A Day in the Life of a Truck Driver

A Day in the Life of a Truck Driver

A Day in the Life of a Truck Driver

Introducing the first post of the new “Day in the Life” series on our blog, where we follow different key players of the industry to learn more about their day-to-day activities. 

Stay tune and join us for more exciting stories!

Uncle Foong's story

It is 6am in the morning and 58-year-old Uncle Foong wakes up to get ready for work. He washes up, eats breakfast, then hops onto his bicycle for his 15-minute daily commute to the lorry parking area to collect his prime mover. He is ready to start his day as a prime mover driver.

On this day, I was lucky to have the opportunity to join Uncle Foong at work. At 11am, I climbed onto his prime mover under his guidance and sat myself comfortably on the 2.9m high vehicle as he made his third trip of the day to the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Gate 4 to collect an import. Unfortunately, I had to alight outside of the port to wait for him as I did not have the authorization to enter the port. After a 15-minute wait along the roadside, Uncle Foong reappeared with a laden trailer. It was almost 12pm when we brought the container back to the warehouse for storage. Uncle Foong brought me to a small canteen located near the warehouse that was filled with the lunch time crowd. We packed our lunch to eat on the go as it was time to head off again.

In his next assignment, Uncle Foong had to collect an empty container from another warehouse and return it to a container depot, where empty containers are stored. En route to the warehouse, I chatted with Uncle Foong, keen to find out more about his job as a trucker. Uncle Foong has been in the trucking industry for 28 years. His wife works at a market, and together they raised their two daughters who are now in their early 20s and have graduated from university. According to Uncle Foong, he had to “chiong” more in the past to provide for his family. But now that his kids have grown up and his age has caught up with him, he has requested not to take on as many jobs. On an average day, Uncle Foong takes about 5 to 6 jobs. On days that are busier, he can work up to 15 hours, for a maximum of 10 trips a day due to the 60km/h speed limit.

Halfway into the conversation, Uncle Foong received a phone call from his wife. She had called to share with him about the little happenings at the market, and this brief chat made him smile so widely. Their phone call ended just as we pulled into the depot. At the depot, Uncle Foong had to get on and off the prime mover multiple times – getting off to open the container, getting back on to move the vehicle forward then getting off and on again for the inspection and submission of forms. Climbing up and down the prime mover is not an easy feat. Due to the height and surroundings, it can also get quite dangerous. I personally had difficulties lifting myself up, but Uncle Foong’s many years of experience was evident as he moved around ever so gracefully with just one hand.

Uncle Foong smiling as he talks to his wife over the phone
Uncle Foong ensuring that the container is securely latched onto the prime mover
Uncle Foong closing the container door after inspection

Despite spending most of his time in the prime mover, Uncle Foong is very friendly. I often saw him waving at other drivers from his vehicle or striking up conversations at the depot while waiting for his container to be inspected. He has many friends in the industry, whether or not they were from his company.

Uncle Foong talking to other truck drivers and the depot container inspector

After leaving this depot, we proceeded to another depot to collect a nominated empty container and brought it to another warehouse for stuffing, where an empty container is loaded with cargo and sealed. Up till then, we still hadn’t eaten our packed lunch. Wanting to wait for him, I repeatedly declined Uncle Foong’s offer for me to have my lunch first. But it was close to 4pm when we arrived at the next warehouse, and I could not contain my hunger anymore. I started to eat my packed lunch in the prime mover while Uncle Foong left to go to the warehouse office to settle some paperwork. He returned 15 minutes later, finally tucking into his packed lunch at 4:15pm. Uncle Foong gobbled down all his food in less than 10 minutes, finishing his meal at the same time as me. He claimed that he was used to the irregular meal times and eating quickly on the prime mover in the limited pockets of time that he could spare. As we sat there in our finally filled bellies waiting for the container to be stuffed, I had the opportunity to learn more about Uncle Foong on a more personal level.

Uncle Foong having lunch on the prime mover

Uncle Foong loves animals. In his humble apartment in Yishun, he keeps 2 dogs, 4 parrots and over 100 fighting fishes. Keeping pets and taking care of them is his hobby and way of releasing stress after work. He loves his pets so much that he would stay behind to take care of the animals while his family goes on vacations, saying “Who is going to feed and take care of them if I am not at home?” Uncle Foong’s eyes lit up when the conversation shifted to his pet fighting fishes. He loves breeding different types of fighting fishes in his free time and has over 100 of them stored in cut-out plastic bottles stacked nicely in large boxes. He explained that he watches YouTube videos on how to breed the fishes and was showing me a video on the breed that he has been trying to achieve when we were informed that the stuffing was completed – it had taken about 40 minutes.

"Who is going to feed and take care of them if I am not at home?"

We made our way to the port, where Uncle Foong dropped me along Pasir Panjang Road before he headed in to unload the container. His last job would be to collect a final container to be delivered to Marsiling, before ending a long day of work and heading home to walk his dogs and feed his pets.

Insights

I really admire Uncle Foong’s positive outlook on life and how he finds joy in the littlest things like watching his pet fishes swim. He is a hardworking and humble man satisfied with his life and job. Even when he was hungry or sweating and panting from having to climb up and down the prime mover, I never once heard him complain or even let out a sigh the entire day.

Shadowing Uncle Foong for a day has been an eye-opening and enriching opportunity for me. I got to learn more about the industry and experience the job of a truck driver first-hand. It is not an easy profession having to spend long and lonely hours on the bumpy prime mover, navigate narrow roads and bends with a 26-tonne load, climb up and down the tall vehicle, open and close the heavy container door, eat lunch quickly at awkward timings and deal with the stress of customers rushing for jobs. In the short 6 hours that I spent with Uncle Foong, I also witnessed the inefficiencies of this industry. A lot of time is wasted in waiting and queuing, and there are potential avenues for improvements to make the drivers jobs easier and increase the productivity of the industry – something that Haulio is looking to change.

On a whole, I have learnt to be more appreciative of our prime mover drivers and found more meaning in the work that I am doing in Haulio. From now on, the container trucks I see on the roads will no longer escape my conscious mind. Rather, I will greet them with a thankful smile knowing the hard work put in by these drivers.  

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Lenet Kong

 

Hi, I am currently a Year 2 Business undergraduate from the National University of Singapore. I’m at Haulio as a Community Operations intern to gain deeper insights about the Supply Chain industry and make an impact on truck drivers’ lives!

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