WATCH: Maltese drivers delivering essential products were stranded for four months in Europe during pandemic
Medicine and food are among the most essential products which Malta cannot do without during a pandemic. Three Maltese drivers who work with a local logistics company stepped foot on Malta for the first time recently after more than four months stranded in Europe, with their main job being to deliver essential goods, even if their work brought them up against extraordinary challenges.
Three drivers of Maltese trucks are back in Malta after being stuck on the European continent because of the pandemic.
Mario Muscat, who has been working in this sector for the last 30 years, said that as soon as he stepped foot in Italy for six weeks of work on European roads, he came face to face with a surreal situation – as the Coronavirus cases in Italy began climbing upwards.
“When I arrived at the port of Genoa I didn’t find anyone. It was deserted. No containers, everything had stopped. I began asking myself, where am I going? That’s when I started feeling a bit afraid,” he said.
Mr Muscat said that gradually he got used to the new reality. The drivers described how the life of a truck driver, which has always been a lonely one, became even worse because of the situation.
“It became a routine, there were only truckers on the motorways. No stations would accept us, they would only give you a cup of coffee at the door and the toilets were closed,” he said.
“Many things affected us, such as when you stop at a station and don’t even find a shower. Even if you just wanted a simple baguette, everything was closed. The places which were usually open 24/7 started closing early and you needed to plan ahead for your meals whenever you found a supermarket,” says Charles Galea.
The drivers said that the work has changed – many products which were imported and exported from Malta were reduced, however the drivers became an important resource to keep delivering essential products.
“We began carrying more important supplies such as food and medicine. That became more crucial. We had a lot of tension. Many of the stations in certain countries started closing down,” added Louis Debono.
The officer responsible for operations at the logistics company Express Trailers, Antoine Vella, said that freedom of movement between one country and another changed overnight, and in fact they had to complete various forms and present documents in order for their trucks to cross from one country to the other. He said that the greatest challenge was the uncertainty.
“We used to enter a country and find that the rules had changed. There would always be new forms to fill, although Transport Malta was helping us with continuous information, we still found countries which had come out with new regulations,” said Mr Vella.
He said that the passport to cross the borders was a piece of paper which indicated that they were carrying medicine.
“They had given us a document which we needed to display on the truck’s dashboard which read, “urgent supply, medicines for Europe”. In this way we could travel, cross borders and cut down on inspections.”
Even though the cases have started spiking again in Europe, the drivers are eager to go back to the heart of the continent to continue their work after a few days of rest in Malta, with the biggest question on their minds being how long this next experience is going to be.