It is 6am in the morning and 58-year-old Uncle Foong wakes up to get ready for work. He washes up, eats breakfast, then hops onto his bicycle for his 15-minute daily commute to the lorry parking area to collect his prime mover. He is ready to start his day as a prime mover driver.
On this day, I was lucky to have the opportunity to join Uncle Foong at work. At 11am, I climbed onto his prime mover under his guidance and sat myself comfortably on the 2.9m high vehicle as he made his third trip of the day to the port to collect an import container. Unfortunately, I had to alight outside of the port to wait for him as I did not have the authorization to enter the port. After a 15-minute wait along the roadside, Uncle Foong reappeared with a laden trailer. It was almost 12pm when we brought the container back to the warehouse for storage. Uncle Foong brought me to a small canteen located near the warehouse that was filled with the lunch time crowd. We packed our lunch to eat on the go as it was time to head off again.
In his next assignment, Uncle Foong had to collect an empty container from another warehouse and return it to a container depot, where empty containers are stored. En route to the warehouse, I chatted with Uncle Foong, keen to find out more about his job as a trucker. Uncle Foong has been in the trucking industry for 28 years. His wife works at a market, and together they raised their two daughters who are now in their early 20s and have graduated from university. According to Uncle Foong, he had to “chiong” more in the past to provide for his family. But now that his kids have grown up and his age has caught up with him, he has requested not to take on as many jobs. On an average day, Uncle Foong takes about 5 to 6 jobs. On days that are busier, he can work up to 15 hours, for a maximum of 10 trips a day due to the 60km/h speed limit.
Uncle Foong loves animals. In his humble apartment in Yishun, he keeps 2 dogs, 4 parrots and over 100 fighting fishes. Keeping pets and taking care of them is his hobby and way of releasing stress after work. He loves his pets so much that he would stay behind to take care of the animals while his family goes on vacations, saying, “Who is going to feed and take care of them if I am not at home?”
Uncle Foong’s eyes lit up when the conversation shifts to his pet fighting fishes. He loves breeding different types of fighting fishes in his free time and has over 100 of them stored in cut-out plastic bottles stacked nicely in large boxes. He explained that he watches YouTube videos on how to breed the fishes and was showing me a video on the breed that he has been trying to achieve when we were informed that the stuffing was completed – it had taken about 40 minutes.
We made our way to the port, where Uncle Foong dropped me along Pasir Panjang Road before he headed in to unload the container. His last job would be to collect a final container to be delivered to Marsiling, before ending a long day of work and heading home to walk his dogs and feed his pets.
I really admire Uncle Foong’s positive outlook on life and how he finds joy in the littlest things like watching his pet fishes swim. He is a hardworking and humble man satisfied with his life and job. Even when he was hungry or sweating and panting from having to climb up and down the prime mover, I never once heard him complain or even let out a sigh the entire day.
Shadowing Uncle Foong for a day has been an eye-opening and enriching opportunity for me. I got to learn more about the industry and experience the job of a truck driver first-hand. It is not an easy profession having to spend long and lonely hours on the bumpy prime mover, navigate narrow roads and bends with a 26-tonne load, climb up and down the tall vehicle, open and close the heavy container door, eat lunch quickly at awkward timings and deal with the stress of customers rushing for jobs. In the short 6 hours that I spent with Uncle Foong, I also witnessed the inefficiencies of this industry. A lot of time is wasted in waiting and queuing, and there are potential avenues for improvements to make the drivers jobs easier and increase the productivity of the industry – something that Haulio is looking to change.
On a whole, I have learnt to be more appreciative of our prime mover drivers and found more meaning in the work that I am doing in Haulio. From now on, the container trucks I see on the roads will no longer escape my conscious mind. Rather, I will greet them with a thankful smile knowing the hard work put in by these drivers.
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