Watch Now

Don’t leave home without COVID-19 plan, sick trucker urges

From quarantine, Canadian truck driver Nicole Folz recounts the scary reality of falling seriously ill hundreds of miles from home during a less-than-truckload run in the United States.

Canadian truck driver Nicole Folz. (Image: Nicole Folz/Facebook)

Canadian truck driver Nicole Folz began suspecting she had COVID-19 as she prepared to make her final less-than-truckload delivery in South Carolina last week, some 14 hours from home in Ontario.

The sore throat and dry cough she noticed after she crossed into the U.S. had gotten worse. On April 8, she felt that she might have a fever. Breathing became harder, too. And she had lots of pain.

A thermometer she purchased on April 9 confirmed she had a fever of 101.3. By the time she blew a tire near Washington, Pennsylvania, on her backhaul, she had a fever of 102.2.

More than 16,000 Facebook users have shared Folz’s post about her ordeal.

It got much worse from there. She required supplemental oxygen by the time she arrived at Etobicoke General Hospital in Toronto on April 10, after crossing the border and dropping off her tractor-trailer. Fluid had started to fill her lungs. 

“I never felt that sick before in my entire life,” Folz told FreightWaves from a hotel serving as a federal quarantine facility near Toronto as she recovers from a suspected — though not confirmed — COVID-19 infection. Public health nurses visit her regularly and the Red Cross provides meals.

Since the onset of symptoms — that she thought were a cold — she made three deliveries, waited nearly 21 hours for a backhaul, and safely got her rig back to Canada while following public health protocols upon her return.

Folz, 26, is among the thousands of truck drivers who continue to move freight between Canada and the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. No amount of personal protective equipment and precautions can eliminate the risk of infection or how and when it might hit.

“One word of advice I can give any of my fellow truck drivers: Have a plan!” Folz wrote in a 600-word Facebook post that chronicles her experience. More than 16,000 people have shared it. “It went viral,” Folz joked.

A public health official placed Folz in mandatory isolation after she returned to Canada. (Images: Nicole Folz)

Folz’s experience also offers a cautionary tale for truck drivers and carriers: Make sure everyone is on the same page.

“I want other drivers to have that conversation — be proactive — and ask the company, if I fall sick on the road, what should I do?”

Folz, like many drivers, had been keenly aware that the job exposed her to greater risk for COVID-19.

Her previous LTL run involved stops in Detroit and Chicago, areas with far more severe outbreaks. Folz had been sleeping in her truck during her returns to Canada to avoid exposing her father, who lives with her.

“It probably goes without saying, but it takes a lot of confidence to get into a truck and go across the border,” said Shawn Backle, operations manager at Folz’s carrier, Ontario-based Transport N Service.

If tests confirm Folz has COVID-19, the onset of symptoms suggests she may have gotten it while picking up medical supplies in Chicago a week earlier.

Truck driver says messages ‘a clear cry for help’

Folz powered through as her symptoms worsened. She delivered her final load wearing gloves and a face shield, and slathering on copious amounts of hand sanitizer. She then waited almost an entire day for her backhaul.

“I did my due diligence while protecting the health of others and myself,” Folz said.

Missing was a plan for getting Folz home despite messages and calls to her carrier and conversations with public health nurses in Canada. 

“I thought my messages were a clear cry for help,” she said.

Backle said the company is reviewing its internal procedures and that clearly there was a breakdown in communications during her trip.

“It’s saddening for this to have happened,” Backle said. “I wish we had had all the information about her situation. The help is here. The sad part with Nicole is we didn’t realize that she required help after it appeared that she had it already. There was a disconnect,” Backle said.

A clear plan of action only emerged after Folz reached out to another truck driver, Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, who also runs the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada.

Folz reached out to trucker Shelley Uvanile-Hesch for help. (Image: Kimberly Biback/Sharp Transportation)

Uvanile-Hesch began raising the alarm with federal and provincial officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Soon, calls started coming from officials at Transport Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

A well-coordinated effort subsequently took place to preclear Folz’s freight. She showed her passport against the window for the CBSA officer and proceeded to drop off her tractor-trailer.

From there, she drove her car straight to the federal quarantine facility. Going home would have been too risky for her father.

Ultimately, Backle said he is proud of Folz.

“I applaud her for how she handled this,” he said.

Asked how carriers and drivers should respond if a driver gets ill on the road, a spokesperson for Transport Canada pointed to a set of guidelines it released earlier in April addressing commercial vehicle operations and COVID-19. 

“The document builds on the latest guidance developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, and other recognized public health authorities,” Transport Canada spokesperson Simon Rivet told FreightWaves in an email.

“It offers public health information, as well as tips on disinfection, hand-washing, and self-monitoring to limit the spread of COVID-19.” 

But the guidelines do not lay out a clear protocol for a situation like the one Folz faced. 

Doctor calls for more testing of drivers

Dr. Johnathan Davids, the medical director of DriverCheck, a leading provider of drug and alcohol testing and occupational health services for Canadian trucking companies, told FreightWaves that COVID-19 is forcing difficult choices upon carriers and drivers.

“It’s all about managing risk,” he said. 

Davids said he would like to see more testing for cross-border drivers, particularly as rapid and reliable test kits become available.

“If we had more widespread testing, we’d probably be better off,” Davids said. “If you have a good objective test to know in 15-45 minutes if this person is actually clear, you can sequester and prevent widespread infections.”

It also would potentially identify asymptomatic cases before drivers hit the road.

‘I still love this job’

Folz was still waiting for the results of her coronavirus test as of Friday, nearly a week later. Regardless of the result, doctors told her to expect to be retested because of a significant rate of false negatives.

