This week would have been the Australian Trucking Association’s annual conference in Cairns, Trucking 20, but not this year, we now have to work out, ‘What Does a Coronavirus Conference Look Like?’ The world is going to be changed permanently by the goings on around the world this year.
We also don’t know how long these lockdowns, quarantines, border closures and social distancing measures will continue. It is very difficult to get a clear picture of what any future interaction is going to look like.
For many of the desk bound jobs there seems to be a consensus that more of us will be working from home in the future. For someone like me who has been working out of a home office for fifteen years, this is no problem at all. However, for those used to work banter and a more hands-on experience there may be a bit of a culture shock on the way.
For the people who actually do the physical work in our industry, the changes will be in certain day-to-day practices. I suspect hand hygiene and some form of physical distancing will be a requirement for quite some time to come.
Some hand cleanser next to the first aid kit in most locations and in the side lockers of trucks will probably fit the bill. The geography of loading and unloading facilities, as well as truck workshops, might need to be changed so everyone can keep their distance. Many have already been updated to meet the new rules, and these are likely to stay that way for some time to come.
Hopefully, Australian road transport won’t be going as far as a trial taking place in the Ford car assembly plant in Michigan in the US. Workers on the production line are wearing Samsung smart watches which will beep an alarm if they come within six feet of another smartwatch. To avoid the alarms the assembly crews have to ensure they keep their distance.
We won’t need to go that far, or will we? How far will the authorities be willing to go to secure no outbreak of any virus? Time will tell.
Drivers out on the roads will be able to keep their distance most of the time. Fuelling up both the truck and the driver are being managed quite well at the moment, although toilet facilities are still a major issue. When the country opens up there will be new problems in maintaining those rules with plenty of car driving families involved.
Some loading and unloading situations are going to be impossible to meet safe working guidelines to the letter. Farm delivery and collections are difficult to manage at the best of times, and we aren’t in the best situation just now.
So we will be able to make a good fist of doing the right thing in our day to day working lives. However, we are forgetting one thing, our social lives. The trucking industry is an inherently social industry, with banter, gossip and support from within our community a necessary part of life.
We can’t all have a social life talking over the UHF, but that is one of the things unchanged by Covid-19, UHF chat on the road, both good and bad.
For something like the ATA Conference or many similar events all over the country throughout the year, the formal stuff can be done online. All of us can log in and get the speaker’s story, ask some curly questions and come away with something to think about.
What is missing is one of the most important aspects of these conferences, the breaks in between the ‘serious’ stuff. It’s the casual meet up at smoko which is where the real businesses is being done, both in workplaces and in those conferences.
We couldn’t survive without our gossip and banter. The trucking industry just wouldn’t be the same, so, what does a coronavirus conference look like?