsmouth, but at that point we actually had two motorhomes. The Dethleffs Pulse loaned to us by the Erwin Hymer Group could not be taken back because all motor home dealers were closed. The plan now was that I would stay at the Sonic near the supply chain depot during the week and then maybe come back at the weekend.

This was also a good time to give the Sonic a decent shakedown after all its upgrades. It also added a safety net as I might be at higher risk of the virus while at work. Tash and I have essentially been able to isolate ourselves from each other.

I called the Bridgewater depot and found out which ride agencies they used and then quickly called the agency in question. They got me into their organization very quickly, within a week I was supposed to have all the relevant documents scanned and checks carried out. Then to Bridgwater for a driving assessment with the NHS supply chain transport team the next day.

I arrived the night before the assessment so I had time to prepare and know where to go ahead of schedule. Pretty nerve wracking for me to have to be judged but understandable as under normal circumstances drivers have a huge responsibility with deliveries to hospitals let alone the circumstances we found ourselves in.


Another test

A theoretical test was followed by a drive in one of their 18-ton solo trucks. Now I thought the Dethleffs was big, this thing felt massive! It brought me back to my driving lessons and exam.

Of course the assessment went well and next was the operational briefing and all the health and safety aspects that need to be covered. Then they said, "When can you start?" and i said i could start the next day so they gave me a shift from 4pm to 2am and that was it. The next day I showed up for work. The normal fleet of NHS supply chain trucks is made up entirely of DAFs, but there have also been plenty of hire vehicles to help with the extra orders coming in from hospitals.

Most orders meant they had to send two trucks to different hospitals, so I had the opportunity to accompany one of the other drivers in my own truck, not only to learn the job, but to find out where all the loading docks were for the different hospitals. All the drivers and other colleagues were always happy to help, because it's always a steep learning curve when you start something completely new.

Finding a new focus in a pandemic

Within a week I was sent out alone. It's good to know that I was trusted and that, apart from the circumstances with the virus, I really enjoyed the work. My shifts consisted of delivering cages and pallets of medical supplies, including the much-demanded PPE, from the depot to hospitals and doctors' offices. It was not always easy to find the loading bays at the hospitals as many were not well signposted, most hospitals have multiple entrances and exits but not all were truck friendly. One benefit of the Snooper Truckmate sat nav was that I could set all delivery locations as favorites and if I couldn't remember the exact route to the loading bays I could always play back the driving footage from the integrated dashcam to refresh my memory.

I found that when I was focused on getting the job done, I actually completely forgot about what was going on in the outside world. If you drive the night shifts you would expect there to be less traffic but due to the closure I was just sharing the roads with other trucks. It was really scary driving through towns and city centers as not only were they deserted but there were no cars in the parking lots either.

It wasn't until I turned on the radio and it was a news program bringing home the reality of the situation that I remembered what was happening.

take off the load

The truckmate Software worked very well and I could already see the difference in routing to the Ventura software, entering dimensions, weight and class of the vehicle was really easy.

Most hospitals are in the middle of residential areas, so it helped to know that the sat nav would direct me to a higher class of road even if it was a little further away. Assisting in navigating the job just saves you a bit of work as driving a truck is quite crowded.

Keep up to date with the adventures and experiences of Jon & Tash by following them Twitter , Facebook , Instagram and YouTube consequences.