The onset of a global pandemic has highlighted and rewritten the definition of essential workers, as impacts have rippled across all aspects of society and the economy.
As infection rates rise and fall across the world, healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, lab technicians and others who are employed in the medical field, have been lauded and saluted for being on the front line response of COVID-19.
The effects of the coronavirus have been felt across the economic spectrum as well, from food and beverage to grocery stores to retail goods and services.
Even though businesses have had to adjust operations, the supply chain has remained intact due to the efforts of those in the transportation industry, and particularly truck drivers who are moving goods and products to communities across the province and the country.
Drivers like Josh Aldrich.
Aldrich has been in the industry for a few years now, starting first with a five-ton truck with local delivery companies. From there, transitioned into a pilot vehicle that drives ahead of the transport trucks in case of an unusually large payload or hazardous material.
After acquiring his Class One license, Aldrich has been hauling overland trailers with a local contractor for almost three years ago, starting with routes throughout British Columbia and Alberta.
Now, he does a nightly run from Cranbrook to Sicamous hauling all kinds of goods such as general freight, building supplies, medical supplies, pet food and much more.
According to the B.C. Trucking Association, member carriers operate approximately 16,000 vehicles, employ 26,000 people and generate annual economic revenues of $2.2 billion.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the trucking industry has been invaluable and essential.
“The support us truckers have seen has been amazing,” said Aldrich, in an email interview with the Townsman. “We do what we do because we love it. But now people see how important a truck and driver really are.”
It is safe to say people have noticed, including the provincial government, after some issues arose, where truckers were having trouble accessing public bathrooms or being barred from restaurant drive-thru service.
Aldrich credited the public outcry for shining a light on some of those problems.
“The amazing people have noticed and stepped up,” Aldrich said. “We feel the love when people run us up free food to our rigs. Or local drive thrus or local restaurants let us call in orders and bring them out to our trucks or let us walk up the drive thru.
“They might not even notice the difference it makes. We would be totally in a bad spot if it wasn’t for these people so thank you to those that have stepped up.”
Though Aldrich is usually by himself on the roads, he’s not completely alone.
For years, he has been hauling rescue animals, first by helping another group, then starting his own — Fur the Haul of It Critter Carrier — alongside Jessie Corrigan and Wayne Skinner, with support from volunteer team members such as Annette Du Heaume, who organizes fosters.
“We move mainly rescued animals to the fur ever homes or to other rescues from coast to coast,” Aldrich said. “99 percent of all animals are moved in semi trucks with truckers.”
Some hauls have included moving dogs from Kamloops to Nova Scotia or cats from all around the western provinces, such as northern Manitoba to the B.C. coast.
“We do wildlife as well from the Kootenay area to Golden where Little Mittens Rescue is,” said Aldrich. “We have trucked baby deer, baby skunks, any type of bird you can think of. If it is native to our area we probably have had it in our trucks.”