If you bought it, a trucker brought it

Everything you wear, buy, or eat arrived on a truck

Truck driver delivery
Truck driver Aiden McLean delivers food and supplies at the Richmond-Adelaide Centre shortly after 4 a.m. Mathilde Augustin/Toronto Observer

When you bought your cup of coffee this morning, you probably thanked your barista, maybe even dropped a quarter in their tip jar. But a few hours prior, a trucker spent their night stocking the shop with everything it needs to open up: coffee beans, milk, cups, and even napkins.

“If you bought it, a trucker brought it,” says Aiden McLean, 24, a truck driver at Gordon Food Service (GFS). “Everything that we wear, buy, or eat has at some point been on a truck.”

That’s not an overstatement — trucking is the primary form of freight transportation in Canada. Statistics Canada estimates over 755 million tonnes of shipments in 2016 were moved by trucks.

On Victoria Day, a statutory holiday for most Canadians, McLean is hard at work. He left Milton, Ont., at 4:30 p.m. and 12 hours later, his truck is a few tonnes lighter and he only has one more stop to make it to before his 5 a.m. cutoff.

McLean drives his 38-foot trailer effortlessly through Toronto’s busiest streets, now empty and quiet for the holiday. “The guys who work during the day have bikes, Ubers, and people [to deal with],” he says.


“That’s the best thing about working at night, no one bothers me.”                 

                                                    -Aiden McLean

Down in the financial district, the office lights have been turned off and the streets are clear. But as McLean backs up to a loading dock, other trucks come in and out and security guards chat over coffee.

McLean scans every box before putting them on a trolley, which he carefully pushes through the maze of the PATH – the world’s largest underground shopping complex. For just one coffee shop, he does at least three trips. At 4 a.m., his trailer is nearly empty and he will soon drive it back to Milton.

“We make sacrifices so that people can have their coffee in the morning,” says McLean. “(Without truckers) there would be no food on the shelves of Loblaws, no gas at the station.”

Although Canada relies heavily on trucking, the industry is suffering from a driver shortage.

Tori Bellwood, 24, a recruiter at GFS, says the stigma around the industry dissuades people from entering it. “People think in order to have a good living you need to go to post-secondary, to be a white collar,” she says.

Because of the shortage, trucking companies have to get creative to attract drivers. The average income for a new driver at GFS is $75,000, and it reaches $80,000 for drivers with three years of seniority. The company also offers a paid four weeks of training for new drivers, promotes strong company culture, and allows overtime shifts for additional income.

Even though maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging when you work long hours and overnight, McLean can’t see himself doing anything else.

“I feel a great sense of accomplishment,” he says. “When I leave the warehouse with upwards of 10,000 pounds in the trailer and by the end of the night, it’s empty.”

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Posted: Jun 10 2019 2:05 pm
Filed under: Features Toronto at 4 a.m.