Commercial truckers who drive the supply chain by delivering food and other essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic are finally seeing some relief and respect after weeks of struggling to find meals and even washrooms along their long-haul routes.
The trucking industry and the province are bringing food trucks to key commercial vehicle stops where there are few to no essential resources available to delivery drivers.
In order to encourage food vendors to set up at rest areas, weigh scales and commercial truck pullouts in the Lower Mainland and southern Interior, the B.C. government is forgoing the usual restrictions and fees required.
“We anticipate the initiative just to take fire right across the country,” said BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle.
So far, Earle says about eight food trucks have set up, with more expected to be added in the weeks ahead.
The Lunch Bucket at Zopkios Brake Check on Highway 5 southbound between Hope and Merritt started its summer season early to support truckers. Since April 20, Jan Hepting has been serving hot home-cooked meals seven days a week.
“It’s been very challenging for these guys on the roads,” said Hepting.
With restaurants closed due to physical distancing restrictions and many fast-food drive-thrus off limits to semi-truck drivers, Hepting knows the pandemic has made accessing food even harder for those who spend their days behind the wheel of a big rig.
“It has been difficult for them having such large trucks to get in anywhere and having places to eat especially after hours,” Hepting told Global News.
“The biggest problem is the bathrooms and a lot of restaurants are closed,” said commercial driver Al Audet.
Ironically, the workers who feed the country’s supply chain with their deliveries, are too often missing meals themselves.
“Sometimes we are hungry all day,” commercial driver Istpred Singh Sohi told Global News.
Now Sohi says stopping on the Coquihalla in what used to be the middle of nowhere, is the highlight of his work trip.
“From B.C. to Alberta, this is my favourite part. They provide us veggie food, even they provide us Indian tea.”
Along with The Lunch Bucket food truck, the Zopkios Brake Check has bathroom facilities which are regularly maintained.
“It’s been really nice,” said commercial driver Shawn Hunt.
“They have to build up the rest areas,” Sohi told Global News.
“Because we are also serving our country.”
The head of the BC Trucking Association says the improved services are long overdue.
“For many years the drivers that worked so hard and so long to keep our supply chain running really worked invisibly,” Earle told Global News.
“Now they feel recognized, they feel valued.”
Heartened truckers are hoping the newfound support and respect for what they do, will survive the pandemic.
“Hopefully it continues when all this craziness goes away,” said Hunt.
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