Ben McKeown is one of probably hundreds of drivers who have faced a difficult dilemma during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. How to reconcile family life with work that has become dangerous due to the high risk of coronavirus infection? The trucker decided on a solution that is difficult and painful for the family, but the safety of his loved ones is paramount.
The driver’s story was recently presented by Sky News station, which interviewed him. Ben McKeown of Carmarthenshire, Wales, has lived in a truck cabin for five weeks. It’s nothing unusual for those truckers who travel long distances all over Europe, but for the Welshman, it was quite a radical change. Before the pandemic broke out, Ben used to come home from the routes for the weekends. And although like many other drivers, he sometimes spends six nights a week away from home, he never imagined he would be in such a situation.
The decision to live in the truck was made jointly with his wife for fear of bringing the coronavirus at home after making long-distance deliveries. He didn’t want to put three children at risk, especially his youngest son, who is a premature baby and is only a few months old. His only contact with his three young children is a daily video call and a brief glimpse of them through a window when he returns home to drop a bag of laundry.
“I saw my wife Nicola but we made sure to keep the distance of two meters,” said McKeown for Sky News.
He had a few days of rest in the caravan of a family friend. Fortunately, Ben’s boss made sure that the truck cabin was comfortably equipped.
Longing is the worse
“I never signed up,” he says. “But I will do whatever it takes to keep my family safe. I would go for years if I had to,” says Ben.
He admits, however, that longing is difficult to cope with. “Especially when you’re alone at night and homesick. You think ‘I missed this, I missed that’. My eldest missed her bike without stabilizers for the first time and my little one took her first steps,” says Ben.
“As a long-distance driver, I kind of knew what I was getting into in terms of missing things,” he adds. “But you hope you can make up for it.” He is not looking for sympathy but wants to be more aware of the sacrifices that all delivery drivers, as key workers, make.
“I have had such nice people with me, but others I think do not realize where their food comes from and how it gets there,” he said.
Ben McKeown hopes to return home once the most severe locking restrictions are lifted, but will only do so once he is safe. There are no big plans; a return to normalcy is the only thing he wants.
I just want to see my kids again, take them to the park, you don’t realize how much your family means to you until you are without them,” he adds.