Keeping Shanghai supplied through lockdown

Truck drivers are living in their vehicles for days on end, while delivery guys sleep at the depot.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By BAI Fan


ZHANG Yulin and FENG Tongyang have been working together on a truck for years, but never imagined becoming roommates until they spent three weeks shacked up together in the truck. The two friends shuttle between Shanghai and Handan of Hebei Province 1,000 kilometers north to transport packages, but their routine has been shattered since the omicron wave broke in March. They usually make ten round trips a month, each about 35 hours. In March, when neither of them had the chance to go home, they made only six.

The Shanghai lockdown tested the supply chain like never before. Logistics has become a labyrinth of travel restrictions and nucleic acid testing requirements. Drivers are living in their cabs for weeks.

Everyone on board must take a PCR test at least every 48 hours, which happens at almost every checkpoint and warehouse in any case. Local authorities are constantly calling, making sure that they don’t leave the highway. At each warehouse, which all require negative tests and a green code on the health app to get in, the truck is thoroughly disinfected.

They sleep in tiny bunk beds at the back of the truck. It is tiring, but Zhang is willing to do his part to stop the pandemic. He doesn’t know when he will see his wife and children again.

In the city, it’s a whole new world for the delivery guys. Xia Duobing has been sleeping at work. His day starts at six when the deluge of orders for food and cleaning products starts to seep through.

Deliveries have gone completely contactless but it doesn’t mean less work. Xia disinfects his hands, clothes, and bike countless times each day. The packages have already been disinfected many times at warehouses and delivery stations. He takes a PCR test every day. At every stop, he calls the customer to confirm whether to leave the package at a pickup spot or drop it at the door.

Delivery robots have proliferated. A YTO Express robot carries half a ton of goods 100 kilometers without charging. The receiver is automatically notified when the package arrives.

The unexpected is the norm. When a market went into lockdown, volunteers went into action. delivery worker GUO Shaolong joined the team and plans to serve the community however he can until life returns to normal.