Driving During a Pandemic – How One Truck Driver is Holding Down the Fort

Written by Zack Power

ST. JOHN’S, NL – It’s a line that has become synonymous with the COVID-19, ” If it got to your home, it came from a truck.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s truck drivers have become a center of an economy. Without the work of truck drivers like Jeff Somerton in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, shelves of local grocery stores would be empty, toilet paper wouldn’t be replenished after last year’s blitz, and essential supplies like PPE and COVID-19 vaccines wouldn’t be able accessible to people across Canada.

Jeff is a humble man, notably camera-shy, and probably gave me one of the most challenging interviews I’ve had to date. But he’ll tell you a story, much of it with foul language. He’ll be quick to tell you about how heavy paper is to load and unload and the connection he has with his regular customers. Last month, he received a million miles certificate from Midland Currier, celebrating one million miles accident-free. Somerton is proud of his accomplishment, noting he’s been in the trucking industry for nearly 30 years.

Somerton with his million miles jacket, certificate and other gifts.

Today, his run mostly consists of a loup around Donovan’s Industrial Park and some of Mount Pearl’s outskirts. His 78 stops in the run of a day puts Somerton at the top of their local division in stops per day.

Running 12 hours a day, Jeff doesn’t always get a break. The unpredictable weather will do that for any truck driver in Newfoundland and Labrador. Having the province surrounded by water, most of their freight comes from Port Aux Basques, nearly 14 hours from where it needs to be. Somerton notes, the weather in Newfoundland is like a domino effect, where if one of the boats get tied up a day previous, he and the people in the Metro St. John’s region are without their freight. Air Freight often gets delayed in the Eastern province, battling with high winds and tough precipitation.

When speaking to him, he noted that that day, none of their trailers came in due to storms in Western Newfoundland, leaving him with a large amount of freight on Monday.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff notes that there’s been a small rise in his freight, but nothing spectacular. Delivering to mostly industrial buildings, he’s had to take on other roles during the pandemic. But he won’t classify himself as an essential worker.

“I don’t think that delivering pens, paper and curitan rods is any bit essential. But that’s just me.”

He’s hopeful for a promising future in the industry and notes the rise of online shopping has made it easier for him and truckers like him to do what they love best. Trucking.

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