Unsung Heroes: What Life Is Like For The Truckies Keeping Australia Running In A Pandemic

Much of our attention has been paid to health workers (and rightfully so) but there's another cohort of heroes that's surfaced during the coronavirus outbreak and largely gone unnoticed -- our truck drivers.

Believe it or not, there's no such thing as a toilet paper fairy.

Those loo rolls -- which may as well be liquid gold right now -- don't just magically appear on the supermarket shelves. Someone has to get them there, and they're risking their own health doing it.

Speaking to 10 daily, long-distance truck driver Frank Black said he is returning to the roads today after a 24-hour break, a break which only comes after working six days straight and driving for at least 12 hours a day in order to get essential items to where they needed to be.

Black, 60, is based in Queensland but travels as far as Adelaide to deliver goods, and in his 30 years at the wheel he has never encountered a situation quite like this one.

Frank Black is working around the clock to get much needed supplies to where they need to be. Image: Supplied

"We all feel the pressure but we need to keep things going because people people rely on us," he said.

Currently Black, like many of the nation's truck drivers, are working more but within legal hours, which at the moment is a maximum of six days on, one day off.

Drivers can be behind the wheel for up to 12 hours a day but must take mandatory 30 minute breaks every few hours.

Before the outbreak Black would work a couple of days before taking  a few off to recover, but the current circumstances mean that is not possible.

"We can't turn around and have days off. People need us and things like medical supplies are so important. We need to be there," he said.

"It doesn't feel so much like a sense of urgency, but a sense of responsibility."

Truck drivers also have to care for their health too and are just as at risk, if not more, of catching COVID-19.

While they do spend a lot of time in isolation inside their truck cabin, there are a lot of precautions they must take during the delivery process.

"I have a box of rubber gloves in the truck and I put them on before I open the truck door and wear them while I'm unloading the goods and signing off paperwork," Black explained.

Black has been behind the wheel for 30 years. Image: Supplied

"I then put [the gloves] in the bin, close the truck door and sanitise my hands again.

"We have to take precautions for ourselves but realise we must keep going."

Black recognises it is easy to get caught up in your own career and forget what other people do for a living, including the grueling hours they may work.

"You talk to some people and they almost seem to think it's our duty to do this but they don't understand we've been working really long hours," he confessed.

"There are a lot of people out there at the moment, putting in extra, our guys included to try and keep everything as normal as possible."

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In a statement sent to 10 daily, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Secretary Michael Kaine said transport workers are "on the frontline of the crisis".

“[They're] now working at full capacity," he said.

"The situation is getting critical as states close their borders and impose self-isolation measures on anyone entering. The exception is truck drivers who will continue to keep goods moving across borders."

However, Kaine said this does not come without risks.

He explained many truck drivers are older than average age and have underlying health issues which makes them more vulnerable to diseases like COVID-19.

"We are appealing to state governments to ensure truck drivers have access to masks, gloves, disinfectant when crossing borders and that truck stops stay open to allow them to eat, rest and take showers," he said.

"Truck drivers are the backbone of the economy and this crisis has reminded everyone just how critical they are.”

He said in these unprecedented circumstances it essential we acknowledge the people who are helping keep things running as smoothly as possible, and keep our shelves are stocked.

And Black couldn't be more clear about that.

"We must appreciate each other, and the job we're doing to keep the country going. There are a lot of people behind it," he said.