Different organizations, restaurants, city officials and government staff across B.C. are working to ensure long-haul drivers have access to food and clean bathrooms as many of their traditional pit-stops shutter due to the coronavirus.
Dave Earle, president and CEO of the British Columbia Trucking Association, says truck drivers have an essential service designation, which means many truckers are putting in long hours to make sure essential supplies like groceries and medical supplies are getting where they need to be.
“It’s been a tough journey over the past week … [Some] companies are absolutely all hands on deck trying to get what’s in distribution centres out to where it needs to be,” Earle said. “[But] like every other industry, we do have people who are self-isolating.”
An additional strain, he says, is the fact that many of the traditional pit stops along trucking routes have shuttered, and at other locations, in order to increase physical distancing, truckers were being asked to stay in their vehicles and not use facilities at a delivery site, for example.
Earle says so far, they’ve been working closely with restaurants along the routes. This can mean allowing drivers to order online through an app, or working with restaurants to keep their restrooms open for truck drivers.
“Over the weekend, I saw [one location of] McDonald’s post a sign saying the restaurant is closed except for truck drivers,” he said.
Earle said the association is also working with the Ministry of Transportation to get washroom facilities up and running at weigh and scale stations. These would be more substantial than a portable bathroom, with the goal of having hot and cold water and cleaning staff on hand to make sure the facilities are maintained.
The town of Sidney on Vancouver Island took matters into its own hands, setting up what it calls a “critical supply chain rest stop” in an employee parking lot in its downtown core close the highway, with an area to rest and portable washrooms.
The nearly one-hectare site can hold about 10 to 12 freight trucks and is located close to amenities, including a 24-hour TIm Hortons which is working with the municipality to keep their washrooms open for truck drivers.
“This is a small gesture we can undertake and provide,” said Randy Humble, the director of Sidney’s Emergency Operations Centre.
Earle says the pandemic has brought to light how our current economy and society depends on trucking.
“There is a consideration to realize and understand .. how important it really is.”
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