Comment: Trainees surviving lockdown

By: Fiona McDonagh, Te ara ki tua Road to success project co-ordinator, Photography by: Supplied

Working in a lockdown can be a stressful experience for trainees and experienced drivers alike

Working in a lockdown can be a stressful experience for trainees and experienced drivers alike

Like everyone, our Road to success trainees have had to adapt to life in another lockdown. For many, it happened just at the wrong time, when they were settling into their new roles in the transport industry.

While transport remains an essential service during Level 4, many operators run only Class 5 vehicles, which results in some trainees parked at home until levels change. Disruption during alert level changes is, of course, to be expected, but when coming at the beginning of something new and exciting—like a new job—it’s even more unsettling.

Some have coped well with being at home with family, some have family living elsewhere and feel that separation, and there are those who experience the anxiety that comes from being isolated from others completely.

Safely in our bubbles, the team at Road to success have been working hard to stay connected with all trainees during this time to help support them and check in for a chat now and then.

The operators who have taken on a trainee have done a good job ensuring those at home were included in their internal communications and reassured them that things would get back on track as soon as alert levels changed.

Many trainees had been enjoying driving at Class 2 and driving solo for a while, while some had moved into Class 4 vehicles and were loving it. The lockdown put that on hold for some, while others gained experience that only comes from working in an essential service and being part of keeping the supply chain moving—something we did not factor in our programme but which is valuable practical experience.

For those unable to get behind the wheel or in the passenger seat and continue on the job training, lockdown provided the opportunity to get a jump on the online learning part of our traineeship and work through the micro-credentials.

Being able to go online and work on the units without the time pressures of fitting it in during or after a workday has definitely been an advantage to some of our trainees. It also meant their training didn’t completely stop during the lockdown. Having something to focus on and schedule into a lockdown day helped calm some of the anxiety and provided structure at an unstructured time.

Something we all have to be aware of during periods of isolation is ensuring we don’t assume everyone copes as well as we might do or necessarily have stable and relaxing home situations.

Some younger trainees require more support than those who are a bit older and have more experience in adapting to changing situations, but regardless of their individual situations, it still remains important to know that they are part of a team and are not alone.

Being part of an industry that doesn’t stop during a pandemic is a big deal, and fear of the unknown, being out in the community making deliveries, and carrying vital supplies around the country at a time when everyone else is safely tucked away in their bubbles can be scary.

Our trainees, like every truck driver they share the road with, have had to deal with fears about the safety of their whanau, their own health, and the responsibility of keeping the wheels turning.

During times like this, more than ever, we need to reach out to others in our teams and make sure they feel valued and connected while apart. Most of all we need to understand that this pandemic affects our mental health as much as our physical health.

Keep safe and well. 

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