We sort of know that we do live in the ‘lucky country’, but sometimes we also lose sight of how many benefits there are to living and working in a country like Australia and forget to thank our lucky stars.
I am like everyone else and complain about this and that, shout at the TV on hearing some of the things our politicians say with minimal sincerity, get grumpy about petty problems with the way things are done.
However, this week I got a bit of a wake up call on the subject while reading an article by Ale Efron, who is the Vice President, Central and South America at the International Forum for Road Transport & Technology. This is a global group sharing research and developments in improving truck and road, design and technology, to improve safety and productivity.
Ale used the short article to paint a picture of life on the road for truck drivers in South America in the last few months as the pandemic has washed across the continent. The whole thing brought me up with a start, when I realised how similar our trucking industries are and how different were the experiences of their truck drivers as coronavirus hit.
We complain here about the attitude of some local councils and their attitude to the trucking industry, South America takes it to a much higher level. Concerns about people carrying the virus saw local authorities building earth ramparts, barbed wire fences and other methods were used to isolate local areas.
At the same time the trucking industry there, was under pressure to deliver the essentials in life for those isolated residents. The shortages were not just in toilet rolls and pasta. Ale talks about a slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires being without any water for eight days, at a time when cleanliness and hygiene are paramount.
The pressure was on the trucking operators to get the much needed supplies to where they were needed, at the same time as their trucks were sitting for 12 hours at a road block set up by the local authorities to control people’s movements.
There was no organisation or communication behind all of these road blocks and controls. The situation is chaotic and changing all of the time as individual towns panic in the face of the outbreaks.
Some towns have targeted truck drivers and blocked their entry into an area, fearing they are carrying the virus. One trucking association reported, “drivers put their lives at risk to carry food and are mistreated by the population.”
In some areas the panic levels seem to have died down, not in Brazil however. As the situation has calmed in Colombia, the transport ministry has paid tribute to what it calls the ‘Heroes of the Road’. Some of the larger service station providers have set up clean and safe areas for truck drivers to rest and recuperate. In Argentina more routes have opened up to trucks like the Bi-train (B-doubles to us) to improve freight flows.
In some ways, South America and Australia are alike, facing similar distance and road quality issues. On the other hand, we complain about difficult local government, but over there they seem to have gone rogue.
South Americans probably watch the chaos in Brazil, like we watch the antics going on in the US, and shake our heads in despair. The problem for them is they have a land border with the madness and need to cross that border with trucks in order to keep the economy afloat.
Here in Australia, we should indeed thank our lucky stars.