Abu Dhabi: Even as you read this, hundreds of truckers are on the highways, delivering cargo from far flung emirates and neighbouring countries.
If it were not for them, you wouldn’t be able to buy your favourite bread from the grocery, there would be no fuel at gas stations, or clothes in stores, or drugs in pharmacies. However, the men who make our world go around, live their lives on the road, often spending days behind the wheel with little to no sleep.
“These big trucks are our homes. We spend more time in them than we do in our actual houses,” said 25-year-old Pakistani Mohammad Bilal who drives a 10-wheeler and earns Dh3,000 per month besides commission.
“It takes three days to drive from Dubai to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia while haul to Makkah and Madinah may take up to a week. I transport goods within GCC countries. If the traffic is smooth and there are no delays at the borders I make three trips, but mostly it’s two. Saudi Arabia is a huge country and you could be still inside the Kingdom even if you logged 2,000 kilometres,”
We are under constant pressure ... Businesses must understand our limitations. We cannot overspeed and endanger our lives or those of other road users.
Another long haul trucker, Amandeep Singh, 31, from India said time is of the essence in their profession.
“We are under constant pressure to deliver goods by deadlines. Businesses must understand our limitations. We cannot overspeed and endanger our lives or those of other road users,” said Singh who drives a 24 tonne 14 wheeler.
“We face many challenges on the road. Poor visibility caused by fog or sandstorm bring truck movements to a grinding halt, resulting in long tailbacks. Heavy winds can also flip over a vehicle, so we have to navigate carefully,” he added.
Truckers said they know most highways like the back of their hand. “We know every curve of the road and also the best truck stop diners. That said, not every one prefers to eat at restaurants. Many of us carry raw food material and cook ourselves,” said another trucker.
Getting enough sleep is just as important as eating right. Fatigue caused by sleep deprivation can lead to slower reactions and impaired judgement.
Bilal recalled an incident when a sleep-deprived lorry driver dozed off at the wheel and rammed into a truck resulting in a massive pileup.
“Thankfully no one died, but many of the trucks were later written off.” he said.
Another lorry driver, Asif Ali, 31, from Pakistan, said it’s essential that drivers are always attentive and not pre-occupied with other matters. “Those who use cell phones while driving pose serious dangers to us. Leaving space between two vehicles is also important.”
Zulfiqar Shah, 37, also from Pakistan said as a rule he sticks to his lane and never overtakes another vehicle under any circumstances.
“Different highways have different timings for heavy vehicles in the country. Often we have to wait for hours before we are allowed on a particular motorway. Some of us while away the time by listening to music, while others take a nap.”