8 April 2020
In the four weeks to 21 March 2020, a staggering two billion pounds worth of extra groceries were purchased in the UK. US retailer Kroger reported a 30 percent increase in demand across all categories. The world’s media was full of images of overfilled trolleys, empty shelves, and long supermarket queues.
Politicians pleaded with the public to stop panic-buying. There was plenty of food in the supply chain, but it was going to take time to get it on the shelves and into homes. That’s where truck drivers come in; they move large amounts of material through the supply chain and into consumers’ hands.
We polled almost a thousand Truck, Lorry and Van drivers in our three core territories – the UK, US and Ireland. The question was simple:
Calling all HGV, Lorry, Van and Delivery Drivers: I know you are working extra hard at the moment, but do you think the public appreciate your efforts?
In both the UK and Ireland, the highest percentage of votes were cast in the ‘No, I don’t feel appreciated’ category. These accounted for 50.4% of the UK votes cast and over 40.6% of Ireland votes. Whether lorry and truck drivers feel they need to be appreciated is something we’ll come onto later.
28.7% of drivers in the UK said they feel appreciated, lower than the Ireland figure of 33.8%.
It’s possible that being part of a smaller nation helps Irish drivers to feel appreciated. Perhaps people feel more connected to their communities and aware of the hard work drivers are putting in. Timing could also be important here with Ireland having entered a ‘lockdown’ period earlier than the UK.
For many, the jury is still out, with 20.9% of UK and 25.6% of Ireland’s respondents being unsure. It’s early days in the crisis and perhaps time will tell.
Truckers in the USA certainly feel more appreciated than their UK and Irish counterparts.
Our impression is that, compared with the UK and Ireland, trucking in the USA is highly regarded as a profession. Images of Big Rigs eating up endless stretches of empty highway as drivers deliver essentials are somewhat iconic. Perhaps this trucking culture gives the public a higher level of respect for truck drivers.
But although there is more appreciation, over a quarter of respondents think it’s too early to tell. As one trucker commented, “The real appreciation will come after everything is over and [the public] see how fast everything goes back to the way it was.” Another told us, “They say they do [appreciate us] but the majority still thinks we are nobodies”.
The world has seen an outpouring of support for frontline healthcare workers. Is it the case that other essential workers like HGV and delivery drivers feel unappreciated in comparison?
A couple of comments would suggest this, with one UK essential truck driver reporting that after working a 70 hour week delivering to a supermarket, they were then unable to get necessary food for their own family whilst other keyworkers received priority treatment. Others commented that they’re not being shown any more respect on the roads than usual.
“Don’t feel valued or appreciated. Still seeing too many car drivers not giving us the space we need. I question how many cars on the motorway network are on essential journeys.”
However, a large proportion of drivers told us they are ‘just’ doing their jobs.
“Just doing my bit. I don’t expect appreciation”, a UK lorry driver told us.
One Irish respondent went further, adamant that truck and delivery drivers aren’t frontline staff, “We are still doing our job. It’s not like we are going walking into a #COVID19 ward with no PPE on us.”
Truck driving can be a solitary occupation, and our research suggests that many drivers just want to keep quietly doing their job. It’s a fairly unseen job, with deliveries to supermarkets generally taking place out of the eye of the consumer.
Commenting on our research, the FTA‘s Director of Policy, Elizabeth de Jong said, “As the business group representing the logistics sector, FTA has pressed government hard since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic to acknowledge the vital role which the industry’s workforce plays in keeping the nation working and trading. The resulting government designation of logistics as key workers is testament to the vital role which they all play in British society.
“While many of these staff may not feel appreciated as yet, the number of thank you messages received from Ministers and other MPs, as well as businesses and members of the public are a clear indication of the value placed on having a fully functional, integrated supply chain.”
The American Trucking Association is rightly proud of truck drivers. Spokesman, Sean McNally, told us, “We have seen numerous examples of drivers, particularly on social media or in interviews with media, talking about how proud they are to be playing such an important role in our country’s response to this pandemic. It is important to us that those drivers are recognized and appreciated not just while we are in the throes of this pandemic, but well after we resume normal activities.”
Whether they feel appreciated or not, there is no question that truck drivers are providing a valuable and essential service across the world right now, as they always do.