She also can’t leave the quarantine facility for another week under orders from a federal public health official.

Folz’s room at a government-run quarantine hotel near Toronto

Folz has been a truck driver for only about a year. She lost her first job at Hyndman Transport in December after its corporate parent, Celadon Group, shut it down as Celadon filed for bankruptcy.

Folz plans to get back on the road after her quarantine ends — though after taking an additional week to recover.

“I still love this job,” she said.

In the meantime, she applied to receive a CA$2,000 emergency monthly benefit from the federal government — less than half what she’d earn while driving.

“That barely covers my bills,” she said. 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information from Folz. She confirmed she had a fever on April 9, rather than April 8 as originally reported.

Update: Tests subsequently confirmed that Folz had COVID-19.


  1. Andrew

    As a Canadian based carrier that is not too far from Nicole’s carrier, I am surprised and disappointed about some of the details in the story:

    First, at the first sign of a fever (she had one when she broke down on her way south), it should have been communicated to the carrier and that trailer should have been dropped for her to return home. At worst, she should have completed her deliveries and NOT waited 21 HRS for a back haul if she felt as sick as she says. If she did feel that awful, the dispatcher and Ops Manager should have known. The revenue of a back haul shipment is not worth the danger she was put in.

    Second, this driver put her life at risk to ensure that her trip was completed. Yet it does not seem her carrier is stepping up for her. Why is she having to apply for government relief that “barely covers” her bills? Her carrier should be paying her and helping her in whatever way possible until she can drive again.

    Carriers: Equip your people with PPE and other essentials to make their trip easier/safer, modify how pick ups and deliveries are done so that distancing is maintained throughout the trip, have a plan in place for this type of situation, stop slip seating, and finally, if you believe in God, pray for your drivers!

    Drivers: It is possible to earn a living while still taking the necessary precautions, you don’t need to hide from this thing. Your carrier needs to provide you with the supplies for you to complete your job safely, don’t be silent. Finally, if you believe in God, read the promises of Psalm 91 of yourself and family. If you don’t believe, an invisible enemy is best beat by an Invisible Protector…believe an trust in Him, God bless and every driver in North America.

  2. Noble1

    You drivers need to be extra careful especially when you deliver and pick up at essential businesses and plants .

    Check this out and be very vigilant !

    Quote : What led to Alberta’s biggest outbreak? Cargill meat plant’s hundreds of COVID-19 cases

    “Feeling pressured to work after testing positive
    While Cargill allowed workers to go home to quarantine should they experience symptoms, some said they felt like they were pressured to come back to work too soon.
    “I was told on April 12 by Alberta Health Services that I was positive and needed to quarantine another 14 days,” Christian said. “Cargill called me [three days later] and asked if I could come back to work tomorrow.
    “How can I go back to work, I asked, if my result is positive? They said, even if you are positive, if there’s no symptoms you can go back to work.”

    Angelo said his manager called him and asked why he needed to be isolated. He says he told his manager, if you want to confirm it, call AHS. His manager agreed.

    Cargill also began offering bonuses during the COVID-19 outbreak, workers said. They worried that by missing work, they would miss out on the bonus. 

    “Honestly speaking, they don’t care about their employees,” Christian said. “They’re saying they can replace people at anytime. They don’t care.”

    End quote .

    This speaks volumes ! Be vigilant .

    In my humble opinion ………..

  3. Mark Kirbyson

    I would like to ask question? If you own a truck and a trucking company how do you run without a credit card. Next is where was the company that she was lease to. These are very much a problem out here on the road. After approximately 40 years of trucks or better this is a big concern. The all mighty OTA was now to be found in this to help never are unless you are paying customer but they say they are doing stuff for the safety of the drivers. The BS of the industry today is to much. This warning has been coming not so much the covid but the crash. Many of us old guys have said it was just around the corner. But people still think we are just drivers we know a lot more than they give us credit for.
    I got to give that lady credit where it is do, she didn’t wait for someone to come again to find her way she reached out.

  4. D.S

    Sounds like the typical trucking company the way the article is written. Yeah the company knew about a serious problem with the driver but didn’t care because that freight paid great for them. Drivers need to stand up if you don’t feel well. Don’t be afraid to be fired in this industry. You have a cdl. You’ll be hired same day or next day by another company. Besides, why would you want to work for a company that doesn’t care if you drop dead on the road (it took intervention from another driver!!!). Stay safe drivers!

    1. Brent Nichols

      I think drivers should get something for there work.we are taking a big risk going state to state take food and meat while the people stay home .we should get rewarded for doing what we do thru the government or the company you work for.we are risking our lives for the people right?????????

  5. Frederick Findlater

    As a truck driver being in the USA and I am also a US/ Canadian resident, I pray for your speedy recovery, and as for me I put my trust in the Lord, to cover me, with his protection,,, you are a strong woman, you are a fighter, blessings to be alive to give us a story which none of us wants/ chose, be strong and bless up

  6. Lil 🚬

    Questions being asked will J.B. Hunt Transportation successor heir Towery “Tyree” M Burris-Hunt force changes at J.B. Hunt Transportation. The successor heir who gained control of the company in 2013 after receiving an unbelievable Trust & Inheritance involving an incredible amount of J.B. Hunt Transportation J.P Morgan DuPont Ford & Wal-Mart Stock . He immediately made changes at J.B. Hunt Transportation. Implementing new hiring practices focused on diversity . He focused on the trucking division by upgrading the fleet & developing & integrating the use of 360. He stepped away from the company to purse capital investment interest in United Arab Emirates before a mysterious injury in late 2014. There are reports of him being concerned over driver safety at the company his granddad started due to COVID-19.

Comments are closed.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]