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Tough being a trucker

- TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

It is not easy being a trucker, says container truck driver Salehin Yahya (above), 33.

It means spending more than 10 hours on the road every day and keeping awake with sweets, loud music and bottles of Coca-Cola.

It also means being in hour-long queues in Tuas and Changi, waiting to pick up or return empty containers.

And because you cannot park anywhere, it means truckers mostly end up eating takeout in styrofoam containers in their cabins every day.

Survive that and you get $15 to $20 for each successful trip made. Mr Salehin averages six trips a day.

But the most frustrating part of the job is when other road-users fail to understand the nature of their vehicles and take advantage of their slow speed.

Says Mr Salehin, who joined Bok Seng Logistics a year ago: "It is annoying when drivers suddenly cut into my lane and jam their brakes.

"They don't understand that my vehicle takes time to brake and react."

Worse still are the jaywalkers and people who dash across roads.

"Whenever I see pedestrians, I have to go extremely slow and keep on checking my mirrors. It is stressful because there are many parts around the vehicle that I can't see."

And when accidents involving heavy vehicles appear on the news, people are always quick to assume that the blame lies on the heavy vehicle driver.

Comments calling for the driver to be jailed or punished, even before the police investigation concludes, has a demoralising effect on drivers across the industry.

TOO SLOW, TOO FAST

"Sometimes, the criticism might not be valid. If we go too slow, other drivers won't be happy. If we go too fast, we get criticised too," says Mr Salehin.

Drivers like him have plenty of incentives to be safe on the roads.

"If we meet with an accident, our record (is blemished). Our safety bonus will be taken away," he says.

Depending on their years of service, his company awards $100 to $300 in bonuses to each driver every year provided they keep a clean safety record.

"It is not like we are out to cause danger. I want to go home safely too."